Saintly nickname names

There are a few names that started as nicknames, by which here I mean short forms or diminutives of other names, but have come to be considered formal names in their own rights. Some examples are Jack (diminutive of John), Pippa (diminutive of Philippa), Alison (diminutive of Alice) and Alice itself (a short form of Adalheidis [Adelaide]), Nancy (originally a diminutive of Agnes’ variant Annis, and later of Anne as well), Emmett (diminutive of Emma) and Elliott (diminutive of Elias [Elijah]), Molly (diminutive of Mary), Robin (diminutive of Robert), Austin (contracted form of Augustine), and Bennett (short form of Benedict). Many of these date back to the medieval period.

I was reading about Mickey Mantle recently and the fact that Mickey was his given name, not a nickname for Michael (which is how I’m most familiar with it). (Funny enough, Mickey Mantle was named for Mickey Cochrane, whose given name wasn’t Michael — it was Gordon! But he’d been nicknamed “Black Mike” because of his “fiery, competitive nature,” which I’m assuming is where Mickey came from?) Other names that started as nicknames (diminutives or short forms) that we often see bestowed as given first names include Jake, Maggie, Sadie, Archie (hello, little prince), Liam, and Mia.

There’s another set of nicknames that have taken on a life of their own as given names, which a recent consultation post reminded me of. It included a discussion of Nell as a given name and the parents’ preference for it to be a nickname for a more formal, saintly given name:

Nell is a name we’d both be excited to use which isn’t so easy to find. The trouble is that it’s really a nickname and we don’t care for the options for a full name. If we don’t use a full name like Helen the saintly connection is less obvious.

In this case, the hesitancy to use Nell as the given name is less about style (its nicknaminess) and more about the saintly connection being less obvious. A couple of you suggested Little Nellie of Holy God for the saintly connection* — she’s mostly known as Nellie, even though her baptismal name was Ellen, and I can see parents naming daughters Nellie with her in mind, since that’s the name mostly attached to the stories of her holiness. In this same vein, I thought it would be fun to compile a listing of saintly names that are actually nicknames (I don’t mean religious names). These include:

St. Rose of Lima
Rose’s birth name was Isabel! According to this site, “Isabel del Flores y del Olivia, known to history as St. Rose of Lima … was baptized on the day of her birth, with her aunt, Isabel de Herrara, acting as her godmother. The baby was named after her aunt, Isabel. Because the child was so beautiful, she was nicknamed Rosa or Rose. History and her family would call her by this name.”

St. Francis of Assisi
Francis’ birth name was John! According to his Wikipedia entry, “[His dad] Pietro was in France on business when Francis was born in Assisi, and [his mother, a Frenchwoman named] Pica had him baptized as Giovanni. Upon his return to Assisi, Pietro took to calling his son Francesco (“the Frenchman”), possibly in honor of his commercial success and enthusiasm for all things French.” (cited as the source: Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (1924). “St. Francis of Assisi” (14 ed.). Garden City, New York: Image Books: 158.)

St. Zelie
It’s perhaps not as unfamiliar that St. Zelie’s given name was Marie-Azélie, but she went by Zelie — and that’s the name I see her called and bestowed in her honor most often.

St. Bernadette
St. Bernadette’s given name was actually Marie-Bernarde! This site even refers to her as Marie, which I find kind of hilarious. As with so many of these nicknames, once you know that Bernadette (“little Bernarde,” where Bernarde is the French feminine form of Bernard) is a diminutive of her name, it takes on a such a sweet, affectionate feel.

Juanito (St. Juan Diego)
This one isn’t exactly like my previous examples, because I haven’t heard of lots babies being named Juanito when wanting to honor St. Juan Diego — in fact, I only know of one Juanito (the pastor of my parish), but I asked him about his name and it is, indeed, his given name, and it was bestowed in honor of St. Juan Diego, as Our Lady called him: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito, the most humble of my sons …” ❤

Lolek (St. John Paul II)
Like with Juanito, it’s rare to hear of a little Lolek, but I have heard it from time to time from Catholic parents looking for a different way to honor St. John Paul the Great, as it was his childhood nickname.

