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onomastics, nicknames, gingrich, romneyThe two front-runners in the Republican presidential primary are commonly addressed by their nicknames. Though we refer to the former Speaker of the House as Newt, his real first name is Newton. His rival Mitt Romney’s real name is Willard Mitt Romney.

Nicknames are very common in English. The word nickname comes from an Old English word ekename, which meant “an additional name” and dates back to the 1300s. Some nicknames have obvious roots: Kim for Kimberley, Jim for James, Nick for Nicholas. Others are a little harder to wrap your mind around. How do you get Peggy from Margaret? Bo for William? Chuck from Charles? Polly from Mary?

Learn more about how our given names influence our lives here.

But what about our current candidates? Gingrich’s first name originally meant “new town” and has been used as a surname in English for over 1,000 years. (Newton is the 367th most common surname according to the U.S. Census.) Romney’s name dates back even farther than that. You can still find Romney on a map of England. As early as the 700s, “romney” literally meant “spacious river” in Old English and came to be associated with a region of southeast England called the Romney Marsh. (Romney is not even in the top 1000 most common surnames; neither is Gingrich.)

Nicknames are often just the shortening of a name, but they may sometimes be hypocoristics, meaning an endearing pet name, like Debbie for Deborah. Another interesting trend in nicknaming: Parents have started calling their kids by unusual nicknames for common names, such as Zander for Alexander, Drew for Andrew, or Toph for Christopher.

Here are a few words to help you talk about names. A surname is commonly called a last name, and your first name is technically called your forename or given name. Onomastics is the study of proper names.

Here are a few of our other favorite given name/nickname variations:
Sally for Sarah
Teddy for Edward
Tilly for Matilda
Jack for John
Betty for Elizabeth

What are your favorite nicknames?

98 Comments

  1. Bob6431 -  November 14, 2013 - 5:46 am

    What do you think my nickname is?

    Reply
  2. kay -  May 1, 2012 - 6:11 pm

    Mmy name is Kelsey, but my friends call me KK since those are my initials….most people at our school go by their last name like…
    Player
    Stone
    Coop
    Swoope
    Duncan
    Howell
    Rictor
    Peters, ect.
    some dont like their last name (like me) so we give them diff names (like KK)

    Reply
  3. MrBossMan -  April 4, 2012 - 12:38 pm

    I’m a writer, and one of my male characters is named Lucentio (after one of the main characters in “The Taming of the Shrew”). Blythe, a sadistic colleague of his, calls him “Lucie,” much to his chagrin.

    The word “hypocoristic” is rather appropriate in this case. I’ll consider using it in my story.

    Reply
  4. Naysia -  March 9, 2012 - 11:11 am

    My name is Naysia sound’s like asia but some people normally call me Nay,or Nay-Nay, Niyah, also Navsia, including NaNa. HEY every body this is the real Naysia come and check it out and tell me how you like it yes I do wrote also:)

    Reply
  5. Ashli -  March 7, 2012 - 7:28 pm

    Well my name is Ashli so most people call me “ashes” for short, but my friend calls me “asha”.

    Reply
  6. mary torres so loved -  February 25, 2012 - 9:57 am

    my name is mary torres everyone calls me marie or kookie :)

    Reply
  7. Kevin Martin -  February 8, 2012 - 8:43 pm

    I love this blog. I’m addicted to it. This particular post was a real eye-opener for me because I’ve never heard the use of Toph for Christopher.

    Reply
  8. tomsboat -  February 2, 2012 - 6:27 pm

    My friend call me tomy for my nickname

    Reply
  9. bholland -  February 2, 2012 - 9:34 am

    The nickname ‘Dick’ for ‘Richard’ is derived from the two words “rich” and “hard” (the ‘h’ gets double duty here).

    Reply
  10. leogregorydunn -  January 30, 2012 - 6:58 am

    Because I’m shcizoprhenic.

    Reply
  11. leogregorydunn -  January 30, 2012 - 6:57 am

    Why are you answering you ownd email?

    Reply
  12. leogregorydunn -  January 30, 2012 - 6:54 am

    if you have so many names to begin with why did you put Gregory in the middle of your email address/

    Reply
  13. leogregorydunn -  January 30, 2012 - 6:52 am

    My name is Leo Cormac Shanahan Dunn and I come from Lowell Ma where nick names are King.
    Leek, Leeko, Shamas, Corky and All Dunn have been my handles through the years.

