What It Means When A Guy Calls You Cute (And Why It’s Not Always A Compliment)

You really like a guy, so you start flirting with him. You’re sending him all the signals: laughing at his jokes, touching his arm, and displaying open body language. You even make some funny quips of your own, only for him to turn around and tell you how cute you are. So, does this mean he doesn’t like you romantically, or what? What exactly does it mean when a guy calls you cute?

What does it mean when a guy calls you cute?

  1. He thinks you’re hilarious. If he’s just been laughing at something you said when he calls you cute, he’s likely reacting to what an amazing sense of humor you have. Yes, he could just say you’re funny, but calling you cute shows just how much he appreciates your wittiness. It may just make you way more attractive to him.
  2. He likes you, but only as a friend. Sometimes when a guy calls you cute, it can mean that he thinks you’re great but that he sees you more like a sister than a potential girlfriend. “Cute” is a pretty innocent descriptor and has no overtly romantic connotations. So while it’s a compliment, it may be a way of pushing you away in a sense.
  3. He likes you as more than a friend but is trying to play it cool. On the opposite end of the spectrum, maybe calling you cute is his way of expressing interest while not putting himself out there too much. After all, if his feelings aren’t reciprocated, he can pretend he didn’t mean anything by it, no harm done. It’s not like he told you that you’re sexy as hell, right? (Though that might be nice!)
  4. He’s subtly flirting with you. If he’s into you but trying to be slick about it, calling you cute can be a subtle form of flirting. It’s his way of conveying how charming he finds you and encouraging you to keep up your conversations with him. In this case, “You’re so cute!” is code for “I’m really attracted to you!”
  5. He loves your personality. Let’s be real: You’re a catch. That’s not just because of your physical beauty but your banging personality too. When a guy calls you cute, it could mean that he loves how hilarious, kind, compassionate, etc. you are. It’s probably not often that he comes across someone so dazzling. Own it.
  6. He wants to ask you out. You might want to prepare yourself for an invitation to dinner or to “hang out sometimes.” That’s because sometimes a nonchalant compliment like being called cute is a precursor to a date. He may be trying to work up the courage to pop the question.
  7. He wants to boost your confidence. Even if he’s not into you romantically, if he likes you on any level, he’ll want you to feel good. By calling you cute, he hopes that you’ll get a bit of an ego boost and realize how awesome you are.
  8. He’s trying to manipulate you. Sadly, some guys don’t have great intentions. If he’s aware that you like him romantically and he’s a jerk, he might use it to his advantage. In this case, when a guy calls you cute, it could mean that he wants to get something from you. What that is depends on the circumstances, but beware.
  9. He loves hanging out with you. It could be as simple as that. In some cases, he may not even be thinking about what he’s saying when he calls you cute. The guy just knows he has a lot of fun around you and he likes you, so he voices it.
  10. He’s trying to friend-zone you. Maybe he’s a great guy but he knows you’re into him and he doesn’t feel the same. He might hope that calling you “cute” will convey the message that he’s not into you romantically and just wants to be friends. Sadly, this happens.
  11. He wants you to take him out of the friend zone. It’s possible that he’s the one with the feelings but he knows you’re not into him. By calling you cute, he’s hoping that you’ll soften to him and maybe consider him as a possible boyfriend.
  12. You’re different from other girls he’s met. “Cute” can seem belittling or even dismissive, but guys don’t always mean it like that. He might use that word because he doesn’t know another one. You’re unique and he doesn’t want to use the same adjectives, so he goes with the first thing to come to mind.
  13. He doesn’t know what else to say. Maybe there’s an awkward silence or you’ve said something that’s taken him by surprise. He calls you “cute” to fill the space, but there’s not really much more to it than that.

When is a guy calling you “cute” not a compliment?

We’ve all been there. A guy leans over, flashes a grin, and says, “You’re cute.” While sometimes it’s a genuine compliment, other times there’s a hidden agenda behind that seemingly innocent remark. Let’s dive into a few less-than-rosy reasons a guy might label you as “cute.”

