Elizabeth’s Nicknames as Names: Betty, Bessie & Beth

December 2, 2014 Kelli Brady

By Kelli Brady, Name Freak!

Elizabeth is the only girl name that has been in the Top 100 every year since 1880. It’s no wonder though, as it is a classic name with an abundance of nicknames to create some uniqueness to each special girl. But what about the girls who have the nickname on their birth certificate? They are related to the name by custom alone and may have to explain to people that their name is not actually Elizabeth. These girls have parents who simply loved the diminutive more than the full name. And the popularity of these nicknames-as-given-names is pretty grand.

I consulted with my name sums database (all given names since 1880 totaled) and picked out the names that are well known nicknames for Elizabeth. I did not include all possible spellings of each nickname, such as Elleigh or Alyzah.

Overall Rank
14 Betty
16 Lisa
80 Lillian
140 Ella
211 Elsie
217 Bessie
229 Beth
478 Elise
536 Betsy
569 Eliza
608 Etta
610 Ellie
613 Elisa
626 Lizzie
628 Bettie
673 Bette
794 Elsa
837 Bettye
838 Lizbeth


2 Elizabeth
570 Elisabeth

The top names are not a curiosity. Betty was a powerhouse name in the 1920s and 1930s, when up to 3 out of 100 girls were given the name each year, so it is no surprise that it is the most popular Elizabeth-nickname-as-a-given-name overall. Lisa held the #1 spot for the majority of the 1960s, so that is no shock either.*Has been in the Top 100

Many Elizabeth nicknames can hold their own quite well. To me, Lisa and Lillian sound more substantial as a given name, probably because they do not have the -ee ending most nicknames possess. I am also a huge fan of Elise for this reason. It is a fantastic option to those wanting to honor an Elizabeth without sounding too nicknamey.

How would these Elizabeth-nickname-as-a-given-names rank against each other in 2013? Here is the list with the number of girls given the name.

Ella 8370
Lillian 7017
Ellie 3739
Elise 1999
Eliza 1603
Elsie 851
Elle 743 (1443 overall)
Elisa 653
Elsa 560
Elyse 494 (1020 overall)
Lizbeth 394
Lisa 349
Libby 284 (1087 overall)
Etta 201
Elly 175 (3089 overall)
Betty 174
Betsy 133
Lizzie 55
Beth 35
Bessie 17
Bettie 13
Bette 7
Bettye N/A

Fascinatingly, the E names have all shifted upwards. All but 4 of the top 15 names are E names (the 4 being L names) and the B names are all at the bottom. Betty is still the tops of the B names.

In the end, the main joy from this post is seeing all together so many wonderful names with roots from one of the best names of all time. I would have to say that I wish I heard more girls named Betty nowadays, but I probably prefer Elizabeth over any of her nicknames as a given name. That way, I can pick and choose which nickname to go with, or even go with several.

Here’s an interesting question… Would your favorite Elizabeth-nickname-as-a-given-name be different from the nickname you would call your daughter named Elizabeth? Or is your favorite Elizabeth nickname the main one you would consider as a given name?

Last but not least… how many suspect Elsa will rise significantly in the coming years? {Raises hand.}

This appeared previously on Kelli‘s Name Freak! blog.

About the author


Kelli Brady is a stay at home mom of two who needed an outlet for her name obsession. She found it at NameFreak!, a blog dedicated to a wide variety of name-related whims and fancies. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her eBook, Name-alytics, is a look at the history of the Top 100 names in the United States. Check it out at!

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