Nickname Names for Boys

by Pamela Redmond Satran

A friend of ours recently named his baby Jake.  Not Jacob, just Jake.

Why name the kid Jacob, he and his wife reasoned, when they weren’t really crazy about it and intended to call the little boy Jake all the time anyway?

Nickname names have become increasingly popular and fashionable for children of both sexes over the past handful of years, in both the U.S. and the U.K.  They’re evidence of a new informality along with a rebellion against putting a formal name on the birth certificate just because you’re supposed to.

Popular nicknames names for boys in the U.S. include the following, all in the Top 350:

Liam (6 — originated as a short form of William)

Jack (46)

Jace (86)

Alex (98)

Max (105)

Jake (153)

Andy (274)

Johnny (281)

Drew (282)

Jax (305)

Beau (311)

Frank (319)

Ty (349)

In Britain, where nickname names are even more popular than in the U.S., the Top 100 list for boys for 2012 includes the following nickname names (with their standing in parentheses):

Harry (1)

Jack (3)

Charlie (4)

Alfie (7)

Max (18)

Archie (23)

Jake (33)

Freddie (38)

Theo (44)

Toby (49)

Liam (50)

Tommy (55)

Bobby (57)

Jamie (63)

Frankie (66)

Ollie (73)

Louie (79)

Other cool nickname names for boys you might want to consider include:


Names that sound like nicknames but really aren’t include:

For a guide to the best nickname names for boys, check out our brand new book, The Nameberry Guide to the Best Baby Names for Boys, available now in our store as both an ebook and a paperback.

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37 Responses to “Nickname Names for Boys”

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lesliemarion Says:

November 11th, 2013 at 11:59 pm

It turns out I don’t mind nicknames as names; I just like the British ones instead of the American ones.

indiefendi Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 12:39 am

My mom told me about a guy at her job who named his daughter just Kate instead of Catherine because they were going to end up calling her that anyway. I think that’s smart. Cut out the middleman I say!

peacebird10 Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 1:54 am

I’m really on the fence about it. In theory, I like the concept. If you’re only ever going to call him Jake, why name him Jacob? But in practice, I’m not so sure. My dad has a nickname as his full, legal name and he’s had so many problems because of it, including some legal issues because his name gets transcribed somewhere as the nickname and somewhere else (mistakenly) as the full name version. I think if I ever went with a nickname-as-full-name, it would have to be one that has an established use as a full legal name. Liam, for example, won’t get questioned as much today as “just” Tommy.

taylorlou Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 3:20 am

My parents did this exactly! My younger siblings are just Billy and Abbey, rather than William and Abigail, because that’s what my parents intended to address them as. People are sometimes surprised by it, but other than that, they have never encountered any issues.

Saracita00 Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 7:23 am

This trend still needs about 40 years to age; then we can reconsider it with the “100-year-Rule.” Or we could just skip it when the hundredth year rolls around.

I remember visiting my dad’s office when I was maybe 11 years old and seeing a diploma/certification of one of his co-workers. It belonged to “Dan,” a big, hefty, born in the 1950’s, deep-voiced man… and his grand, official document read, Danny Middlename Lastname. DANNY!! I felt so sorry for him, with all of my 11-year-old pity, and wondered if it ever occurred to his parents that “Danny” would grow up to be a great, big, tall man with a 3-piece suit, a briefcase, and official documents hanging on the wall. Or if they even realized that “Danny” wouldn’t always be a cute little tot.

Needless to say, I instantly became an opponent of the nickname-name. I don’t mind truncated names if they are appropriate for adults — just Dan would have been fine — but pet forms of names are best kept off the birth certificate.

Anotherkate Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 8:36 am

Not too crazy about it, reading the list I wanted to ‘complete’ the names. This may not be totally logical but the one that bugs me a lot is Liam. I think because I love William so much, assigning just Liam is shorting the person in my mind 🙂 Plus Liam as a full name is kinda, well this is all you get (suppose that holds true for all the nn names), whereas William to Liam is a nice sounding, less common nickname… More interesting that way 🙂

southern.maple Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 9:21 am

Oh my goodness, I want to snuggle that baby.

I seem to be one of a few berries who isn’t bothered by nicknames as full names. There’s actually sort of a quirky charm to it.

Pam Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 9:25 am

I have to confess that, personally, I prefer “proper” names shortened if you want to nicknames. I always wanted to name my son Joe because I loved the name Joe — Joseph to me is just meh — but I wouldn’t have dreamed of putting Joe on the birth certificate. Old-fashioned? Maybe. But I think it’s good to have a choice.