    Reply
  14. Lefty -  January 28, 2012 - 2:19 pm

    Where does Dick for Richard come from??

    Reply
  15. BlueMomeRath -  January 28, 2012 - 1:00 pm

    My name is Skye, and I don’t really have a nick name, but I get called Star a lot…and my closest friends call me Skybie, Skee, Skee Lee, and Kabob; I just don’t “go by it” per se.

    Kabob? Well, it takes a lil’ o’ this and a lil’ o’ that to get a youngin’, so…I reckon that makes sense. :)

    Reply
  16. Vicaari -  January 28, 2012 - 9:51 am

    I thought I posted something to this block yesterday; however, I can’t seem to find anything of mine. Wonder went wrong!

    However, here is another one as I post today.

    To answer to the above … see no reason why not as long as president can deliver the goods to the ppl that elected him/her as their president to the office.

    Thanks for the article.

    Reply
  17. Mariusz -  January 28, 2012 - 7:27 am

    Cysia for Marcelina

    Reply
  18. Vicaari -  January 27, 2012 - 3:08 pm

    Interesting article.

    @Melody: Mel is a good nickname.

    @ Nina: Raanumani supposed to be Ranugem; gem, as in diamond, pearl, emarald, ruby, sapphire and such gemstones. Then again why not dear Ranu since those gems are highly priced or very expensinve; they are dear and so is/has our Ranu become dear or dearRanu.

    Thanks

    Reply
  19. Lourdes A Badillo -  January 26, 2012 - 3:35 pm

    In my name’s case I like the nickname my name is Lourdes and in Mexico,
    they call us “Lulu” [ with a strong accent in the last “u”, not like the British Lulu on which they accentuate the first “u”, here in the USA they just shorten it to “Lou”.

    Reply
  20. Dieter -  January 26, 2012 - 3:17 pm

    Though strictly speaking being part of a stage name H. Vernon Watson, a popular English Variety artist in the 1920s, was wellknown as Nosmo.

    When he set out on the stage he was stuck for a memorable name for himself, when he saw the half open backstage door which was parted and the two halves of the door spelled “No Smo” and “king”. From that moment he never looked back as quite a famous stage artist “Nosmo King”, for which the short version was Nosmo

    Reply
  21. coldbear -  January 26, 2012 - 1:50 pm

    No mention is made of nicknames from last names, like Mac or Whit.
    My first name doesn’t loan itself too well for a nickname, it being short as it is.
    In the military, last names are frequently used, and I developed many nicknames from that. I was often called Cold Beer (the name is Colbert, just like the comedian), but now I often get called Bear (which I don’t resemble).

    As for getting elected President with a nickname, remember Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Or even further back: Ike Eisenhower.

    Reply
  22. Josh -  January 26, 2012 - 1:49 pm

    Joshy for Joshua. Ladies LOVE to call me Joshy.

    Reply
  23. smoothius -  January 26, 2012 - 1:32 pm

    use to be smoothie, but just too many smoothies out there so i became the one and only smoothius! :) now no copying!

    Reply
  24. Lee Seo -  January 26, 2012 - 11:17 am

    ” Mine is Goose- when I was born, my mom said I looked like a goose”

    Ha, that is hilarious…cool nick name though.

    Reply
  25. Anthony -  January 26, 2012 - 11:02 am

    JK my nick name is tony

    Reply
  26. Anthony -  January 26, 2012 - 11:01 am

    GET A Life People

    Reply
  27. Siddie D. -  January 26, 2012 - 10:57 am

    My real name is Sydney, I looked it up (best name site in the world => http://www.behindthename.com/ ) and my name means “wide island” nice, right? Now I go by Siddie, which means “star-like” and my close friends call me Squid. :)

    Reply
  28. Niera -  January 26, 2012 - 10:51 am

    i do think that because it would be just about the cuties thing like my name is niera but i have a couple like , ni,noz,fatty mc fat fat i think they are all cute and i love them all …

    Reply
  29. F X -  January 26, 2012 - 10:49 am

    Mmm I like my names they’re common but i get a lot of nicknames.
    Francisco= Frank, Francis, Franco, cisco, etc..
    Xavier= Xavi, Xmen(LOL) and so on so on.