  1. He’s trying to boost his own ego. Sometimes when a guy calls you “cute,” it’s less about complimenting you and more about making himself feel good. He might want an ego boost, thinking that by placing himself in a position to hand out compliments, he’s elevating his own status. It’s as if by deciding who’s cute and who’s not, he’s putting himself on some imaginary pedestal.
  2. It’s a soft manipulation tactic. Ever notice how “cute” can sometimes feel a tad infantilizing? That’s because it can be. In using it, he might be trying to subtly assert dominance or superiority. It’s a way to keep things light, making it harder for you to challenge him or call him out on anything because, hey, you’re just “cute,” right?
  3. He wants to get you into bed. Let’s be real. Some guys have mastered the art of the backhanded compliment to try and lower your defenses. By calling you “cute” instead of “beautiful” or “stunning,” he might be trying to subtly imply that you’re not out of his league. It’s a tactic to make you feel more approachable and, in turn, more receptive to his advances.
  4. He’s avoiding genuine intimacy. Calling you “cute” can be a way to keep things surface-level. Maybe he’s not ready for a deeper connection, or he’s avoiding showing genuine vulnerability. By sticking to light and non-committal compliments, he maintains a safe distance.
  5. He’s being patronizing. Sometimes, “cute” can come off as downright condescending. In scenarios where you’re sharing an opinion or expressing a passion, being called “cute” can feel like your sentiments are being trivialized. It’s as if he’s saying, “Aw, look at you having big feelings about things.”
  6. He’s intimidated by you. If a guy feels threatened by your intelligence, achievements, or confidence, he might use “cute” as a way to downplay your power. By focusing on your cuteness, he might be trying to divert attention from the attributes that intimidate him, making himself feel more secure.
  7. It’s a default compliment. Sometimes, when a guy isn’t particularly interested in making an effort, he might throw out “cute” as a catch-all term. It’s ambiguous enough to not be outrightly offensive but also doesn’t require much thought or genuine appreciation.
  8. He wants to gauge your reaction. Some guys will use “cute” to test the waters. By giving a compliment that’s somewhat ambiguous, he might be trying to gauge your self-esteem or see how much validation you seek. Your response can give him a clue about how to proceed with his intentions.
  9. He’s trying to keep you guessing. Playing mind games isn’t exclusive to any gender. By calling you “cute,” he might be trying to keep you in a gray area, making you question his intentions and keeping you on your toes. It’s a way to maintain control in the dynamics of your budding relationship.

What to say (and what not to) when a guy calls you cute

  1. DO say: “You’re pretty cute yourself.” Returning the compliment is always a good idea. He’ll feel like a million bucks and it’s another way to keep the flirting going.
  2. DON’T say: “I don’t want to be cute, I want to be hot!” This is childish, annoying, and kind of nuts. Even if you privately feel that way (and that’s cool — we might too!), you don’t say that. If you’re hoping to feel out a potential romantic connection, you have to play it cool.
  3. DO say: “Thanks, I try.” When a guy calls you cute, you might feel awkward, but it doesn’t mean you should act awkward. You can be funny and a bit playful with this reply. Making a funny face when you say it will probably make him smile too, which is always good.
  4. DON’T say: “I’m not cute — I’m not a child!” Chances are, he’s not trying to treat you like a child. Taking offense to an innocuous comment is the quickest way to turn him off, so give him the benefit of the doubt. Also, maybe chill out a bit.

Cute vs Beautiful: Which is better?

While it might be a bit of a bummer when a guy calls you cute, don’t assume it means he’s infantilizing you or putting you in the friend zone. On the contrary, “cute” can be even better than “beautiful” because it’s more playful, less aggressive, and could indicate that he’s interested in you on a deeper level. Plus, he might think you’re beautiful too. Try not to overthink it too much — both words are complimentary, so just enjoy it.

Originally from Australia, Emma Mills graduated from the University of Queensland with a dual degree in Philosophy and Applied Linguistics before moving to Los Angeles to become a professional matchmaker (a bit of a shift, obviously). Since 2015, she has helped more than 150 people find lasting love and remains passionate about bringing amazing singletons together.

Emma is also the author of the upcoming Hachette publication, "Off the Beaten Track: Finding Lasting Love in the Least Likely of Places," due out in January 2025.