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Nameberry Picks: The 12 best ‘You-can-call-me-Al’ names

One of Paul Simon‘s biggest hits was a song titled “You Can Call Me Al.”  But, really, who calls anyone Al anymore?

Once upon a time, a century ago or so, Al was almost as commonplace a nickname as Joe or Jim, Bill or Bob.  Al itself stood independently at Number 298,  a casual short form of popular standards Albert (in the Top 20 for 40+ years) and Alfred, which reached as high as 32, and others less common..

Al dropped off the list in 1944, but just because it may not be as appealing a nickname  today as, say, Cal or Hal, that’s no reason to dismiss some of the interesting Al-starters availablet: for though Alexander and some of his offshoots have been popular for decades, there’s a whole contingent of other, neglected Al– names worthy of a fresh look.

So even if you haven’t the slightest interest in ever using the nickname Al (though even he is starting to sound plausible again in this era of revived good-guy short forms), here are a dozen   semi-vanished members of this family of names worth reevaluating–though we won’t push as far as Algernon or Aloysius, Alcestis or Aladdin, or even Alvin.

ALARIC –This ancient name that goes back to the Kings of the Ostrogoths has a certain quirky charm that helps modernize it.  A literary name that’s been used by authors from P. G. Wodehouse to Stephen King, Alaric might be recognized by contemporaries as a history teacher character on The Vampire Diaries.

ALASDAIR/ALISTAIR—There are any number of ways to spell this Gaelic spin on Alexander (Wikipedia lists 30 of them!)– the Brits use Alistair or Alastair primarily,, while the Scots prefer Alasdair, the version used by Rod Stewart for his son. Most Yanks have always thought of it as a bit too-too British, but that perception is beginning to change as English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh names move more and more into favor.

ALBANY—Yes, it’s obviously a place name, and a state capital at that, but Albany is a lot more rhythmic and appealing than most.  The city was named in honor of the British Duke of Albany, later to become James II of England and James VII of ScotlandAlbany could be shortened to Alban, the ancient name of Britain’s first martyr, and even further to the friendly nickname Alby.

ALBION—Another route to the friendly nickname Alby is this poetical name for the island of Great Britain that was used to some extent for boys in England in the first part of the twentieth century.  Albion could fit in with the CassianCaspian trendlet.

ALCOTT –an Old New England-tinted name that can’t help but call to mind Louisa May and her family and Little Women and Little Men.  Upstanding but not offputting,

ALDO—one of several Italian o-ending Al names (Alfonso, Alberto, Alvaro et al), the short and snappy Aldo is sometimes used as an abbreviated form of names like RenaldoBrad Pitt’s character in Inglorious Basterds is Lt. Aldo Raine.

ALDOUS—Although Aldous has a German root, its Latin ending gives it some of the appeal of an Atticus or MaximusLong associated with Brave New World author aldous Huxley, it had a very different image as the Russell Brand out-of-control rock star character in the movie Get him to the Greek.

ALESSANDRO—This is a romanticized Italianate version of Alexander, with such distinguished namesakes as one of the Medici, composer Scarlotti and Volta, inventor of the battery. We love the short form Alessio as well.

ALEXIOAh, an Al with both an ‘x’ and an ‘o’Alexio, another one of the infinite variations on the theme of Alexander, and the name of an ancient monarch, could make a really cool choice, as could the Greek Alexios and the Russian Alexei.

ALFREDAlfie is currently the fourth most popular name in the UK, and if it manages to hop a transatlantic steamer it just could catch on here, bringing its parent name along.  Alfred has been a distinguished name since Alfred the Great, what with Nobel, Tennyson and Hitchcock.  The same might be said of Albert/Bertie, the choice of British singer Kate Bush. (The illustration shows the young Prince Albert of Monaco with his mother, Princess Grace.)

ALONZOThis more elegant spelling of the Spanish Alonso, itself a smooshed version of Alfonso (which fortunately erases the possibility of the nickname Fonzie) has been quietly used for a century in this country, but should be embraced more widely.  Basketball star Alonzo Mourning goes by the nickname Zo—a lot hipper sounding than the traditional Lon or Lonnie.

ALUNIf Alan/Allan/Allen feels kind of Alda or Arkin-ageish, this modernWelsh version gives the name a whole fresh flair. Alun is also a river and a regional name in Wales and Alun Armstrong is a versatile British character actor.