Although I’m almost always called Pam, I’m really glad my name is Pamela!

smurph519 Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 11:09 am

My DS is Benjamin and I thought we would always either call him Ben or Benny. As it turns out he is “Benjamin” most of the time. If we had only gone with Ben, I wouldn’t have the option of his formal name, which I love 🙂

AMM Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 11:22 am

The parents may well only ever want to use a short name, but why not give the child options? I think it is quite arrogant to inflict such a limited choice on your child.

tianaj Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 11:44 am

AMM- so is it arrogant for parents to choose a full formal name that has zero nickname options? My name doesn’t have any short forms, but I’d hardly call my mom arrogant for inflicting such a limited choice on me. We can’t ALL be Elizabeth.

I’m personally torn on the issue. I love love love Theo, but then I hear the whole “give them options” side of the story & it gives me pause. I like Theodore, but I don’t love love love it. It doesn’t have the same feel. It doesn’t conjure up the same image to me. I also really do not want Ted or Teddy to catch on, or worse, be chosen by my child. In order to ensure my son goes by Theo, that’s what I’ll probably name him.

Our second choice, Wesley, however, is a full form I love love love with a nickname I love love love. In this case I’d choose the full name & keep the option of a nickname.

MissElizabeth Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Giving a kid a nickname as their given name is like using a kre8tiv spelling. You may think it’s the best thing ever but you are setting them up for a lifetime of clarifications. I’m a teacher and I had a student who introduced himself as “Alex, just Alex, not Alexander.” Why would you do that to your child?

Whenever you name a child you need to think about what the name will look like on a resume.

JH Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I don’t like most nicknames as actual names…at least traditional ones. I would never name my daughter Kate instead of Catherine. Probably because I’m traditional but also because she would get endless questions and people would just assume it was Catherine. My name is Jill, obviously a nickname for Jillian, but I’m not Jillian. Yes, I get ‘Are you Jillian or just Jill?’ a lot, but not as much as a Kate, Mike, or Jim would get. My son’s name is on the ‘sound like nicknames but aren’t’ list.

On the flip side, there are names that I love but absolutely hate the nicknames for. I love Patrick, but cannot stand the nickname ‘Pat’ for a man. If we have another boy, I’d love to use Patrick, but I wouldn’t want people to assume it was Pat or have to correct people when they’d call him Pat. Same with Frederick, love the name, but I don’t want a Fred.

JessicaT11 Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 12:59 pm

It depends. I think names like Jake, Theo, Alex, or Max are user friendly enough to be full names. Even old timers like Dan, Joe, Steve or Bill …etc. But I don’t like the cutesy nicknames as real names like Joey, Billy, Tommy, Teddy and so on.

tarynkay Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Because your son might want to go by Jacob instead. I like names with nickname potential b.c they give a person the freedom to change their name just a little bit without doing anything drastic. I was always jealous of girls named Margaret or Elizabeth or Katherine b.c they had so many nickname possibilities. It seems sad to narrow that down to Maggie or Eliza or Kate, even though those are all very nice names.

I think you also have to be careful of the nickname name- I worked with a guy names Bobby. Bobby was his full birth certificate name. He hated it and felt like it made him sound like a creepy man-child. With any name, you have to think about how it will feel on an adult, but especially with nickname names, which can tend towards infantile endearments.

hermione_vader Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

I generally agree that a longer full name gives a child more options, but I think the names that JessicaT11 listed stand well on their own—I’d add Liam, Jack, and Hal to that list, too. Could you add Hal to the list of other cool nicknames to consider? I think it has the same appeal that Ned does.

Linda’s story about choosing Joseph to get Joe made me laugh because my mom did the exact same thing to get Jo—for my sister! She wanted a daughter named Jo or JoJo, but thought that no one would use the nickname(s) if she chose Joanna or Joanne, so she picked Josephine. My sister’s nickname fits her personality really well, but I think she likes having the full version, too.

tori101 Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Nickname names are so common in the UK, they feel kinda boring. The likes of Alfie, Charlie, and Archie have been hanging around for ages. Especially Jack, I almost feel like every single boy I come across is called Jack. Names like this continuously linger around the top 100. People naming their children Jake instead of Jacob (in my country) is common I know three Jake’s but only one Jacob. Yes, new nickname names are coming to light which are more intriguing for example Theo and Louie. But the nickname name Frankie which is rising in popularity (of recent I have met five) just feel like every other name of this trend. Frankie feels like another Archie. Actually most the nickname names mentioned (concerning UK) are incredibly popular. Almost boringly popular.

lindsW Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Like @peacebird10, my father’s legal name is technically a nickname — Bill. It has caused problems his entire life with people who think they are correcting a mistake. Of course, it doesn’t help that he has been called Bo since the day he was born.

There is also the resume test. When I think of a name, I think of how it will be received on a resume. So for me, nicknames as legal name and overly cutesy (according to my own scale) are out. So as much I would love little girls I call Bea or Miri, their legal names would be Beatrice and Miriam.

