Feminine-feeling nicknames for boys

Last week’s birth announcement for little Magnus Craig, in which his mama said her daughter calls him Maggie sometimes, which “always makes us cringe and correct her because it’s a girl name, sigh,” reminded me of other examples of natural nicknames for boy names that sound like girl names — especially those that have old usage. Like:

Christy, as in Christy Mahon (given name: Christopher), a character in J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World

Connie, as in baseballer Connie Mack (given name: Cornelius McGillicuddy)

Gabby, the nickname an older man I know insists on calling a Gabriel he knows (who I know goes only by Gabe)

Gussie, the nickname my dad always called his friend Augustus growing up

Jackie, as in segregation-smashing baseballer Jackie Robinson (given name: Jack Roosevelt Robinson) and a boy I know named Jack whose dad has called him Jackie affectionately since he was little

Jody, Josey, and Joss all have usage as nicknames for Joseph (here’s a list of male Jodys, though not all have the given name Joseph; I was sure the title [fictional] character in the Clint Eastwood movie The Outlaw Josey Wales was baptized Joseph, but I can’t find any evidence to support that; producer/director/etc. Joss Whedon‘s given name is Joseph) (funny story about Josey — years ago, before my hubby had a chance to absorb name info via my constant chattering at him about it, and him not having given names any real thought otherwise, I mentioned that someone’s baby girl was named Josie and he said, “But that’s a boy’s name!” He had only ever heard it in the Josey Wales movie, and for him, Josey was all masculinity and ruggedness because of Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of the character. Hilarious!)

Mandy, as in actor Mandy Patinkin (given name: Mandel)

Sally, as in Sally Tessio (given name: Salvatore), a character in The Godfather (a funny tidbit is that there’s a character in PBS’ Curious George named Sally Tessio! She’s a restaurant critic!)

Steph, as in NBA player Steph Curry (given name: Wardell Stephen Curry; in this case, the nickname Steph reveals his pronunciation of Stephen)

Sue, the nickname of the grandfather of one of our readers (Grandpa’s given name was Assundo, after the Assumption!) (I’ve written before about Susan being used as an “anglicization” of the feminine Italian name Assunta, including in my book) (unrelated, but fascinating: the song “A Boy Named Sue” may have been based on Sue K. Hicks, a prosecutor in the Scopes Trial, who was named after his mother, Susanna)

I love how affectionate some of these feel — adding an “ee” sound on the end of a name automatically makes it feel more intimate, I think — very like something parents or siblings would do to their baby/baby sibling’s name (our Luke gets called Lukey by all of us a good part of the time!). I also think this was more common with older generations (almost all of the examples above are of old or deceased men of another era) — I quite liked the idea of Joseph nicknamed Jody when I was expecting one of our older boys, and one of the reasons was because it had an old timey feel to me.

Do you agree? Can you think of other examples like this?

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!


42 thoughts on “Feminine-feeling nicknames for boys

  1. Gussie makes me think of Gussie Fink-Nottle from the Jeeves & Wooster books. That was short for Augustus.

    Conversely, my Aunt Thomasina went by Tommie.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jamie for James would be another example.

    I call my oldest Paulie which sounds the same as Polly.

    I knew a boy named Jackie growing up so this name always struck me as totally appropriate for boys – like Tommy, and Johnny.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And funny about Jamie – because I totally associate it with both boys and girls equally as a given name (not even nickname). Something I read indicated that only in the US is it seen more as a girl name. Around the world, Jamie is more often a boy name. I was looking at some data on it’s popularity in US and there is a period in early 1970s when it was pretty much equal and the rest of the time more popular for girls. I was a kid in the early 70s so it makes sense that to me that it is an equal girl-boy name.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have both a tommy and a Johnny!! Now trying to come up with another boy name that might go well (we are due in June but don’t know the gender.) I think I might have a hard time picking a name that can’t end in the “ee” sound haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I knew a Josiah that was affectionately called “Josey” by his wife. I assumed the Outlaw Josey Wales was a Josiah based on this. 🤷🏼‍♀️

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The Jody one got me wondering, because when I think of Jody as a boy name I always think of the little boy on the old TV show, Family Affair. So I had to look it up and see if it was his “real” name.
    Jonathan Joshua “Jody” Patterson Davis

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this style for boys’ names! I particularly love Christy (and Chrissy), Josey, Jody, and Joss from this list. My personal favorite is Laurie for Laurence/Lawrence (obviously Little Women has much to do with this!). I also really like Jamie and Sandy as some previous commenters have mentioned. Other favorites: Nicky (for Nicholas), Sasha (for Alexander), Cary (for Zachary), Val (for Valentine)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sam is widely used for boys and girls, Sammy too. I know a boy called Ally (he is Alistair) and the character Ali in the movie About A Boy is also Alistair. Olly/Ollie for Oliver or Olivia is another. I have always loved Sandy for Alexander.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really like Jackie for both boys and girls, I prefer to spell it Jacky for a boy but Jackie is good too. Same about Jamie, I like it for both genders. My Dad’s name is Jacek – this is a Polish form of Hyacinth – but a lot of people, also a lot of Polish people, think that it must be a form of Jack because of how similar they look and so a lot of Jaceks are sort of jokingly or colloquially called Jack, and my Dad sometimes also Jacky/Jackie, although the bad thing is that most Poles tend to pronounce it like Jeckie for some reason of which I’m not a fan and think it’s not very logical. 😀 But he himself doesn’t speak English so he doesn’t mind whether it’s Jackie or Jeckie haha. As for the other way around, I have a very soft spot for Wilhelmina in general, and especially for nicknames Billie or Willie to go with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My 15 y.o. is Alexander, and I call him Aly 99% of the time. My husband did, too, when he was younger.

    He definitely went through a phase where this was Not Okay, sometime around fourth grade. I never really gave it up entirely, and now he’s mostly Aly to me again, and that’s fine with everyone.

    Of course … he’s also over six feet tall and athletic. Maybe it would be more of a pressure point if he was small for his age? (It shouldn’t matter, but I can see that it might.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do like Aly, and I agree that those characteristics might make the difference — maybe it’s just feeling comfortable in one’s own skin that helps nicknames of any kind be okay, and it’s easier to feel comfortable and confident as a teen boy when you’re tall and athletic?


  9. There is Izzy for Israel. Nicky for Nicholas. And does Winnie the Pooh count? Haha

    And there was a tv series where the main character was called Rosie for his last name, Rosewood (which was also the name of the show).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We have an Alastair who also gets called Ally. And our Boniface certainly gets called Bonnie by us a lot right now! We know a boy named Francis who gets called Frannie by his family. A Maximilian who is called Maxi sometimes..but Maxi doesn’t seem exclusively female to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’ve got Laurence on my long list and would definitely call him Laurie.

    Robin for Robert is another typical one. I know a Solomon whose mother calls him Solly (he’s a teen) and one of my sons went to school with a Brady whose mother called him Braids.

    I think the use of all these diminutives is reflective of the working class, every man. When I lived in NYC all the teamsters and carpenters I worked with went by the diminutive of their name. Same thing with the sports heros.

    Liked by 1 person

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