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15 Responses to “Nameberry Picks: The 12 best ‘You-can-call-me-Al’ names”

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Cairo32 Says:

February 23rd, 2012 at 1:42 am

You’re missing Alan! My cousin is Alan and half the time we call him Al.

Samantha-Bianca Says:

February 23rd, 2012 at 7:38 am

Just a note about the name “Albion”: I live in a town called Albion Park (in NSW, Australia) and it was voted the number one bogan town in Australian – a bogan is kind of like out version of a redneck: beer swilling, ute driving, flanelette-shirt wearing, excessive swearing idiots who sound worse the Steve Irwin. So it’s a name I could never take seriously and for anyone who even knows anything about this town (it has notoriety due to some high profile murders/massacres), Albion is way out of the realm of possibilities. It’d be like calling your kid Bronx…oh wait :S

Sarah.Jane Says:

February 23rd, 2012 at 8:55 am

This is completely freaky! I was just thinking of ways to get to Al yesterday.
I look after a little boy named Alan (he is 2) and his theme song is You can call me Al. If that song comes on he is guaranteed to rock out.
He goes by Alan, Al or AJ depending on his mood at the time.
Because of him the name Alan is suddenly completely appealing and young again!
Plus the meaning is nice too.
So Alan gets my vote on the best way to get to Al.

PrincessNoriBori Says:

February 23rd, 2012 at 10:21 am

I also like Albus for the nn Al. It’s quite Harry Potter-ish, but I think it’s a nice name.

Poppy528 Says:

February 23rd, 2012 at 11:11 am

I love the name Alastair and many of its variant spelling (except for Alexander)! It’s a real contender should we have a son as we need a name that sounds presidential, tough enough to be an MMA fighter (a la Alistair Overeem), but with an every-man nickname. Alastair and Abraham are top picks!   

Alcide is so hunky on True Blood!

I love Aldrick/Aldrich. I think it be a great way to honor someone named Richard. 

I suppose Natalie Portman’s son Aleph fits this category. I hope she has a daughter named Bette!! 

moxielove Says:

February 23rd, 2012 at 2:45 pm

I have always loved Alistair – and I love the description Poppy528 uses: presidential OR MMA fighter lol!

peach Says:

February 23rd, 2012 at 7:08 pm

I really like Alcott and Alonzo but I wouldn’t actually use either.

miloowen Says:

February 23rd, 2012 at 8:08 pm

You forget my favourite name, Alfric, meaning elf-rich. Geoffrey Household used this for the hero in one of his novels.

I like Alasdair, Alun, Alaric, and Alfred and would have used any of these names if I’d had a second son.

cmcg79 Says:

February 23rd, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Love Alastair.

Rod Stewart’s son’s name is spelled Alastair not Alasdair, just fyi.

Nook of Names Says:

February 25th, 2012 at 7:43 am

How about Alabaster? I think it makes for an excellent, modern “word-name,” which also takes you nicely to the classic Al.

Saracita00 Says:

February 25th, 2012 at 9:36 am

@Samantha-Bianca, thanks so much for your local perspective on Albion! I have an Australian sister-in-law who probably would have been too polite to tell me this information so thanks for the heads-up.

sabrinafair Says:

March 10th, 2012 at 12:47 pm

ALARIC – like this since Vampire Diaries
ALISTAIR — always loved this
ALFRED — love this since loving Batman comics

Haili73 Says:

January 27th, 2013 at 8:59 pm

My mind goes immediately to Aladdin- “Can we call you Al? Or maybe just Din? Or how ’bout Laddie? Here boy, here boy!”

Maybe I’m just a Disney freak. XD

“I choose you, Aladdin”
“Call me Al.”

Though with a name like Aladdin, you’re inevitably going to get the misspelling Alladin or Alladdin. or Aladin. And Disney references.

Mego0801 Says:

February 10th, 2013 at 9:15 am

I like Alfred, I have a dog named Alfred but we call him Alfie 🙂 I also had a laptop that I named Albert 🙂 Alaric is a nice name as well!

heatherjoy92 Says:

April 2nd, 2016 at 10:55 am

My son’s middle is Alistair. 🙂

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