I agree with above posters, some nicknames have become proper names, but I have a hard time assigning that definition to names with diminutives, like Bobby, Franky, Betsy and so on. Of course, as soon as I type this, I think of Molly, which is a diminutive of Mary but now stands on its own quite well. As with all name games, there are exceptions.

CherrieSue Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

In my opinion, nicknames should be just that. I think it’s more professional as an adult to have a full version of your name, (e.g. Doctor Robert Smith rather than Doctor Bobby Smith, etc.) and also that way the person can choose whether or not to use the full version/use another nickname. I feel that it’s unfair to only use a short version on the birth certificate. One of my cousins recently had a baby boy, and named him Sam. Just Sam; not Samuel. I think it’s a pity not to have the option of introducing yourself as one name, and reserving a nn for friends/family. I especially dislike the very nicknamey names, such as Bobby or Johnny (although actually, he could be John for short, haha!). But honestly, why not just put the full version down, and call him the nn all the time? Because all these boys will one day be men, and many will be professionals -doctors, accountants, office workers, teachers, etc., and as someone else said, a college/university certificate on a wall looks a lot better with “James Smith” on it than with “Jimmy Smith”. 🙂

vicioustrollop9 Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I get both sides of this, and personally I am on the side of a traditional name with nick name options (for example, I adore Theodore, Josephine, Katherine, etc). But I definitely do agree that the ends in Y sounding ones are the worst offenders and actually do bother me a little. Bobby, Tommy, Charlie, Maggie, etc are all cute on little boys and girls, but a lot tougher come adulthood. And I suppose if we really want to split hairs, then Bobby can go by Bob and Tommy by Tom – but those kiddie Y names are going to be on all of their official documents. Just seems off.
But on another note, I want to address the people who are always saying that we need to think of how the name will look on a resume. I work in HR. I see resumes everyday and know how they are screened. Yes, we definitely comment on the more unusual names, but it does not factor at all into the choice to bring them in to interview. So please do not let that scare you off from a name you love!

Jwickham Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Really dislike most nickname names. Some feel more like stand alone names than others. My SO is just Matt and he gets Matthew all the time. I joke about it all the time and tell him that he doesn’t have a “real” name.

csd267 Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 5:37 pm

I know a little girl named just Katie and little boy named just Ben.
I am not a very big fan of those. (kinda boring)
I think of Jack as a “full” name, as well as Max, Liam, and many others on the list because you don’t hear the full, complete version very often.

jtucker Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 5:39 pm

There are a lot of neat names on this list. I personally like the following nickname names as full names:
-Liam – I love this name, however, it is really popular and as if we have a son we are planning on using William as a middle to honor family it just wouldn’t work. I have thought about using William as the first name and using nickname Liam, but I am not 100% sold on it.
-Jack – I guess I never even realized this was a nickname, I have always known men and boys with the name Jack.
-Max – I love Max! I know plenty of grown up Max’s so to me it ages well. I don’t particularly like any of the longer forms of Max, although my hubby loves Maximus (just not sure I could use it, not quite brave enough, LOL).
– Jake – I know a lot of Jake’s in their twenties, and their full name is Jake. I think of Jake as being similar to Jack, but that’s just my opinion.
-Beau – LOVE IT! If hubby would say yes I would so use this name.
-Bobby – My husband’s grandfather’s name is Bobby, not Robert, and he has never had any issues with his name. It fits him to a t and honestly, he looks nothing like a Robert.

There are some great names on this list under the heading of names that look like nicknames that really aren’t, I really adore: Rory, Leo, Jay, and Finn.

I know that the nicknames as names is a difficult topic that people have differences of opinion over. I know that both sides of the argument have reasons and they are well thought out. I understand that from the use a formal name view point that it is nice to have the longer formal name because it 1. Gives the child more options, especially as an adult if they would prefer their formal longer name and 2. Can sound more professional in some cases. However, I also understand the view point of if we only plan on calling a child this name, why give them a different name? So, I guess in my case I would decide based on each particular name, and since I am not pregnant at the moment, I have plenty of time to ponder it; good thing I have Nameberry to see others opinions, thoughts, and advice. My husband is definitely fine with nickname-y names, anytime I offer a long, formal name and tell him we can call that future child this nickname with that long name, his response is “So, why exactly are we naming them something to call them something else?” .

misskendra Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 5:47 pm

I have a Johnny. Always Johnny. I didn’t want his birth certificate to say Johnny but I absolutely did not want a john. So he is JohnPaul. Which started a string of double names for my children

charmingwitch Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 5:56 pm

A couple of these nicknames definitely work as full names in their own right but generally I think it’s best to use the formal name so your kid can decide if they want to go by their nickname or not when they are older. I noticed many of my own peer group went by a certain short version of their name all through school but began preferring the long version in adulthood (Pat decided he wants to be Patrick all the time, Tommy decided his nn was too childish for a grownup job, etc, etc.)

jame1881 Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 6:19 pm

I definitely think it’s less awkward to say, “I’m Elizabeth, but I go by Lizzie” as opposed to, “I’m Lizzie…no, not Elizabeth, just Lizzie.” However, I have the problem with Millie where I love Millie, but I can’t stand Millicent. I also love Bernadette, but can’t stand Bernie. My solution? Pick a different name! There are so many out there, isn’t there bound to be one where you like both the short form and the long form?