Can you think of other examples of Saints being known as a name that was not their given name (and not their religious name), which would be the name parents would be most likely to choose in their honor? Do you know of any little ones named in the style of Juanito and Lolek — nicknames that aren’t as well known and aren’t necessarily the names the Saints are known as, but are absolutely connected to them?

* As far as I can tell, Little Nellie’s cause for canonization has not been opened, though it’s pretty amazing that she was the reason Pope St. Pius X lowered the age of Communion for children: “‘There! That is the sign for which I was waiting.’ — Pope St Pius X after hearing about the holy life of little Nellie. A few months later in 1910 he issued “Quam Singulari” which significantly lowered the age of Holy Communion for children.”


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 the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

 

Cool nickname sites

When I was researching nicknames for Agatha, I came across the site England Female Nicknames (National Institute), which has loads of traditional nicknames for both common and unusual names — I’m sure you’d all like to check it out!

It also notes,

Alan Bardsley’s First Name Variants should be consulted for a much more extensive selection. He lists over 230 for Elizabeth alone!

Guess what went right in my Amazon cart?! 😍😍😍

There’s the boy version as well, England Male Nicknames (National Institute). I haven’t perused either of these as deeply as I’d like to — a fun project for the rest of the summer!

Do any of these jump out to you as particularly perfect? Do you have any other insights? Happy Tuesday, feast of St. Monica!


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!

Nicknames: Fulton

I’ve had several requests over the last couple of years from readers for nickname ideas for Fulton — most recently in yesterday’s consultation — and I feel like I’m really short on ideas!

I think Finn could work, or Flynn, and eclare offered Fult as well (“kind of like Walt” she said), which is so great and natural. I was thinking that Philip is sort of similar (two syllables, starting with the F sound, an L in the middle) that maybe Fil/Phil could work (though Phil tends to the be the nickname that parents of today’s little Philips want to avoid), or Flip (like for something like Fulton Patrick?). Skimac suggested a Fulton could go by a nickname of his middle name, if he really wanted a nickname, and I like that suggestion too (though it was very specifically for yesterday’s family, who has a daughter who sometimes goes by a nickname of her middle name).

I’m really really hoping the rest of you can add to this list! I’d love to hear all your ideas, and especially if you know any Fultons in real life who go by a nickname — please share!

Nicknames: Judith, Elodie, Alister/Alistair (unusual)

A mama emailed recently with a slightly different dilemma, on which I’d really like to get your collective input:

Our firstborn’s name is Lafayette and he also goes by the nickname Fayte (rhymes with Nate). I like his combination of a longer classic name (though not common) and a spunky nickname … We lucked out with our son’s name since both the longer form and the nickname were old family names, so we didn’t come up with them ourselves. I’m trying to figure out if we can get a similar combo for this baby without it being too forced.

There are three names (one boy, two girl) that I’m a little stumped about:

Judith is the first girl name. It’s a family name, we like the religious meaning, and the sound of the full name. We aren’t thrilled with Judy since that seems to date the name more and has the confusion issue with the family member we’d be honoring. I’ve seen Jude as the only other recommendation, and while I like it a little better, I’m not thrilled with the unisex-leaning-male aspect of the name.

Elodie is the other girl name. I think Ella/Ellie is a cute nickname, but a little more common than I’d like since it seems there are many other in vogue names that lend to those nicknames. I probably like Ellie better of the two. Seems like there should be other options though!

Alister (or Alistair) is the boy name. We haven’t landed for sure on the spelling we’d choose, so could potentially be flexible if it lended itself to a good nickname. Al or Aly are the only suggestions I’ve seen, and aren’t wild about either.”

I looooooove thinking up unusual nicknames!! And I love Lafayette nicked Fayte, and how awesome that they’re both family names?!