    Reply
  30. Joel -  January 26, 2012 - 10:45 am

    My first wife called me Joey, and a few kids in elementary school called me “Mole”. But my granddaughter is named Victoria (after her great-grandmother, who went by Vicky), and her nickname is Tori.

    Reply
  31. Liza with a Z -  January 26, 2012 - 10:40 am

    I want to know how you get Eddie from Theodore and Ted from Edward….

    Reply
  32. Surain -  January 26, 2012 - 10:35 am

    I was born Elizabeth. There are WAY too many nicknames for this name:

    Liz
    Lizzy
    Libby
    Elsie
    Eliza
    Liza
    Lissy
    Bette
    Betty
    Beth
    Bess
    Lisbeth
    And so on…

    I’m sure I’ve even missed a few. So I changed my name to Surina. Now my only nickname is Surain, which is a common mis-typing.

    Cheers.

    Reply
  33. somebody -  January 26, 2012 - 10:16 am

    I have had many nicknames myself such as izzy or my favorite, bella, as my name is isabella. I do not like my orignal name, and am glad i have a few nicknames! Phew! :)

    Reply
  34. Amber -  January 26, 2012 - 10:14 am

    My name already is short but people still
    seem to give me nicknames which I adore them all.

    Amba, Amby, Amberlina, Amberlin, Adda, Bambi, and even Elmo.

    Reply
  35. SalManz -  January 26, 2012 - 9:55 am

    nicknames are fun… I’m from El Salvador and we use the nickname “Chamba” for Salvador… I still don’t get it… even though that’s my name :) What makes it even funnier is that in Mexico, “Chamba” means work!

    Reply
  36. Richard Courtens -  January 26, 2012 - 8:46 am

    You did not answer the question you posed:
    “Can you run for president with a nickname?”
    What about it?

    Reply
  37. Laura Benedict -  January 26, 2012 - 8:45 am

    When my sister Amanda married Andrew, we called them Amandrew.
    “Monkey” for “Mikey” (which was short for Michael, of course)
    “Sher Bear” (share bear) for Sherran
    When I worked as a CSS at Walmart, I called myself “Visa” because I’m everywhere you want me to be.
    **To Nshera: I would give you the nickname “Cherie.”

    :)

    Reply
  38. NICKNAMES | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  January 26, 2012 - 8:37 am

    [...] ‘Nicknames’ whatever Nicholas wants to name though some translations are increasingly silly: Sarah/Sally; Teddy/Edward; Betty, Jack and Tilly — Are they really nick’s of names or GW’s — Dog — Willy Nilly? — Slick or Slim or Craze for Him — Why should one simply concur? — The simplification of Nicholas — Not ‘hypocoristic’ in some view. — Less formal sounding eloquence, — fitting another shoe. — “Lemonhead” on the other hand or a ‘Newt’ as an amphibious Salamander — Mitt is for the Catcher — From the Point we do meander. — The Nicknames here presented would be Jonathon/  Jon for Short or ‘Shorty’? –>>L.T.Rhyme [...]

    Reply
  39. SHATA&RONALD4EVA -  January 26, 2012 - 7:51 am

    I think nicknames form froma name. Like my name, It starts with a SH and these were my nicknames shanny, sha, and now shata. but when i was little my mother use to call me cookie monster and cheche :( that was bad but I love nicknames

    Reply
  40. Dave -  January 26, 2012 - 7:26 am

    Peg for Margaret. Go figure.

    Reply
  41. Mary, aka Polly -  January 26, 2012 - 7:23 am

    You call Mitt a nickname, but then you say it’s his middle name. That’s different, isn’t it?

    Reply
  42. Phlondar -  January 26, 2012 - 6:52 am

    @ Alicia
    There is a nickname for Alicia, it is Licha

    Reply
  43. Rich -  January 26, 2012 - 6:33 am

    Fail.

    The article title asks a question, which is never answered in the body of the article, and only referred to tangentially at best.

    The second paragraph asks another set of questions, which I find more interesting:

    How do you get Peggy from Margaret? Bo for William? Chuck from Charles? Polly from Mary?

    This too is left unanswered, so I’m left wondering.

