Girl Names with Built-in Boyish Nicknames
By Abby Sandel
When it comes to naming a girl in 2016, anything goes. Like your names elaborate, even frilly? Celebrity choices like Elizabella and Arabella might be for you. Prefer something borrowed straight from the boys? Celebs have named their daughters Wyatt and James, and names like Quinn, Logan, and Riley are popular for boys and girls alike.
Both trends represent extremes, but happily there’s a middle ground: the feminine name with a built-in boyish nickname.
Scrubs alum Sarah Chalke recently chose this approach for naming her new daughter with husband Jamie Afifi. They’re already parents to son Charlie Rhodes. Now the couple has welcomed daughter Frances, but they’re calling her Frankie. It’s an honor name, inspired by Sarah’s grandfather.
The mix of classic given name and a casual, gender-neutral nickname makes for a winning combination.
Frances/Frankie – Frances is the latest traditional girls’ name on the rise, up nearly 100 places last year to Number 514. Amanda Peet is also mom to a Frances called Frankie, while Jimmy Fallon’s Frances is a Franny. Drew Barrymore stuck with just Frankie, and Jason Bateman has a Francesca. But for a combination of the traditionally feminine and the sweetly retro, it’s tough to beat Frances nicknamed Frankie.
Charlotte/Charlie – Regal Charlotte shares nickname Charlie with brother name Charles. The masculine forms have been steadily popular for boys, but lately they’re also gaining for girls. Besides Number 9 Charlotte, Charlie, Charlee, Charley, Charleigh and Charli all rank in the girls’ Top 1000.
Alexandra/Alex – Speaking of regal, commanding Alexandra has been worn by queens and saints. But it shortens to friendly, approachable Alex. Alix was a medieval French variant of Alice, and at least half a dozen television characters have been Alexandras called Alex. In the US Top 100 since the 1980s, Alexandra has recently fallen to Number 101 – but that’s still a lot of girl Alexes. They’re still going strong, along with another 1990s favorite: Samantha/Sam.
Josephine/Jo or Joey – Josie is probably the go-to nickname for Josephine, but there’s plenty of precedent for other choices. 1990s staple Dawson’s Creek gave us a Josephine called Joey, and Jo March is the enduring heroine of Little Women. Looking for something even more unusual? Finn might make a highly unexpected Josephine nickname.
Margaret/Rhett – A reader pointed out that Margaret’s –ret ending could easily lead to the nickname Rhett. From Margo to Gretchen, there’s no shortage of Margaret nicknames, but this is the most boyish by far. Margaret currently ranks Number 154 in the US.
Juliette/Jett – I first heard this suggestion on Swistle. Lisa Ling named her daughter Jett. Jette is a Dutch and Scandinavian nickname for girls’ names ending in –ette. And if you say Juliette five times fast, the sound is undeniably there. Combined, it’s a romantic given name with a high-flying diminutive. What’s not to love?
Jacqueline/Jack or Jax – Strictly speaking, Jacqueline is a feminine form of Jacob and James. But it shortens to another go-to name for boys: Jack. With names like Genevieve and Madeline in vogue, Jacqueline would fit right in – except Jacqueline was big in the 1960s, so it’s fallen to Number 258 in recent years. Still, nicknames Jack and the even more modern Jax could make this a great two-for-one choice.
Louisa/Lou – Lovely Louisa requires no nickname, but could easily be Lucy or Lulu or Lou. And Lou feels like quite the shapeshifter. It’s the name of Heidi Klum’s youngest, Lou Sulola, but it’s also a 1970s television character, balding journalist Lou Grant. Today, Louis (Number 297) and Louisa (Number 908) both feel stylish, so we could meet a whole new generation of Lous – boys and girls.
Aurora/Rory – Aurora is a goddess and a Disney princess. The Number 70 name easily shortens to Rory. Early 2000s television staple Gilmore Girls made Rory a nickname for Lorelai (Number 651 today, with Lorelei at Number 448). It might also be a nickname for Marjorie (Number 799) or even Caroline (Number 62). The name of a twelfth century high king of Ireland, Rory is on the rise for boys and girls.
Do you have any favorite girl names with built-in boyish nicknames? Are there others that belong on this list?
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on August 1st, 2016 at 12:17 am
In each case, I like the female name and can’t abide the male nickname any more than I’d name my son John and call him Jenny.
on August 1st, 2016 at 12:24 am
Caroline –> Caro –> Aro –> Arrow
Magnolia –> Maggie –> Mags –> Max
Avalon –> Loni / Lonnie
Penelope –> Penn
Leonie –> Leo / Leni
Florence –> Ren
Coredelia –> Cori
Vivienne –> Vinnie / Vin
on August 1st, 2016 at 1:42 am
I steer clear of any girl names with masculine nickname potential. I can’t stand boy names on girls, and boy nicknames on girls – while a far more appropriate alternative – simply rub me the wrong way. Unfortunately, that means I’ve had to give up a fair few names I like, but it’s worth it, as I would be utterly devastated if I had daughters named, say, Cornelia and Theodora, only for them to be nothing less than butchered by “Cory” and “Teddy”. Some people might disagree with me, but I like my girl names to be entirely feminine.
on August 1st, 2016 at 6:59 am
Would add Wilhelmina nn Billy/Billie to this list!
on August 1st, 2016 at 7:00 am
When I was little, I thought every tomboy story-character had to have a name like one of these, and kept a list of them accordingly.
