Let’s say you like the casual and peppy energetic feel of some nicknames, the short, relaxed sound of others, but you still want on your baby’s birth certificate a name that has roots and substance and meaning—one that will be accepted as a “real” name. There definitely is a category of names that allows you to have it both ways.
Let me modify that a little: Yes, quite a few of the names below did start historically as diminutives or pet forms of others—Nell emerged as a nickname for Eleanor or Helen and Cleo is, obviously, a short form of Cleopatra. And some suffer from guilt by association–the biblical Jesse sounds an awfu lot like Bessie and Tessie. But the point is that they have stood on their own for long enough to have their own substantive histories, not to be dismissed as ‘just a nickname.’
Here is a list of options that fill that bill—light in feel but strong on tradition.