Brits love diminutives. We use them, often automatically, to shorten names in a familiar way, and they have been essential for centuries as a way of distinguishing individuals with the same name. We love them so much, many of them have now been elevated into full-name status, and happily litter the Top 100.
The most common are two-syllable, ie/y-endings we know and love well; Isabelles are Izzy, Olivers are Ollie, Katherines are Katies and Fredericks are Freddies. But more and more, parents are looking to a more brisk and quirky style of diminutive. Edwards are often Ned, rather than Eddy; several Henrys are Hal, and Christophers are the striking Kit rather than Chris.
With this niche trend in mind, here is a rundown of some one-syllable diminutives that have become overlooked since they were developed in the Middle Ages. Several of them, perhaps surprisingly, were unisex.
In the 16th century Bess was a popular nickname for Elizabeth. You could almost say that it was the diminutive for the name, as the most famous bearer, Elizabeth I, was known fondly as “Good Queen Bess“. It began to lose favour in the 18th century, but was revived as Bessie in the 19th. In some instances, Bess was also used as a diminutive for Beatrice.
By Linda Rosenkrantz
We’re now at Part 3 (Part 2 for girls) in our hunt for lost nickname names worth reappraising and this time it’s girls’ names that have never ranked on the Top 1000 list. Consider them as fresh nicknames for classic faves, or for possible use on their own.
We are expecting our second child, a daughter, in four weeks and we are completely stumped on a name. We already have a son called Rex and his name was really the only one we could agree on but we both loved it; it fitted instantly. This time we have a lot of names that we both like but nothing that is ‘the one’.
We really want a name for our daughter that is strong, feminine, and not too frilly and, ideally, has the potential for nicknames. We are looking outside the top 100 names (we are in the UK so on the UK list) and want it to be interesting rather than popular or faddy.
Names we have on our shortlist are:
Nickname-names have taken hold in the U.K., and the U.S. hasn’t been completely immune to this trend. The two countries may favor different nicknames, and the trend may be more popular in the U.K., but the trend is evident in both countries.
Tilda and Tilly. Many would see these names and think they are only nicknames for Matilda, but both make for adorable names in their own right. Whether you are debating which nickname to use for your little Matilda, or simply which to give your daughter, it could be helpful to look at them side by side.
Origin, Meaning, Associations & Impressions
These are so intertwined that it’s helpful to consider them together. Both Tilda and Tilly are considered to have originated as nicknames for Matilda. Matilda is an Old German name meaning ‘mighty in battle’, and hence this is also the accepted meaning for both Tilda and Tilly.