Category: girls’ nicknames
By Linda Rosenkrantz
Like our cousins across the pond, we’ve fallen in love with vintage nicknames for our girls—names like Maisie and Mabel and Sadie and Josie and Hattie are already on the rise. But do those parents who want a little Hattie necessarily consider putting Harriet or Henrietta on the birth certificate?
Maybe, maybe not.
In some cases, the adorable short form is actually succeeding in waking up its sleeping mother name. Like Josephine, for instance, and Beatrice. But here are some others whose full versions have not seen as much—if any– action, as adorable as their period nicknames may be.
Which of these cute, often tomboyish, girl nicknames do you think are capable of reviving their more staid Great-Grandma names?
If a name is in the Top 10, it might be easy, but what if they’re further down the list….and how far is far enough? Judging popular names gets even more difficult when they’re short forms, maybe not so popular at all on their own.
Just how ubiquitous is Lily?, an expectant mom asked recently on our forums. Lily as itself is Number 17 on the official popularity list; up there, for sure, but there are only a third as many Lilys as there are girls who get the number one Isabella. So is Lily really one of those names you’re going to hear coming and going?
Sadly, the answer may be yes, and here’s why.
Lily, along with a handful of other nickname names, is not only popular on its own, but it’s used as a short form for several other popular names: Lillian, Liliana, and so on. The result: Many more Lilys than you might guess.
This phenomenon can be applied to names with many spelling variations: Leila or Michaela or Mackenzie in their rainbow of flavors. But today’s focus is on nicknames gone wild. Sure, these are adorable, but they all come with a warning label: rampant popularity ahead.
Addie – Addie is sweet and old-fashioned and even fresh-feeling, a followup to the now-overused Abby. But Addie is coming up fast thanks to a host of newly-popular mother names, from the trendy Addison to cool classics Adeline and Adelaide, often chosen specifically because they come with cute short form Addie.
Alex – Alex may be the unisex nickname name of the decade, not only a Top 100 name on its own for boys for a short form for boys’ Number 6 Alexander along with a huge contingent of popular girls’ names: Alexis, Alexa, Alexandra et al.
But at no time have these names been more fashionable than they are today. Whether given as full names or used as lighthearted nicknames for more serious appellations (my twin nieces Georgia and Louisa, for instance, call each other Gigi and Lulu), double names are worthy of consideration.
Among the possibilities:
Bebe or Bibi – Actress and dancer Bebe Neuwirth, who played Lilith on Cheers, is probably the best-known bearer of this name today, but there’s also author Bebe Moore Campbell, model Bebe Buell, and even (male) Nixon pal Bebe Rebozo. In Neuwirth’s case, Bebe is a nickname for Beatrice. Bibi – born Berit – Andersson is a Swedish actress who starred in many Ingmar Bergman films.
Cece – Cece is suddenly a hot baby name thanks to Jim and Pam on The Office, whose fictional baby girl is named Cecelia and called Cece. CeCe Winans, a gospel singer whose sister’s name is BeBe, is also named Cecilia.
Coco — Little Coco Arquette was so named in honor of the first two letters in mom Courtney Cox’s first and last names. Canadian supermodel Coco Rocha was born Mikhaila, and fashion great Coco Chanel, who was born Gabrielle, has said her nickname is a shortened version of coquette. There was also Coco the Clown, though that image is thankfully fading.
Well, things have changed. Today’s baby namers are putting a tremendous amount of thought into nicknames. Not only are they more willing to put them on the birth certificate (Gracie, Gus), but they are placing almost as much importance on their babies’ everyday/pet names as on their birth certificate appellations, sometime picking the colloquial form first and then finding a formal name that’s fits it.
And in many cases, the connections between the two are way less direct than they used to be, sometimes just sharing a first initial, or playing with a middle or last syllable, such as using Lia for Cecilia or Amelia.
Our own nameberries are especially inventive when it comes to creative nicknaming. Here are some of the recent examples we’ve noticed:
I’d always hated my name. When I was fourteen, I found a book in the library called “The History of Names.” I looked up my given name, Margaret, and was stunned by its derivations. Pages and pages of them, well over 100 versions, often three variations of it for a single country including nicknames like the one I got stuck with…Peggy.
I ran my finger down the endless list until one of them, Greta, stopped me cold. It was a perfect switch: it’s used in England, Sweden, and Germany (a nod to Dad); it was a natural nickname for Margaret (especially if spelled Margret); it ended in “a,” making it feel exotic; with my last name, Goss, it was alliteration and, as for personal stationery, this was a name with graphic sex appeal!
Cradling the book in my hands, leaning back in contentment, my attention strayed to the cover of the book at the top of that day’s heap: a smoldering photograph of Greta Garbo. That did it. I’d found the right answer to my name game. I’d tapped utopia.
Walking home, I thought about how I was going to tell my mother. We’re talking a woman who went wild over every Margaret or Peggy she’d ever met. We’re talking a woman with roots in Massachusetts, a state where they sing “Peg ‘O My Heart” by their first birthday. We’re talking a woman who graduated from college with a class composed entirely of Margarets nicknamed Peggy. This meant I grew up surrounded by a legion of women I called “Aunt Peggy” – which didn’t even include numerous blood relations named Margaret (also called Peggy). Not a Megan, Marge, Maggie or Margo in the bunch. The walk home was uphill. A steep one. I grew less confident with every step.