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. A nickname is sometimes considered cool to have, symbolising a form of acceptance, but often times there is no need for a nickname

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:

Relating to given names

1. A nickname may be a hypocoristic form of a person's first name.This is often a simple abbreviation of the name. For most English names the shortened form is taken from the first syllable e.g. Walt for Walter. However in many other languages it is much more common to use the last syllable of the whole name e.g. Italian Nino for Giovanni (via Giovannino, which is a diminutive form of Giovanni). Some abbreviations can use the middle of a word e.g. Liz for Elizabeth. There are a few names for which an archaic pronunciation of the full name is preserved in the short name e.g. Rick for Richard indicates that the -ch- was originally pronounced as -ck-. For those abbreviations that do not begin with the same letter as the full name, see list of short name forms. Examples:

  • Ally, Allie for Alexandra, Allison, Alison or Alice
  • Andie for Andrea
  • Andy, Drew for Andrew
  • Ant, Tony, Toni, Tone for Anthony
  • Barb, Barbie, Babs for Barbara
  • Ben, Benny, Benji for Benjamin
  • Chuck, Chaz, Charlie for Charles
  • Chris, Chrissy, Chrissie for Christopher or Christine
  • Donna for Donnatella
  • Dan, Danny for Daniel
  • Ella, Ellie, Elle for Eleanor
  • Ed, Eddie for Edward
  • Em, Ems, Emmy for Emily and Emma
  • Harry, Hal for Henry and Harold
  • Jack for John
  • Jon for Jonathan
  • Jeff for Jefferson or Jeffrey (originally for Jefferson but now more often Jeffrey, a new form of Geoffrey)
  • Jerry for Jerome
  • Joe, Joey for Joseph
  • Josh for Joshua
  • Kate, Katie, Kathy for Katherine or Kaitlyn
  • Laur, Lauri, Laurie for Laurence, Laura or Lauren
  • Leo, Len, Lenny for Leonard or Leopold
  • Mandy, Mandi, Manda for Amanda
  • Maddie, Maddy for Madeline
  • Marg, Maggie for Margaret
  • Matt, Mattie for Matthew
  • Mil, Milf for Milford
  • Mo for Mohammed
  • Moll, Molly Dolly, Good Golly Miss Molly for Molly
  • Nate, Nat for Nathan, Nathaniel, Natalie
  • Pat, Trish, Tricia for Patricia
  • Rick, Rich, Dick for Richard
  • Bob, Rob, Robbie, Bobby, Rab for Robert
  • Ron, Ronnie for Ronald
  • Rosie for Rosemary
  • Sam for Samuel or Samantha
  • Steph or Stephie for Stephanie
  • Steve for Stephen (or Steven)
  • Sue, Susie, Suzie for Susan/Suzanne (most often Sue or Susie for Susan and Suzie for Suzanne)
  • Ted, Teddy for Theodore (or Edward)
  • Teddie, Thea for Theodora
  • Tom, Thom, Tommy for Thomas
  • Wen, Wendel for Wendy
  • Bill, Billy, Will, Willy for William
  • 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
  • Smitty for someone with the surname Smith
  • 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
  • Chook for someone with the surname Fowler (only in Australia, where 'chook' is slang for chicken)

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.

Relating to culture/nationality

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

Relating to personal characteristics

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

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

  • Baldy for a bald person
  • Tubby for a fat person
  • Lofty for a tall person
  • Four-eyes for a person with glasses
  • Red for a person with red hair
  • Blondie for a person with blond hair

It may be a sarcastic, or simply ironic, reference, 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
  • Slick for a clumsy, awkward or shy 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 geographical places


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



Nicknames for political terms

  • Pinko - a communist
  • Red - a communist, but can also mean a rebel who is against the government
  • Hawk - a person who supports and pursues aggresive foreign policies, such as going to war in order to achieve his/her goals
  • Dove - a person who supports and pursues peaceful means to conduct foreign policy, as opposed to war
  • Skinhead - a neo-Nazi or a white supremicist
  • GOP - the Republican Party, stands for "Grand Old Party"
  • Tory - a person belonging to the Conservative Party in Great Britain and Canada
  • Grit - a person belonging to the Liberal Party in Canada
  • The Little Red Book - the book that contains quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, often called that because the book itself has a red cover and small enough to fit into a pocket

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

de:Spitzname es:alias it:Nickname ja:愛称 nl:Bijnaam nds:Ökelnaam pl:Nick sv:smeknamn


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