The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







A nickname is a short, clever, cute, derogatory, or otherwise substitute name for a person or thing's real name (for example, Nick is short for Nicholas). As a concept, it is distinct from both pseudonym and stage name, although there may be overlap in these concepts.

Etymology: In Middle English the word was ekename (from the verb to eke, "enlarge"; compare Swedish öknamn). Later, an ekename developed into a nickname.

In Viking societies, many people had nicknames heiti, viðrnefni or uppnefi which were used in addition to, or instead of their family names. In some circumstances the giving of a nickname had a special status in Viking society in that it created a relationship between the name maker and the recipient of the nickname, to the extent that the creation of a nickname also often entailed a formal ceremony and an exchange of gifts.


Nicknames for people

Types of personal nickname:

1. A nickname may relate directly to a person's first name. Examples:

  • Ally, Allie for Allison, Alison or Alice
  • Andie for Andrea
  • Andy, Drew for Andrew
  • Barb, Barbie, Babs for Barbara
  • Ben, Benny for Benjamin
  • Bill, Billy, Will, Willy for William
  • Bob, Rob, Robbie, Bobby, Rab for Robert
  • Chuck, Chaz, Charlie for Charles
  • Donna for Donnatella
  • Daisy for Margaret (obsolete) or Marguerite, another name for the flower
  • Harry, Hal for Harold
  • Jack, Johnny, John for Johnathan
  • Jeff for Jeffrey
  • Jerry for Jerome, Gerald
  • Joe, Sep for Joseph
  • Josh for Joshua
  • Kate, Katie, Kathy for Katherine or Kaitlyn
  • Lauri, Laurie for Laura or Lauren
  • Leo, Len, Lenny for Leonard or Leopold
  • Mandy, Mandi, Manda for Amanda
  • Maddie, Maddy for Madeline
  • Matt, Mattie for Matthew
  • Moll, Molly Dolly, Good Golly Miss Molly for Molly and Mollie
  • Nate, Nat for Nathan, Nathaniel, Natalie
  • Nell, Ellie, Elle for Eleanor
  • Peggy, Peg, Maggie, Meg, Marg for Margaret or Megan
  • Ron, Ronnie for Ronald
  • Ricky, Dick, Rich, Rick for Richard
  • Sam for Samuel or Samantha
  • Steph or Stephie for Stephanie
  • Steve for Stephen or Steven
  • Sue, Susie, Suzie for Susan/Susanne/Suzanne
  • Ted, Teddy, Ned, Ed, Eddie for Edward
  • Ted, Teddy, Teddie, Thea for Theodore or Theodora
  • Tom, Tommy for Thomas
  • Trish, Tricia for Patricia
  • Wenny, Wendel for Wendy
  • Zach for Zachary

Many of these names are also registered as formal birth names.

2. A nickname may relate directly to a person's surname. Examples:

  • Mitch for someone with the surname Mitchell
  • Sully for someone with the surname Sullivan
  • Churchy for Winston Churchill

3. It may also relate indirectly to a surname. Examples:

  • Chalky for someone with the surname White
  • Sandy for someone with the surname Brown
  • Dicky for someone with the surname Bird
  • Dinger for someone with the surname Bell

4. A nickname may reflect a national or cultural style. In the United States, for instance, rhyming contractions or plays on a person's name are common, as in:

Calling a person by their initials is also common.

5. Nicknames, whatever their original basis, may become cultural norms. 'Sis', (slang for 'sister') for example, is often picked up and used by all the members of a family, their friends and society at large. Similarly, 'Chip' (off the old block) and 'Junior' can be used for any youngster and the nickname may follow the person into adulthood.

6. A nickname may relate to the person's calling. Examples:

7. It may relate (offensively or otherwise) to a person's nationality or place of origin. Examples:

See also: List of British regional nicknames

8. It may relate to a person's physical characteristics. Examples:

  • Tubby for a fat person
  • Lofty for a tall person
  • Four-eyes for a person with glasses

Conversely, it may be used ironically for someone with the opposite characteristic, e.g., Curly for someone with straight hair (or no hair at all) - this form is very typical in Australian English, e.g:

  • Blue for a person with red hair
  • Dulz for a cross eyed person
  • Shorty for a very tall person
  • Slim for a fat person

9. It may relate to a person's character, imagined or real. Examples:

  • Grumpy
  • Swotty
  • Romeo

10. It may relate to a specific incident or action. Example: Capability Brown was so called because he used the word "capability" instead of "possibility". Other examples include: Chemical Ali, Comical Ali.

Many fictional characters have nicknames relating to events: Examples include the Red Comet, White Tiger , Desert Tiger and Hawk of Endymion.

11. It may compare the person with a famous or fictional character. Examples:

12. A famous person's nickname may be unique to them:

13. A person's nickname may have no traceable origin. For example, a person named "Harold" may be nicknamed "Fred" for no apparent reason, or a man who was named after a relative may ask his friends to call him "Chip" to avoid confusion.

Nicknames of cities

See also: list of city nicknames for a more comprehensive list.

Nicknames for some common items

Nicknames for professions

Military nicknames

See also: List of nicknames of British Army regiments

Sports clubs and their nicknames

Sporting clubs are often given nicknames. These may or may not be incorporated into official names or be used by the club. The names of animals or colours are popular. Examples:


Rugby Union

See also

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