First up: Judith. I did a spotlight post a while back on Judith and in it I said:

Behind the Name gives several variants of Judith (Jutta, Judyta, et al.), but you know it’s the nicknames I get most excited by! Judy is super cute, but maybe still feels a little dated? It has its own history as a given name, peaking a few years later than Judith but dropping out of sight quicker, so it might have a little more of a date-stamped feel, but it’s not the only option: Jody/Jodie are possibilities, according to behindthename, which makes me also think of Jo and Josie (especially, maybe, with an S middle name? Judith Siena, for example, could easily be Josie) … or maybe pair it with an N middle name for Junie or Juno? Maybe Judith Noelle? Even Julie for something like Judith Louisa? Am I scaring you yet? Haha!

Looking back on this again, I do love the idea of something like Judith Siena nicked Josie, or Judith Noelle/Naomi/Noemi nicked Junie or Juno. Or Jennie? Judith Marie could be Jamie? I often find that, with first names that are hard to nickname, looking at a firstname+middlename mashup-type nickname works really well.

Elodie is a gorgeous name, I just love it, and I agree that Ella and Ellie are cute nicknames, but yes, fairly common. Possible alternatives:

  • Lola—originally a nickname for Dolores! But the Lo- of Elodie totally makes it do-able.
  • Nell—if I understand correctly, Nell (and Nancy and Ned) came from the old English way of saying, “Mine El” for Eleanor/Ellen/Elizabeth (or “Mine Anne” for Anne, or “Mine Ed” for Edward), so I think Nell could then work for any El- name. And how sweet that its origin is “Mine El”—so endearing!
  • Edie—just drop the “lo” in the middle of Elodie!
  • Dicey—apparently an old nickname for Edith (Edie made me think of Edith)
  • Liddy—the way I say Elodie sounds pretty close to “EL-liddy”
  • Didi—from the last syllable
  • Dolly—if it can work for Dorothy, it can work for Elodie, which actually has “dol” within it (though backwards)
  • Dodie—another old nickname for Dolores; I could totally see something like Dodie arising organically from Elodie
  • Edda—like Etta
  • In smushing-with-the-middle-name fashion, what about something like:
    — Evie for Elodie Victoria
    — Elsie for Elodie Siena, Elodie Seraphine, Elodie
    — Dot(ty) for Elodie Therese
    — Dixie for Elodie Beatrix or Elodie Xavier (Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini could be patron instead of St. Francis Xavier, if parents like Xavier but didn’t want to be too gender bending. Of course Mother Cabrini chose the name after St. FX, but still)

Alister/Alistair I had the hardest time with! I did a bunch of research looking for ideas and came up with a few:

  • Ace—my first idea and the only suggestion I came up with on my own! I think it could work just for Alister/Alistair, as they have the A and the S sound, but something like Alistair Clement would make a lot of sense, with the A+C
  • Alec—I saw several places that Alec is often used as a nickname for Alistair, since it’s a form of Alexander. As with Ace, a C- middle name could make more sense of it to others
  • Aston/Astin—I wanted to suggest Astor, but the comments I saw online made me think it would skew more feminine for most people (like the girl name Aster, which also sounds similar to the girl name Astrid), but then I thought maybe Aston/Astin? Like the Aston Martin or actor Sean Astin
  • Ari, Arlo, Alfie—I really liked Ari when I saw it online—a mom considering Alistair for her son was considering Ari as a nickname, as well as Arlo and Alfie
  • Abe—someone else online was considering Alistair with a B middle name and planning on Abe as the nickname. I love that! Alistair Benedict/Benjamin, Alistair Beau, Alistair Brendan?
  • Art—Alistair has all the right letters for Art!
  • Ladd(y)—with a switch to the Alasdair spelling, Ladd or Laddy could work. The Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond, chef on Food Network)’s husband’s name is Ladd, and Laddy feels really Scottish!
  • Ty—because Alistair has the prominent T in it, I think something like Ty could work
  • Tad, Taz—these might make more sense with the right middle name … Alistair Daniel? Alistair Xavier? Alistair Zachary?
  • Iss—crazy, right? But I saw Iss online as a nickname someone had heard used for Alistair! (I also saw Eck used for Alexander, and Ish for Aloysius!)

And those are all my ideas! How about the rest of you? What unusual nicknames ideas could you offer for Judith, Elodie, and Alister/Alistair?