    Instead we get a brief history of the Republican candidates’ surnames, then a vague discussion of nicknames and naming terminology with little real information. I’m heavily disappointed.

    Reply
  44. Terry Burgoyne -  January 26, 2012 - 6:29 am

    I like the nickname for my own name, Terry, and which appears to be limited to London, England. I was born London and onely Londoners have ever used my nickname: Tel or Tell. Tedge is another version though not limited to London.

    Reply
  45. vivek -  January 26, 2012 - 6:12 am

    vivsy from vivek
    and this boy in my class is called bullet head due to the shape of his head.

    Reply
  46. Jeffers! -  January 26, 2012 - 6:11 am

    Vanessa yours should be Nessy^^!

    Reply
  47. Alisa -  January 26, 2012 - 5:53 am

    My friend’s name is Margaret and so is her daughters. She goes by Maggie and her daughter by gretta.

    Reply
  48. Marguerite -  January 26, 2012 - 5:16 am

    But can you run for President with a nickname???

    Reply
  49. Ruby ann -  January 26, 2012 - 4:43 am

    My full name is Ruby Ann.
    Some people call me Ruby, Others call me Ann.
    When I was in college my friends call me By-Ann.
    But when I started working one of my managers called me Rann.
    Hmmmmnnn….RANN is perfect for me!

    Reply
  50. mary -  January 26, 2012 - 4:37 am

    not all nickname are good names like mine im tennie iin kindeGARDEN I USE TO GO BY THAT NAME NOW I GO BY MARY.

    Reply
  51. Duncan -  January 26, 2012 - 3:54 am

    My nicknames are Duncan, Squiz, Britt and Dustin. One of my friends is Jody, Helmet, Stacie and Julian, another friend is Jeff, Oinch, Emma and Micah. My other friend is Michael, Lila and Mitchell and another is Phil, Lucy and Blake. Don’t ask how we came up with all those. We just gave them to each other. And, yes, we’re all girls. =D

    Reply
  52. Donna -  January 26, 2012 - 3:42 am

    My brother already had a short name, Rex, so for his nickname we had to lengthen it to Rexy. The same with our father Ross, always called Rosscoe. For the rest of us, Karen, Darryl, Donna, we shortened to Kaz Daz Doz. But there’s not much you can do with Donna except Don, or Don-Dons (which I’ve been called), but it’s an awful name to begin with and the abbreviations aren’t much better…

    Reply
  53. danicAquino -  January 26, 2012 - 3:22 am

    My name’s Maria Danica Anne. My nickname’s Dianne.

    I prefer to be called Dan rather than Nica. I don’t like girl-ish nicknames.

    Way back in college, some would call me Dandy or Dandy-cles.

    Reply
  54. Cornelius Lambshank -  January 26, 2012 - 3:00 am

    People tried to abbrev. my forename to things like “Corny” or “Cornballs” which obviously sound rather derisive, Now I get called “Lammy” which is fine if not a little too endearing.

    Reply
  55. Vickie -  January 26, 2012 - 12:07 am

    My name is Victoria, and my nick name is Vickie… I don’t really care about MY nickname, but they are kinda cute. Like my brother’s nickname is Tickle, that’s because when my Mother was pregnant with him, I used to tickle her stomach just for fun. His original name is Jacob, but he still prefers Tickle, even though he’s now 7 years old. In my opinion, nicknames are fun, and as long as you like it, it does not matter if its weird.

    Reply
  56. JayKa -  January 25, 2012 - 11:49 pm

    How about Liz or Lizzy for Elizabeth, or Geri for Geraldiine. Gerty for Gertrude. Peg for Peggy. Don for Donald. Joe for Joseph. Will, Bill, Billy, or Willie for William. Dick or Rick or Richie for Richard. Horey for Horatio, A-hole for your boss or mother-in-law…

    Reply
  57. JJ in Chula Vista, CA -  January 25, 2012 - 11:28 pm

    My nickname’s the first letter of my first name and the first letter of my middle name. I sometimes spell it with periods after the “J’s,” and sometimes without the periods, so I don’t really keep it with any kind of formality on that front. I’ve basically had my nickname for just as long as I’ve had my birth name, I answer to both names subconsciously, I don’t know who started calling me JJ, and I still find it funny when I have people spell my nickname as “Jay-Jay” for lack of familiarity.

