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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.

GIRLS

Belle

Bess

Bonnie

Bree

Carly

Cleo/Clio

Daisy

Dixie

Dulcie

Elle

Gwen

Gwyn

Halle

Hedy

Heidi

Holly

Isa

Jenna

Jill

Jolie

Kate

Keely

Kelsey

Leni

Libby

Liv

Lola

Lucy

Macy

Maisie

Mitzi

Molly

Nell

Pia

Piper

Polly

Poppy

Posy

Romy

Roxy

Rue

Sally

Suri

Sylvie/Silvie

Tai

Tansy

Tess

Thisbe

Tina   

Vita

Viva

Zoey

BOYS

Ash

Barney

Beau/Bo

Beck

Benno

Bodhi

Bowie

Brady

Brody

Bram

Cash

Cato

Clay

Cleve

Cody

Colby

Corey

Darby

Dov

Duffy

Finn

Fritz

Grady

Gus

Jack

Jake

Jesse

Joss

Jove

Judd

Jude

Kai

Lev

Luca

Luke

Perry

Rafe

Remi/Remy

Reo/Rio

Rex

Rocco

Rollo

Tor

Tully

Uri

Viggo

West

Wiley/Wylie

Will

Zev

UNI

Ali

Ari

Bailey

Bay

Brett

Bryn

Casey

Darcy

Harley

Marley

Nico

Riley

Rory

Sasha

Toby

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