Nickname: Buffy

What do you all know about the name Buffy? I’m assuming most of us are familiar with it through Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I’ve never actually seen the show, but it’s familiar to me anyway, so I assume you’ve all at least heard of it), but I first heard it in college (which was around the time the Vampire Slayer show came out, but I hadn’t yet heard of it) when I spend three summers working as a writer’s assistant to an artist named Buffie (she was writing a book about art, hence “writer’s assistant”). The name baffled me — I couldn’t figure out what kind of a name it was — maybe a nickname? If so, for what? Or could it be a given name? What could its origins be? I didn’t feel comfortable asking my Buffie though, and the name was shrouded in mystery until I later discovered that Buffy/Buffie’s actually one of the trillion traditional nicknames for Elizabeth — fascinating, right? (Though I think my Buffie’s given name was actually Buffie, as none of her obituaries offer anything different.) I then found out that the late Queen Mother (Elizabeth) was called Buffy by her family, and one of her biographies is even called My Darling Buffy: The Early Life of the Queen Mother.

So I figured the case was closed, but then I recently met a woman named Buffy, and so I assumed her given name was Elizabeth, until the other day when I saw her email sign off said, “Carol ‘Buffy.'” A new mystery! So I asked her about it, and turns out her mother wanted to name her Buffy, because she liked a little girl in a show whose character’s name was Buffy, but she didn’t feel like Buffy was formal enough for the birth certificate, so they went with Carol instead (I think she said it was a family name) but called her Buffy and she’s always and only been Buffy. So interesting!

I looked up the show she said her mom liked — “Family Affair,” which aired from 1966-1971 — and discovered a fun little namey tidbit: little Buffy’s character’s “real” name was Ava Elizabeth — how pretty! The character of her twin brother was Jonathan Joshua nicknamed Jody, and their older sister was Catherine nicked Cissy.

What do you all think of Buffy? Do you know any? If so, is it a nickname for Elizabeth, or a nickname for some other name, or a given name on its own?

Nicknames: Ash/-ash

You all know I’m a big fan of nicknames, so it should come as no surprise that I’m constantly on the lookout for new/interesting/different/offbeat nicknames for “normal” names, or “normal” nicknames for unusual/long/difficult/complicated given names.

Recently, I’m loving nicknames that rhyme with Ash. Dashiell nicked Dash has been a favorite of mine ever since The Incredibles — how totally clever was it to give a speedy kid a name that nicked to Dash?! And how cool is that nickname anyway? I’m not a huge fan of Dashiell, but for Dash? I’d consider it. I’d prefer to find a different name that nicked easily/logically to Dash though … like … David Shepherd? Daniel Seamus? Can you think of others?

I’ve seen Cash and Nash used now and again, and they always appeal to me, so I must just really like the -ash sound. I’ve seen Cash for Johnny Cash, and Cash as a nickname for Cashel. I could see it maybe working as a quirky nickname for Christian or maybe even Charles. Until very recently I’d only seen Nash used as a stand alone name, but then it occurred to me (or maybe I saw somewhere?) that it could be a natural for Ignatius or Nathaniel. I kind of love that idea!

Bash is one of the cleverest nicknames for Sebastian, in my opinion. I love that Grace’s boy is Sebastian nicked Bash, sooo cool.

And finally, what inspired this post was this comment from Sarah about a little Athanasius nicked Ash. Ohhh my! Clever clever, I love love love it! (I was also thinking Nash could work for Athanasius too).

What do you all think about the Ash/-ash nicknames? Do they appeal to you? Have you heard other examples, and what are the given names?

Nicknames: Ways to get to Sy/Cy

I’ve been seeing the nickname Sy pop up here and there recently, which has reminded me that I know a boy nicknamed Cy, and it’s kind of stuck with me — it’s feeling really cool to me, and a nice way to manage a heavier or very long given name.

I really liked the suggestion of Sy as a nickname for Sylvester, Silas, Simon, Cyrus, and even Cedric. The Cy I know is Cyril I think, and this suggests it as a nickname for Seymour and this suggests it as a nickname for Josiah. Another possibility is Sidney.

What do you all think of Sy/Cy? Do you know anyone called this, and if so what’s his given name?