    Reply
  58. lily -  January 25, 2012 - 9:39 pm

    My name is Lillian, but I go by Lily. I don’t understand how “Dick” is a nickname for “Richard”.

    Reply
  59. Charles -  January 25, 2012 - 9:35 pm

    Wonderful and interesting article. I never knew that Romney’s first name is Willard.

    Could another nickname for William also be Bill? That’s how I’ve often heard it as.

    Reply
  60. Enrique -  January 25, 2012 - 9:10 pm

    Nice article. I find it iteresting as I am an English learner, I thought all of them came from one part of the original name.

    My mother tongue is Spanish and you should know that nicknames in my language are completely different to the original name. For example, a man called José automatically has PEPE as his nickname. People call me KIKE which is not very related to Enrique. Anyway, we use them and we do not care much about the origins.

    Reply
  61. beans -  January 25, 2012 - 9:02 pm

    nood ler

    Reply
  62. noodles -  January 25, 2012 - 9:00 pm

    whats my nickname?

    Reply
  63. supsupbrah -  January 25, 2012 - 8:53 pm

    @Alicia
    I had a friend named Alicia and we called her Ici (eesee) and she liked it idk about you but just a suggestion

    Reply
  64. Matt -  January 25, 2012 - 8:26 pm

    I like Mindy for Melinda, but I want to know how Bob came from Robert and how Bill from William. Anyone know?

    Reply
  65. Kathleen -  January 25, 2012 - 8:25 pm

    Yeah cuz my name is Kathleen but people call me Katie.

    Reply
  66. ashley -  January 25, 2012 - 8:16 pm

    my brother calls me leelars or leelee

    Reply
  67. melody -  January 25, 2012 - 7:43 pm

    i don’t have one. people, out there, read this comment and give me a nickname. my name is melody :)

    Reply
  68. Nina -  January 25, 2012 - 6:46 pm

    In Bengali culture, everyone has two names — a “bhalo nam” or “proper name” (the one on the birth certificate) and a “dak nam” or “given name” (which only the family uses). They’re usually totally different, too! For example, my “proper name” is Nina, but my family calls me Anjali. My aunt is even more complicated — her proper name is Alokananda, to her friends she’s Aloka, her dak nam is Ranu, and her nieces and nephews call her Ranumoni (or “dear Ranu”).

    Reply
  69. Robert Koch -  January 25, 2012 - 6:43 pm

    One of the most common of nicknames is Bob. Spell it either forward or backwards.

    Reply
  70. bernables -  January 25, 2012 - 6:42 pm

    best for bestine. :)

    Reply
  71. Poets Reach -  January 25, 2012 - 6:38 pm

    When he was in high school my uncle was called Rosie by his friends, it was short for Rosenberg, his last name.
    Now my brother is getting called Creed by his friends, they combined his first and last names.

    I go almost exclusively by my nickname so some times people try to call me by nicknames they come up with based on my nickname. Whether they get away with it depends on who they are, and what they called me. I’ve been called: Becca, Beck, Beck-Beck, Becks, and The Beckster. Becca never goes over well, as for the rest of them, it depends on who you are.

    Reply
  72. Maatii -  January 25, 2012 - 6:22 pm

    My favorite nicknames are Gracie for Grace, Ali for Allison, Tom for Thomas, and drean for Andrean

    Reply
  73. Michelle -  January 25, 2012 - 6:10 pm

    My name is Michelle and my entire life, family/friends have called me Meesh :)

    Reply
  74. Alicia is very short -  January 25, 2012 - 6:01 pm

    My name’s Alicia and my friends call me “Lish-Lish”. Another name for me is “Deliah”They say it ‘fits’ me. Nick-names don’t really have to involve the name, they could just describe the person.

    Reply
  75. Bob -  January 25, 2012 - 5:45 pm

    A cool name for Jose would be like Josie if u cant spell or do English

    Reply
  76. anonymous -  January 25, 2012 - 5:34 pm

    One of my friends’ surname is Thorpe, so we call him Thorpedo.

