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Category: vintage nicknames



posted by: Elea View all posts by this author

By Eleanor Nickerson of British Baby Names

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.

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Comeback Kid Nicknames for Boys

vintage boys' names

By Linda Rosenkrantz

Here is Part 2 of our search for fresh vintage nickname names, and this time we’re looking at boys’ names that at one time registered on the Top 1000 list.

Bear in mind, though, that, because of the growth of the overall population we can sometimes be dealing with a vastly different number set between then and now. For example, when Ned peaked in 1907 at Number 291, that figure represented a mere 54 boys, whereas Number 291 in 2014 (Hector) was given to 1,209 boys.

Some of these names have long been completely off the radar, while others will be somewhat more familiar.

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Cute Comeback-Kid Nicknames for Girls

vintage nicknames for girls

By Linda Rosenkrantz

After a brief hiatus following the Sandy-Mandy-Cindy-Mindy years, nickname names are making a strong comeback. Just recently we’ve seen starbabies with names like Andy (for a girl), Art, Cy, Gus, Josh and Sid on their birth certificates. So with this in mind, we’re embarking here on a 4-part-long search for fresh vintage nickname ideas.

Today we consider girl nicknames that were used frequently enough at one time to make it into the Top 1000 list. Some dropped off because their mother names were no longer current (Effie/Euphemia), some just because they’d come to sound too grandmotherly, and others, like Freddie, that had become strictly male.

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Unusual British Baby Names

British baby names

The British are known as much for their eccentricity as for their conventionality, two stereotypes evidenced in the names from the recent birth announcements in the London Telegraph.

Yes, there are plenty of boys named the traditional Henry and Oliver and lots of girls called the Number 1 Amelia and the very proper Charlotte.

Sometimes, the two images cross, with the same eccentric (to American ears, at least) names being used so often they begin to feel conventional.  The first three months of 2014, for instance, seem to be rife with girls named Matilda and Ottilie and boys named every variation of Fred: Frederick and Wilfred and Alfred and Freddie.

But what we’re focusing on today are the truly eccentric names, the one-offs and the unusual choices that may prove fashion forward or may just be evidence of the infamous British wackiness.  These eccentric new names fall into several different camps.

The first and largest might be thought of as the mainstream eccentric British names, such as:

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vintage nicknames

By Pamela Redmond Satran

Nickname-names still appear on birth certificates.  In the U.S., such names as Ellie, Abby, and Charlie for girls; Jake, Jack, and Johnny for boys all rank high.  In the U.K., nickname-names are even more fashionable, with Evie, Maisie, Millie, and Ellie in the Top 35 for girls, and Jack, Charlie, and Alfie in the boys’ Top 10.

But there are generations of nickname-names that have fallen off the Top 1000, yet sound cute and baby-ready today.  The list here is drawn from names that were on the Social Security roster on their own in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but fell off by the early 1970s (the date of their last listing follows the name) and haven’t yet reappeared.

Whether you choose to use Bea or Mamie, Clem or Zeb as full names or as diminutives for Beatrice or Marietta, Clement or Zebediah, any of these nickname-names would make charming choices.

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