Baby name consultant: Nickname for Victor

Theresa and her husband are expecting their first baby in a few weeks. They love the name Victor, but, as she wrote,

I’m dying trying to come up with a nickname that I love for Victor. Vic is the obvious one … but we both sort of feel like it’s a very grown-up nickname for a little boy. We’d rather that he grow into it. But we LOVE nicknames … All of our other favorite names generally have nicknames that would end in a strong E sound, but I’m not tied to it if we can find something else for Victor that we love (Vic-y just sounds way too feminine.)

You all know how I feel about nicknames! So I was really excited to tackle this one, and I think I’m pretty good at coming up with new and different nickname options, but I found Victor to be a little bit of a stumper!

My parents actually fostered a baby Victor when I was growing up, and we called him Victor or Vic exclusively, so in my mind Vic suits a little boy well (which is probably why I never thought of coming up with something different, despite the fact that I’ve had Victor on my list for a while). But I totally get why it strikes Theresa as grown-up — it has a little bit of an old-world, old-man kind of feel to it.

So this is what I came up with as possible alternatives:

(1) Vicster, Vic-Man, Vicker
Nicknames ending in a long E sound seem such a natural fit for a baby, and Vicky being too feminine for a boy reminds me of the possibility of one of my favorite nicknames, Gus, turning into Gussy, which I don’t care for because it seems similarly feminine (despite my dad’s protestations, since he had a friend [boy] growing up who was called both Gus and Gussy). I’d thought Gusty and Guster could fill that need for Gus, which made me think of Vicster and Vicker for Victor (is Vicker too like vicar though? Or if it is, is that a bad thing?). And “Man” seems a natural add-on to a boy’s name, at least in my house and with my nephews as well. I can totally see Vic-Man working, too cute!

(2) Vito, Vin, Vinny
I know, none of those is directly connected to Victor, and they’re so Italian sounding (which might be great for an Italian family, not so much for other ethnicities?). But Vito has all letters from Victor, and Vin(ny) could be from the letters of Victor+a middle name that has an N/last name with an N.

(3) Vicho, Victo, Vico, Vitty, Vio
I also came across Vicho and Victo (supposedly Spanish nicknames for Victor), and Vico (unknown), and the Italian version Vittorio made me think of Vitty, and one of my books says there’s a St. Vio and when I googled him I did find a Chapelle de St. Vio in France but no other info … but Vio? Kind of cute?

(4) Middle-name nickname
I suppose going by a nickname for a middle name might kind of defeat the purpose of choosing a first name you love and want your child to go by, but if the idea is to have an at-home/within-family everyday nickname to bridge babyhood with the age at which Vic becomes appropriate, a nick of a middle is as good as any other option, right? Victor John might go by Johnny, for example. Some of my boys have funny little family nicknames we use almost exclusively at home (like the -Man idea above), but we’d never introduce them that way to anyone, and at school they don’t go by them, so I think it’s easy enough to, for example, alternate between Victor and Johnny at home, but only introduce him as Victor (or Vic, when the time comes) outside the house. I promise the baby won’t be confused! (Though everyone else might be.)

(5) Last-name nickname
For example, a boy with the last name Callaghan could go by Cal; Sullivan could go by Sully; Monticello or Montgomery by Monty. It’s certainly not unheard of for a boy to go by a nickname of his last name, even within his family (though I do see how this could be problematic of there are more than one boy in the family).

(6) Sporty/attribute/snookums-type nickname
I brought up Theresa’s dilemma at my parents’ dinner table recently, and my dad came up with two great ideas: Champ and Jock. Champ because he was trying to think of names that meant the same as Victor — I thought Champ was pretty inspired. I have a bunch of boy baby clothes that say something about “champ” on them, so it’s definitely kind of a common boyish reference. Jock from the idea of Victor and and a J- middle name flipped — it’s a traditional nickname in Scotland I believe, for John I think (like the scottie Jock in Lady and the Tramp!), and easily takes a -y without being feminine — Jocky. Especially cool if you’re into horses. 🙂 His ideas also made me think of some of the traditional attribute nicknames, like Red or Rusty for a redhead, or Sis/Sissy for a big sister, that kind of thing. And of course parents often seem to come up with crazy cutesy little nicknames, like (as I call all my boys) Lovey and Sweetie Petey. Siblings too — one of my brothers often calls me Blu. These are the type of nicknames that you can’t plan for, though, which is frustrating to parents wanting to decide the nickname ahead of time.