    Reply
  77. Mary -  January 25, 2012 - 5:29 pm

    y do u think drew for Andrew is unusual? i have known drew’s for my whole life… it seems perfectly normal 2 me… :)

    Reply
  78. alex -  January 25, 2012 - 4:59 pm

    acctually you cant cause they will take your 1ST NAME. yeah it seems odd but its what i read………

    Reply
  79. Rin -  January 25, 2012 - 4:47 pm

    My nickname is Rin, but my real name is completely different. My nickname comes from a memory of the past.

    Reply
  80. greatgooglymoogly -  January 25, 2012 - 4:42 pm

    I’m liking Cosmo, from Cosmos. :)

    Reply
  81. Vanessa -  January 25, 2012 - 4:22 pm

    “Nicknames are often just the shortening of a name, but they may sometimes hypocoristics, meaning an endearing pet name, like Debbie for Deborah.”

    Shouldn’t that say “. . . they may sometimes BE hypocoristics”?

    Anyway, interesting article. Never really had a nickname myself, though.

    Reply
  82. Mubb -  January 25, 2012 - 4:17 pm

    my name is mubb, so many nicknames i get are similar to “mubby” or “mub-meister”…

    jk (my name’s not mubb…)

    Reply
  83. DieHard -  January 25, 2012 - 3:55 pm

    My younger sister’s name is Lorraine and we call her Rain. I really love her nickname.

    Reply
  84. someone -  January 25, 2012 - 3:45 pm

    What? Ellie does not even sound like the origional name! Sometimes nicknames don’t make sense. Actually most of the time.

    Reply
  85. anonymous -  January 25, 2012 - 3:43 pm

    Jamie/Jim for James :D =D

    Reply
  86. microchip -  January 25, 2012 - 3:08 pm

    matt for matthew

    Reply
  87. Pocholo Lavandarosa -  January 25, 2012 - 2:38 pm

    My favorite one would be Juanito for Juan

    Reply
  88. Chic Diva -  January 25, 2012 - 2:30 pm

    Elllie for Catherine

    Reply
  89. Jay -  January 25, 2012 - 2:24 pm

    My father, in his infinite wisdom, named me J, after the letter. My birth certificate reads J Elliott Selvey. I go by J but for ease of life spell it Jay, which gets me into trouble now and then come mortgage time or when dealing with SS. Wonder how you would shorten J for a nickname? I have been called Jaybird, Bluejay, and Birdseed at various times in my life. How do you like the Birdseed appellation?

    Reply
  90. Haleigh -  January 25, 2012 - 2:15 pm

    Mine is Goose- when I was born, my mom said I looked like a goose, because I had jondice [made me yellow] and my nose looked weird. Of course, it helped convince her when she was on pain pills. My nose is normal, just a baby thing . :]

    Reply
  91. Nshera -  January 25, 2012 - 2:10 pm

    My favorite nicknames are:

    Vicky
    Tory
    Liz
    Zim
    :-)

    Reply
  92. ed -  January 25, 2012 - 1:54 pm

    Jake for Jack, Mick for Michael, and of course Ed for Edgar.

    Reply
  93. Alicia -  January 25, 2012 - 1:53 pm

    My name’s Alicia (Uh-Lee-See-Ya) and I don’t have a nickname nor do I want one unless it’s cute. ‘Ali’ sounds lame and ‘Lici’ is too kitty-ish. I was thinking that a good nickname for Alicia would be ‘Lisa’ because they are pronounced similarly and Lisa does sound like a shortened name for Alicia if you listen to the names. But, I don’t feel like a Lisa, I like Alicia so no nicknames for me :)

    I do like the name Natasha though, it’s weird that Natasha is a nickname for Natalia (Natalie) in Russia but Natasha is longer than Natalia and nicknames are meant to be shortened forms of a given name.

    I also prefer ‘Ant’ over ‘Tony’ for the name Anthony/Antonio. That’s it.

    Reply
  94. Nshera -  January 25, 2012 - 1:43 pm

    That is really cool!!!! I wonder what mine would be! :-)

    Reply
  95. Danielle -  January 25, 2012 - 1:23 pm

    Nicknames that are longer than the actual name crack me up.

    Reply
  96. Chellie thompson -  January 25, 2012 - 11:45 am

    Actually, i have 2 favorites :) my big brother called me mikey. But more recently, a friend spelled my name chellie

    Reply

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