I like there to be a way of using a name for every personality, and it’s nice when a girl with a clearly feminine name can opt for something more relaxed and gender-neutral if she feels it suits her better.
Finola nn Fin
Harriet nn Hal
Marianne nn Mars
Marianne nn Mario
Perpetua nn Pip
Milena nn Milo
Gwyneth nn Gwyn
Leonora nn Lenny
Diana nn Danny
Solange nn Sol
Hermione nn Hero *
Patricia nn Pax *
* Hero and Pax are, strictly speaking, feminine names, but they sound tomboyish enough.
on August 1st, 2016 at 9:09 am
I do love Teddy and Lou for nicknames.
I personally don’t like it when people call me Jo simply because there’s always several other Joe’s around. But it does make a natural nickname for a Josephine!
on August 1st, 2016 at 12:52 pm
I love names like these! Totally my jam.
When I worked at a daycare I had a Margaret that went by Martie. I always thought that was so cute!
on August 1st, 2016 at 1:53 pm
I am sorry to say but Margaret with the nickname Rhett sounds awful. I do like some others though.
on August 1st, 2016 at 2:55 pm
I agree that this is *totally* my thing! Would I name my daughter Elliott, Dylan, Foster, or James? Absolutely not. Would I name my daughter Eleni nn Leni? Absolutely. I think my crushes go in stages, but my favorites right now are Eleni nn Leni (although, to be honest, Eleni nn Leni is ALWAYS my favorite feminine name with a masculine nn) and Georgiana/Georgina nn Georgie. I guess technically Ari also fits into this category, so I’ll add Arianne nn Ari to this list, although I still find it hard to imagine Ari on a boy. 🙂
I don’t know why I’m okay with this distinction, but I think Ari, Leni and Georgie are adorable.
on August 1st, 2016 at 3:28 pm
My dd is Jo. We had considered Samantha, nn Sam for our second dd, but we went with another name. I really like feminine names with boyish nn.
on August 1st, 2016 at 5:41 pm
Recently, I’ve heard the nickname Mars used for girl names that begin with Mar-. A friend is Marisela and is affectionately called Mars, though my preference would probably be Mars for a Margaret.
on August 1st, 2016 at 10:18 pm
I can’t wait to see a list of boy names with girlish nicknames!
on August 1st, 2016 at 11:14 pm
I don’t know if I would use a boyish nickname for a daughter in real life, but the idea of it has always seemed cute to me. In addition to names on this list, I like Jet for Bridget and Theo or Teddy for Theodora, although I prefer Thea. I know an elderly woman who goes by Theo and I’ve always thought that was adorable.
on August 2nd, 2016 at 5:08 am
Josephine has been on my list since I read Little Women as child. I like the idea of my daughter choosing whether she wants to be a Jo, Joey, Josie or full-on Josephine.
A few I’d add:
Judith nn Jude
Julianna / Juliet nn Jules
Georgina / Georgiana / Georgia nn George
Harriet nn Harry
Jemima nn Jem
on August 4th, 2016 at 12:45 pm
Juliette is the name of my nonexistent future daughter, no doubt, but I’ve never considered the nickname Jett! Very cool to have a nickname option, as my husband hates the nickname Julie or JuJu.
Also, I love the Aurora/Rory combo. Big Gilmore Girls fan, so I’ve always loved Rory. My cousin just had a little girl Aurora, and her older daughter who is only 2 calls her “Rora” but Rory isn’t far off. Very nice.
And while I don’t love the name Jacqueline, I love the nicknames Jack and Jax for a girl. Great article!
on December 11th, 2016 at 7:15 am
The name Sarah is the best for me. The simple baby girl name with its meaning. Would you mind checking some of the baby names that we have on our site http://www.suggestbabynames.com/meaning_of_african_girlname_mara.html
Gender-Bending Baby Names – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Said
on August 10th, 2017 at 12:21 am
[…] Her full name is Louisiana K, but her parents are calling her Louie. This is a great example of getting a boyish nickname from a feminine name (think Frankie for Francesca, or Max for Maxima like the Zuckerbergs). And Louisiana is rare […]
Birdie Largo Said
on February 18th, 2018 at 5:51 pm
I love Acacia with nn Acky/ Ace. I feel like Ace could be a stand-alone girl name.
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