Can a Cute Vintage Nickname Revive a Dusty Old Lady Name?

By Linda Rosenkrantz

Like our cousins across the pond, we’ve fallen in love with vintage nicknames for our girls—names like Maisie and Mabel and Sadie and Josie and Hattie are already on the rise. But do those parents who want a little Hattie necessarily consider putting Harriet or Henrietta on the birth certificate?

Maybe, maybe not.

In some cases, the adorable short form is actually succeeding in waking up its sleeping mother name. Like Josephine, for instance, and Beatrice. But here are some others whose full versions have not seen as much—if any– action, as adorable as their period nicknames may be.

Which of these cute, often tomboyish, girl nicknames do you think are capable of reviving their more staid Great-Grandma names?

AGGIEAgatha, Agnes

ARTIEArtemisia

BEABeatha, Bethia

BERRYBertha

BENNIEBenedicta

BERNIEBernice, Bernadette

BERTIEAlberta, Bertha, Roberta

BILLIEWilhelmina, Wilma

BRENBrenda

CLEMMIEClemence

DESIDesdemona

DOLLYDorothy

DORYEudora

DOTDorothy

DRUDrusilla

EDDYEdwina

EFFIEEuphemia

ELLIEElmira, Elvira

ELVIEElvira

ERNIEErnestine

ESSIEEsther, Estelle

ETTIEEthel

EULIE—Eulalia

EVVIEEvadne

FLORRIEFlora

FLOSSIEFlorence

FRANKIEFrancine

FREDDIEAlfreda, Frederica

FRITZIEFrederica

GERTIEGertrude

GINGERVirginia

GLADDY—Gladys

HATTIEHarriet, Henrietta

HETTIEMehetabel

IZZYIsmay

JAKEJacobina

JEMMYJemima

JOBIEJobina

KETTYKeturah

KIZZIEKeziah

LALLYEulalia

LETTYLeticia, Lettice

LIDDY—Lydia

LOTTIECarlotta

LOVVIE—Loveday

LULABeulah

LULULouise, Lucille, Lucilla, Lucasta, Lucinda

MINNIEMinerva, Wilhelmina

MINTA, MINTYAraminta

NELLIEHelen, Eleanor

NETTIEAntoinette, Janet

OLLYOlympia

PRUPrudence

REGGIERegina

ROMYRomola

TAVYOctavia

THEAAlthea, Theodosia

TILDAMatilda, Clotilda

TILLIEMatilda

TOMMYThomasina

VINNIELavinia

VONNIEYvonne

WINNIEEdwina, Winifred

ZETTARosetta

ZAZATirzah

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23 Responses to “Can a Cute Vintage Nickname Revive a Dusty Old Lady Name?”

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jenni_lynn91 Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 6:49 am

Some of those nicknames are worse than the actual name, in my opinion. These names are not my style at all, but Wilhelmina, Lucinda and Keziah are nice without the nicknames.

tfzolghadr Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 7:14 am

I’ve been trying to wear my husband down on Artemisia… so nice to see it on here!

odiferouscoconut Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 9:22 am

Oh wow! I NEED a list like this for boys!

Suzannah Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 10:08 am

There’s a reason names like Bertha, Ethel, and Gertrude fell out of use–they’re just not pretty.

esmith0326 Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 10:56 am

All the clunky B names (Brenda, Bernice, etc) and the trying too hard girl variations (Edwina, Ernestine, etc.) are the worst offenders for me.

AldabellaxWulfe Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 11:09 am

@Suzannah – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I personally think that the likes of Bertha, Ethel and Gertrude are lovely. And besides, these types of names were popular for dozens, sometimes hundreds of years. They didn’t suddenly stop being used because ‘they’re just not pretty’. There’s more to it than that and, due to their lack of use prompted (presumably) by a multitude of cultural, societal and fashion-based reasons, they now appear ugly to most of us 21st century folks because we’re not used to hearing those sorts of names anymore. But that’s just my opinion…

Suzannah Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 12:51 pm

@Aldabellax– This is an opinion site, My opinion is that many names on this list are harsh sounding. To me, they don’t “appear ugly”, they are ugly. Of course, whether or not someone likes a name is completely subjective. I had an Aunt Ethel, an Aunt Wilma and an Aunt Muriel–all names I would never name my daughters. There’s no reason to politicize something as individual as liking or disliking a name.

Maple10 Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 2:13 pm

Vintage nicknames are my thing! I love Aggie, Dot, Bea, Frankie, Gertie (prefer Trudy though) Lottie, Lulu, Minty, Romy, Tillie, Winnie, Zetty.

Jake for a girl though, crosses the line for me. Shouldn’t some boys names be off limits?

Myosotis Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 2:27 pm

I’ve got a bit of an on/off thing with nicknames, but I adore vintage ones. It’s definitely the tomboyish, feisty feel and image they have, and they just add some spice and energy to some heavier names. My personal favourites are Sybil nn Sybbie, and Beatrix nn Trixie, and from the list:

Effie for Euphemia
Evvie for Evadne
Hettie but for Henrietta
Liddy for Lydia
Lula and Lulu but for Tallulah
Minnie for Minerva (but I’m planning to name a cat this one day)
I think Lolly or Molly would also be cute for Olympia
Tavy for Octavia
Tilda for Matilda
Tommy for Thomasina
Zetta for Rosetta

Also:
Roberta nn Bobby (I started to really like Roberta because of Roberta nn Bobby in The Railway Children)
Edith nn Edie
Georgiana (or Georgia/Georgina) nn Georgie

And just as names I like Alberta, Roberta, Desdemona, Eudora, Essie, Florence, Frankie, and Antoinette.