EmiTheDuckling Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 7:19 pm

My little brothers name is Nate! His full name is Nathaniel, and I picked it out. He was almost a Wes! I can’t imagine him as anything else!

bluegirl Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 7:38 pm

I think parents are doing their children a disservice with just a nickname. It sounds informal and immature, in my opinion, to use a nickname in the professional world – but even if you disagree, your child, when (s)he’s 20, 30, 40, 50, may not. It’s hard to take someone with a cutesy name seriously.

Even if the child never uses anything but the nickname, at least there is a choice of formal or informal.

In my opinion, it’s similar to trend of adults saying “my mom” instead of “my mother.” How old are you, really? Six?

livia Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I prefer longer names with nicknames for a few reasons: one being that your child has more options on what they want to go by; a ‘professional’ name and a more ‘casual’ name; and it just generally looks like the parent took the time to consider that their kid would surpass five years of age.

I also think that if you’re aiming to be ‘quirky’ with a nickname name, a longer name with a more unexpected short form of it is more interesting than just going with the short form. I’d be more pleasantly surprised to hear “He’s Edward, but we call him Teddy” (like my little cousin) than just “He’s Teddy”. Like I said, it gives you a quirky nickname and also makes you look like you actually realised your child will be an adult one day.

I don’t know if this made a whole lot of sense, but 😀

brindle Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 8:52 pm

My son technically has a nickname name (Eben). I was conflicted over using it as a given name but I couldn’t bring myself to believe that Ebenezer was “wearable,” even if only ever on a birth certificate. I haven’t had one person assume he is an Ebenezer and I often get puzzled looks when I use the full name to provide the pronunciation: “It’s Eben, like Ebenezer without the -ezer.” It’s a case where the full name is rarely used and the nickname is barely known. I’m not sure if that puts Eben in the “has become a proper name in its own right” category. Is it simply time and acceptance that marks the passage off the nickname list?

klutes Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 9:09 pm

This was the way my dad was named! They refused to name him Daniel when they were going to shorten it, so his birth certificate says Danny!

lobertram Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 9:44 pm

We have a Gus – officially August, and we thought we would always call him “August”, but when he popped out, happy as a clam and fat as could be, we could resist “Gus”. He’s almost a year now and I can count on my fingers how many times we used his real name out loud.

JH Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 10:25 pm

@bluegirl, that’s so interesting that you don’t like people saying ‘my mom’ instead of ‘my mother’. I never refer to my mom as my ‘mother’ because it feels so cold and distant to me. In fact, the only person I can think of that refers to their mom as their mother is my dad.

mmljar1 Says:

November 13th, 2013 at 11:20 pm

I enjoyed reading this post. I do think that some of the above comments are a little strong, there is definitely a cultural bias here. Remember that a lot of the little boys named ‘Charlie’ will also have colleagues named Charlie as well! Seeing the name Bob or Jim on a doctor’s wall is hardly unusual and won’t be any different when it is Archie or Jake – just a different generation. I would consider some of the above names to be more variations than diminutives (eg Liam or Max) they would be considered by most to be full names even if they did start as nicknames. Many of the others will be viewed in the same way in 20 years I wager. My hubby has the long formal version of a dreadful name and wishes often that his parents had just stuck with the easier nickname which he always uses – oh the embarrassment of his workmates finding out his legal name!

BlueberryMoo Says:

November 15th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Totally agree, irritates me no end when people call their child Zachary but always call him Zak what’s the point?! We made family members angry apparently because we didn’t call our son Percival but we would only ever call him Percy so was never going to happen 🙂

Erinm Says:

November 16th, 2013 at 10:38 pm

A name is a name, it’s not a ‘nickname’ if it’s your name!. Alex, Liam, jack, Max, they are all stand alone names. I don’t really like the Tommy, Jimmy, Billy, Bobby on birth certificates though.

Maika Says:

November 18th, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I’m from Holland and we name our child the way we want to call him/her. If you want your child to be called William, you name him William. If you want your child to be called Liam, you name him Liam. No nickname, normal name thing. A lot of times in Holland the first name is something short, easy for everyday life. The second name is most of the time a little more “official” most of the time named after grandparents. I honestly really don’t understand the discussion here. My name is Maiken. (yes its scandinavian) and I like to be called Maiken. Because that is my name. No nicknames please.

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