(7) Totally unrelated nickname
I know a John who goes by Gus, a Gregory who goes by Duke, a Jonathan who goes by Jeb, an Edward who goes by Zeb, and a Gerard who goes by Sam. I love a great formal name for the birth certificate and diploma and marriage invitation — well thought out, nicely balanced, good distinguished feel, taking into account faith and family and heritage — but then I really love a friendly, accessible, easy everyday name. There’s no real reason why the formal name and the everyday nickname have to be connected. Even when they are, there’s no guarantee that everyone a person meets will know that (as someone I know named Elizabeth, who goes by Betsey, recently discovered. Who doesn’t know Betsey is a traditional nick for Elizabeth? More people than you might realize). This idea opens up a whole lot of opportunities — you and your husband love the formal name Benjamin but you really want to honor your grandfather who went by Cap? No reason you can’t have a Benjamin nicked Cap.

Well! I think this is a decent list of ideas — what do you all think? Do you think my suggestions are usable, are just crazy? Do you have any other ideas for Victor nicknames, and/or do you know any Victors that have nicknames besides Vic?

Nicknames: Boethius/Boëthius

Someone I know was musing about the name Boethius for a boy, and she was trying to think of nicknames besides Bo.

At first I thought it was said “BO-thius,” so Bo seemed like the most natural nickname. I thought perhaps also something like Boze?

Then I saw online that Boethius (aka St. Severinus Boethius) was sometimes spelled Boëthius, and that means the “e” is pronounced, right? I’d verify that except my boys are asking for lunch, so I’m just going with the idea that it’s supposed to be said “bo-EE-thius,” and Bowie immediately came to mind. I also thought something like Boethius David could lead to Bede (I’m always trying to get Bede in there as a nickname! Haha!). Or, maybe something like Boethius Nathaniel for example could be Ben.

Finally, I thought Theo would work, which I thought was really cool.

What about all of you? Can you think of any other possible nicknames for Boethius besides Bo, Boze, Bowie, Bede, Ben, and Theo?

Initials as names

Similar to the “Acronames” post of the other day, I was thinking today about nicknames I like that could conceivably be from initials … specifically I was thinking about Edie, and how much I like Edie, and how it would be really interesting to have Edie be a nickname for Elizabeth Dolores, for example. E.D.=Edie.

One of the commenters on the BNW Acronames post said she knows a little girl named Isabelle Verity who goes by Ivy (from her initials: I.V.). So clever!

I’m particularly interested in initials that sound like a recognized name, and then the nickname is actually spelled like that name, instead of using the initials. Like Edie instead of E.D., Ivy instead of I.V. I tried to think of some others and came up with:

M.E. — Emmy

L.E. — Ellie

S.E. — Essie

F.E. — Effie

J.C. — Jacey

K.C. — Casey

O.D. — Odie

L.C. — Elsie

A.D. — Adie

B.B. — Bebe

D.D. — Didi

C.C. — Cece

G.G. — Gigi

A.V. — Avie

E.V. — Evie

V.V. — Vivi

V.N. — Vienne

D.M. — Diem

D.O. — Deo

G.O. — Geo

T.O. — Teo

V.O. — Vio

I.C. — Icy (haha just kidding!) (unless you love it)

And Amy from the Baby Enloe consultation says she loves that her initials spell her name: A.M.E.

I’d love to see what others you all could come up with! It could be a really fun naming exercise to start with a nickname like this, like Ellie for example, and back into what L.E. combos could work. It just seems to open up a whole lot more options! You could feel free to go a little more nuts with the given names, knowing that an easier nickname is available, or it could make you feel easier about an unfavorite family name you feel bound to use.

Can you think of other examples like this? How about full names for the initials? Do you know anyone who has a name/initials/nickname like this?