Surprising Homespun Nicknames: Elsie, Sadie & Effie

Surprising Homespun Nicknames: Elsie, Sadie & Effie

by Angela Mastrodonato, Upswing Baby Names

Nickname-names have taken hold in the U.K., and the U.S. hasn’t been completely immune to this trend. The two countries may favor different nicknames, and the trend may be more popular in the U.K., but the trend is evident in both countries.

For example:

In the U.K., these names are well represented with Sophie, Evie, Daisy, Millie, Mollie, Lexi, and Elsie appearing among the top 50.

In the U.S.:

  • Sadie has risen in ranks in recent years, most recently hitting the top 50.

  • Maggie saw a mini-resurgence in recent years, currently ranking just outside the top 200.

  • Charlie as a given name is coming back in style for both boys (ranking at 233) and girls (at 240 and trending upwards).

  • Josie is a name with staying power which most recently peaked in 2007 in the bottom top 200, and has stayed at a respectable rank in the 200s for nearly 5 years.

  • Elsie is a big climber, rising every year since 2007 to its most recent rank at 365.

  • U.K. favorite Millie, re-entered the U.S. top 1000 in 2009 and has edged upwards every year to its most recent rank at 598.

  • These U.S. examples may not rank as highly as their U.K. counterparts, but many of these names are on the rise.

    It seems homespun nicknames aren’t going away, the names representing the genre are simply changing.

    With that said, there are still plenty of homespun nicknames that are surprising in the U.S and most of these are even uncommon in the U.K.

    Bessie – There were only 17 girls in the U.S. and 14 girls in the U.K. named Bessie in 2013 (the most recent year name stats are available). Perhaps this diminutive of Elizabeth is still held back because of its reputation as a “cow’s name”.

    Effie – is spunky and smart, being both a diminutive of Euphemia and the anglicized form of the Scottish Oighrig. I am surprised this name hasn’t “popped” in recent years. But as of 2013, there were only 39 Effie’s born in the U.S. The name is slowly climbing in the U.K. but still ranks in the 500s. In 2013, there were 82 Effie’s born in the U.K.

    Gordie – Made famous by the Canadian hockey player, Gordie Howe, this diminutive of Gordon remains under the radar. Gordie could not be found in the U.S. or U.K. baby name data, meaning there were fewer than 5 born in the U.S., and fewer than 3 born in the U.K. in 2013. The reason for Gordie’s obscurity could be due to the low-style quotient of its official long-form, Gordon. Gordon has been outside the U.S. top 1000 since 2009. In the U.K. there were only 13 Gordon’s born in 2013.

    Huey – Forget about Donald Duck’s nephew. Huey is super cute, and maybe a little dorky, but still endearing. This diminutive of Hugh was given to 13 boys in the U.S. and 44 boys in the U.K in 2013 (there were 31 Hughie’s in the U.K). While Huey is very rare in the U.S., its formal version, Hugh might be gently climbing the charts, but is still relatively uncommon ranking in the lower top 1000. In the U.K. Hugh was given to 100 boys in 2013, placing it at 407.

    Mamie – This is one of a few little known nicknames for Mary, along with stylish Mae, Molly, and Polly. This is also the known name of Meryl Streep’s daughter, born Mary Louise. Most recently there were 24 born in the U.S. and fewer than 3 born in the U.K.

    Nellie – This name seems like it should be more popular, as the perfect sister for Sadie, yet Nellie was still outside the U.S. top 1000 as of 2013, given to 157 newborn girls. In the U.K. there were 43 newborn girls named Nellie the same year. Further adding to the mystery behind Nellie’s low birth numbers is the name’s relation to these popular names: Ella, Eleanor, Nora and Norah.

    While nickname names are stylish revival names, the names on this list are still surprising. Even Effie and Nellie, which hold the most promise (weigh in and feel free to agree or disagree), have only risen slightly in recent years and have climbed at a slower pace than I would have predicted.

    While Americans are still more hesitant than their British counterparts to use nicknames as given names, the style is gaining acceptance on that side of the pond. These names are a great way to individually express this style.

    Readers: Which surprising homespun nicknames are your favorites?

    This post was revised from a post originally run on Upswing Baby Names, 6 Surprising Names: Homespun Nicknames.

    Angela created Upswing
    Baby Names to help parents find that different but not too different name. She muses about names on their way in and on their way out in her book, The Top 22 in 2022, which she updates every year in
    May once the newest U.S. name rankings become available.

    About the Author



    Angela Mastrodonato created Upswing Baby Names to celebrate names on the upswing. She is a big-time name watcher, and has a growing list of names she watches by tracking their popularity each year. Sign up here to get your copy of this Watch List.