Short Names: the Ultimate Guide

Short Names: the Ultimate Guide

Good things really do come in small packages! It's amazing how much meaning and variety there can be in just a few letters and one or two syllables. Short baby names can be anything from super-classic John to modern Jax, popular Ava or chirpy Wren.

You may have heard that a short first name is good to balance a long last name — and it's true that Max McGillycuddy and Eva Stanislovsky may find some life admin smoother than Remington McGillycuddy and Victoria Stanislovsky. But they can sound great with shorter surnames too (and I should know). Think Clark Kent, James Dean, Kate Bush, Mae West. They’re full of impact and energy, no syllables wasted.

Short names also make ideal middle names, acting as a handy stepping stone between first and last. There’s a reason why the most enduringly popular middle names — Rose, Grace, May, James — are single syllables.

In short, these names can work for everyone, whatever your taste and your child’s last name may be. We’ve listed some of the very best mini-names (in spelling and syllables) to suit every style.

Popular Short Names

If you love your names short and sweet, you’re not alone: Liam is the top boy name in the USA, and Emma is the second most popular name for girls. These short popular names in the US Top 50 are some of the very easiest to wear: straightforward to spell and pronounce, familiar, and well-loved.

Unique Short Names

At the other end of the scale are the rare short names that hardly anyone is using. If you want something that stands out from the crowd but isn’t long and complex, here are some great names that were given to fewer than 20 girls or boys in the US in 2021.

Classic Short Names

Classic names never get old, and these short anglo classics sidestep the issue that longer names like Elizabeth and Alexander pose, of whether to use a nickname, and which one to use.

Vintage Short Names

Vintage baby names have old-fashioned charm: they were once popular, fell out of fashion for several generations, and are now so old they’re new again. The shorter options include homespun biblical names, sweet flowers and gemstones, and names with a hint of Hollywood sparkle.

Unisex Short Names

These small-and-mighty names are in use for both girls and boys.

Short Nickname Names

Nicknames and short names go hand in hand, as nicknames are often a shorter version of a formal full name. To inspire you, here are some doubly short nicknames:

Short Last Names as First Names

One of the hottest trends in surname names is streamlined monosyllables, often ending in S, like Hayes and Brooks. Here are some of our favorite compact surnames — which are all unisex — in this style, plus more short possibilities.

Short Word Names

Word names are a huge category and a big trend for parents seeking names with a clear meaning. Popular types of word names include ones from nature, names with an uplifting or spiritual meaning, and names relating to royalty and leadership. New possibilities appear all the time, such as Halo, Ice, Love, and Rise — all given to children of Nick Cannon born last year. Here are more ideas:

Two-letter Names

You could call these mini-micro-names, because they don’t come much shorter (unless you’re X Æ A-12). Two-letter girl names and two-letter boy names do a lot of heavy lifting for their size: think about the difference between fun, solid Jo and ethereal Io. These are some of our favorites:

About the Author

Clare Green

Clare Green

Clare Green has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, covering everything from names peaking right now to feminist baby names, and keeping up-to-date with international baby name rankings. Her work has featured in publications such as The Independent and HuffPost. Clare has a background in linguistics and librarianship, and recently completed an MA dissertation researching names in multilingual families. She lives in England with her husband and son. You can reach her at