Pop quiz: What can turn Richie into a Dick?
The answer lies in his name, Richard, and its ability to morph into different forms (some more socially acceptable than others).
There are lots of names like this: chameleons that can allow the bearer the freedom to choose between the longer form and the abbreviated version.
First, though, a little terminology lesson. What we usually refer to as nicknames — the shortened versions of longer names — are technically called diminutives.
Nicknames are technically things like Pumpkin, Peanut, or Assface (just kidding about that last one … sort of). They typically stem from someone’s personality or physical traits, like calling a redhead “Red.”
In any case, nicknames and diminutives were both super important back in the day, when the pool of possible names (and the world in general) were much smaller and there weren’t that many to choose from. An alternate form of a name provided some individuality, a distinguishing feature in a sea of Johns and Marys.
These days, we don’t necessarily have that problem. But there’s still a lot to be said for giving your child a longer name, and using diminutives to make it feel more personal or familiar.
It’s like the difference between having one standard outfit versus an entire wardrobe. The longer name can sound more formal or fancy, but then it can be broken down into smaller versions that each have their own associations.
For example, where Gabrielle sounds more buttoned-up, Gabby and Bri seem more playful, and Brielle has a distinctly feminine feel. A name with plenty of diminutive options allows for a lot of flexibility.
Maybe, after getting to know your baby, you realize that she’s more Millie than Amelia. Or she could be Mel, Mellie, Amy, Melia, Mila, Lia, or Mia.
If she grows up and decides she’s more Mila than Millie, then she has that option. Or, the option of being all-out Amelia. She can reinvent herself via her name, without having the hassle of actually changing it.
Maybe your son Robbie will choose to go by the more formal Robert when he’s a surgeon or a lawyer or an executive chef. If you simply name him Robbie, he won’t have that option. At least not officially.
A name with a lot of diminutives can also distinguish your kid from other kids who share that name. There may be two Williams in his class, but if one is a Will and one is a Liam, they won’t have to be relegated to “William H.” and “William P.”
It can also be useful if more than one member of your family wants to name their child after, say, Grandma Matilda; one can go by Mattie, and one by Tilly.
So if you’re sold on the idea of a longer name that can be broken down into others, here are a few of our favorites for both boys and girls that carry the most alternative choices — some traditional, and some totally unexpected.
Char, Charlie, Carly, Cal, Callie, Lotte, Lottie, Lettie, Lola, Harlie, Hallie
Eve, Ev, Eva, Evie, Van, Vanna, Vangie, Angie, Angel, Lina, Gilly
Gen, Genna, Ginny, Gina, Neve, Eve, Evie, Viv, Vivi, Nevi, Gigi
Liz, Lizzie, Lizbeth, Libby, Beth, Betsy, Bette, Bet, Betty, Bess, Bitsy, Biff, Ellie, El, Eli, Zibby, Buffy
Kat, Kate, Katie, Kathy, Kit, Kitty, Kay, Katia
Corrie, Delie, Delia, Del, Della, Lia, Cora, Cordy, Corla, Dee, Coco
Elle, Ella, Len, Nor, Nori, Nora, Nell, Nellie
Maggie, Mar, Marge, Margie, Greta, Daisy, Peggy, Margo, Maisie, Meg
Ana, Anna, Ani, Stasia, Stacia, Stacie, Sia, Tasia, Asia
Isa, Issy, Izzy, Elle, Bella, Belle, Ibby, Ella, Sabella, Sabbie
Jo, Josie, Jojo, Seph, Fina, Joss, Posie, Sosie
Char, Charlie, Chuck, Chip, Cal, Carl, Chaz, Chase, Cale, Hal, Carlo, Arlo, Harley
Bastian, Bast, Bas, Bash, Sab, Seb, Sebby, Baz, Ian
Ed, Eddie, Ned, Ted, Teddy, Ward
Dom, Nic, Nico, Nicky, Mick, Mickey
Jack, Jackie, Jax, Sonny, Ax, Jas
Theo, Teddy, Ted, Tad, Teo
Jam, Jamie, Jim, Jimmy, Jay, James, Sonny
Mike, Mikey, Mick, Mitch, Cael, Cal, Micha, Mickey, Mitt
Nick, Nicky, Nico, Cole, Coley
Alex, Xander, Zan, Lex, Ander, Andy, Andry, Al, Dex, Sandy
A nickname-rich name can allow your little one the license to be whoever they choose, and to “try on” different variations until they find the perfect fit.
If only everything else in life could have this many options.
From two letters to four syllables, there are thousands of cool names to browse at the Scary Mommy baby name database!