ARhythmofNames Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 2:33 pm

I have been falling in love with older name as I get older, they are just timeless, beautiful and have something about them that is so appealing. Harriette is so sweet. I adore Tilda, by itself and as a full name 🙂 Dot is so cute for Dorothy, Frankie for Francine or Frances is adorable, Lulu for a Louisa is darling, so many cute nickname options for older names.
I also think Gia or Gigi would be great nicknames for Eugenia. Ellie or Elle or even Ella I think would be great and a modern twist for Helen or Helena and Hero/Hera or Mira/Mia are cute for Hermione.

Myosotis Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Ooh, and Matilda nn Mattie! For some reason I quite like/don’t mind boyish nicknames for girls (depending on the name) even though I’m not usually a fan of boys’ names on girls.

SoDallas3 Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 8:35 pm

Esther, Lucinda, Lavinia, Matilda, Rosetta, Eleanor, Keziah, Eulalia, Jemima and Flora are the best on this list!

kimlz Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 9:28 pm

I think Kezzie for Keziah and Zaza for Tirzah are most likely to revive the old lady name…though I don’t really see either of these as “old lady” names.

mill1020 Says:

February 23rd, 2017 at 11:15 pm

My most-likely-to-revive list (in no particular order):

Aggie/Agnes or Agatha
Bea/Beatrice
Vinnie/Lavinia
Frankie (although I feel very conflicted here because I also like this for a boy as a nn for Franklin)
Lula/Beulah

Eu Says:

February 24th, 2017 at 5:57 am

@Suzannah: Culture and fashion and politics do shape our subjective opinions (which you are obviously entitled to) of names. I agree with you on Ethel, but Gertrude (which I used to think horrible) has grown on me. When I was a kid, I thought the two ugliest names in the world were my grandmothers’ – Edith and Edna. Fastforward 25 years and I love Edith and gave it to my daughter as a middle name.

I thought Edna would be a harder one to warm up to, but I heard it on a 6 year old at the doctor and thought… hey, that actually is kind of cute. Even more amazingly, my mother agreed!

This is not because the name was once ugly and is now improving. It’s to do with the nostalgia (the grandmother’s are dead, I want to remember them) and the changing of the naming landscape, with names like Elsa gaining in popularity.

MonikerWanderer Says:

February 24th, 2017 at 6:43 pm

I’m so happy to see Theodosia on here! It’s my favorite name. Some of these names aren’t my style, but I don’t hate any of them. Very good list!

lesliemarion Says:

February 24th, 2017 at 11:15 pm

I’m tired of people accusing other people of “politicizing” names. Everything is political or cultural at some level or other.

But! This list is fabulous!

I too would love to see the male version as well.

I love almost all of these long names, but am not much interested in the nicknames.

anyagreenwich Says:

February 24th, 2017 at 11:47 pm

Hi!

Ethel is just about the softest sounding name there is… it’s practically Elle. Not harsh at all unless you’re trying to make it sound bolder than it is by saying it loudly. It’s a quiet, unassuming name.

I would hesitate to use any of nicknames that are becoming popular for boys. I also wouldn’t bother with nicknames for many of them, like Harriet and Ethel, or biblical ones like Esther, Beulah, Lydia and Keziah.

Favourites:
Aggie for Agatha
Hettie for Henriette
Lally for Eulalia
Nellie for Helen
Vinnie for Lavinia is too cute… but I think Vince and Vincent are becoming more popular for boys these days

Callmecalliope Says:

February 25th, 2017 at 8:57 am

Cool list! Yes, as others have said, some of these names are still “dusty” (read: unattractive), but this could be a great way to honor a family member. And vintage names are so trendy right now that a lot of these really wouldn’t seem too anachronous.

I’d add:

AGGIE—Augustine
BERRY/BENNIE- Bernice
DORY—Dorothy, Theodora
ELLIE—Eleanor
ETTIE—Harriet (or really anything with an -ette ending)
FLORRIE—Florence
HETTIE—Harriet, Henrietta
NETTIE—Annette
OLLY—Olive

Eizariya Says:

February 25th, 2017 at 10:35 am

I love Billie, but as a nickname for Sybil.

Bobcat108 Says:

February 26th, 2017 at 2:49 pm

I dislike most of these names & there’s nothing political about it…I’m of the age where they sound old-fashioned & clunky to me. My paternal grandmother was named after her two grandmothers & thus was Nellie Augusta, & hated both her names; my maternal grandmother (through the decree of some nuns; long story there) ended up being Mathilde & hates her name as well.

Of the names on the list that I like, I prefer the full versions for more of them (Bethia, Virginia, Jemima, Carlotta, Lucinda, Eleanor, Octavia, & Theodosia) than the nns (the only nns I’d use would be Ginger & Tavy). If I were to use nns for the others, I’d probably go w/Thia, Jem, Carly, Cinda, Nell, & Thea, but the longer versions are much more attractive to my ear.

ElsaAnne Says:

March 2nd, 2017 at 11:59 am

I adore so many of these names, this is totally my style!

stella2007 Says:

March 4th, 2017 at 6:39 am

I’m liking Tillie, Tilda, Ethel and Thea

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