Vintage Nicknames: Girls’ Edition
Five minutes ago, I didn’t know I was going to write a blog on this topic. And then searching for something else (I can’t even remember what!) I came across a long list of vintage nicknames from 18th and 19th century America from the Connecticut State Library.
Not only are some of the proper names used in Colonial and Victorian times now rarely heard, but the nicknames may be antiquated too. But nickname names are back in fashion., making it a prime time to dig up some new (or new old) examples.
I’ve left off the predictable choices like Margie for Margaret or Abby for Abigail. What’s here are either surprising combinations or vintage nicknames for still-used names that are in danger of becoming obscure.
Here, some ideas for pulling ahead of the Gracies, Evies, and Ellies currently heard in every pediatrician’s office;
BIAH / Abiah
BRINEY / Sybrina
CLEDA / Cleophas
CRECE or CRESE / Lucretia
CRECY / Lucretia
DEPHIA / Philadelphia
DIMMIS / Damaris
DONIA / Fredonia
FALLY / Eliphal
HEPSY / Hebsibah
KIZZIE / Kesiah
LEAFY / Relief
LECTA / Electa
MENA / Almena
MITTY / Mehitabel, Submit (if you give this name to your 21st century daughter, we want to hear from you)
NABBY / Abigail
OROLIA / Caroline
PEDDY / Experience
PHOENIE, PHENEY / Typhena
SENE / Asenath
SILLA / Priscilla
TENTY / Content
WINNET / Winifred
ZUBIA / Azubah
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on February 11th, 2010 at 2:47 am
I love Caroline nn Callie so much. And many years ago I knew an old lady named Hermione nn Hermie. She was such a sweetie. She had a dog named Star.
on February 11th, 2010 at 3:19 am
My Mother-in-law’s name is Joan and with a darling nickname like NONIE, how can I resist putting it on my List!?! I prefer LOLO to CADDIE et. al for Caroline. But LOLLIE has my ears perked. FRANKIE is so cute, too! Amanda Peet nicknamed her daughter that. John and Abigail Adams called their daughter NABBY as she was named after her mother. My husband and I thought that was darling, alas their is a family dog named Abby. Too close? Hermie is darling too, Susan. I bet she had lots of personality! Did you ever go by SUKIE, SUSIE, or ZUZU yourself?
on February 11th, 2010 at 6:55 am
I always wondered what Caddy might be short for in the book, Caddy Woodlawn.
on February 11th, 2010 at 8:15 am
I also like Rory-Aurora
on February 11th, 2010 at 9:09 am
Becca for Rebecca is still quite common in the UK I believe. At least I’ve never mat anyone called Becky but most Rebeccas I’ve known have shortened it to Becca.
I’ve never understood how Polly is short for Mary though (or Daisy for Margaret). It seems so random
Pamela Satran Said
on February 11th, 2010 at 10:07 am
Kiki, Mary is one of those names that were so common when nicknaming started that often several children in the same family received the same proper name and so a wide range of nicknames were formed. Polly comes from Molly which comes from Mary. And Daisy is short for Margaret as Marguerite is the French for daisy.
Rachel, I too love Rory (my daughter’s name) which makes a great nickname for Aurora, but they were not using this in colonial America!
on February 11th, 2010 at 10:25 am
I had a grandma Ouida….I looked it up on nameberry and found out Ouida was a nn for Louise or Louisa. I think that is pretty cool.
on February 11th, 2010 at 11:08 am
swoon! great list. I love colonial and victorian names. My husband is a descendant of CT settlers and his family tree has several of these: Content, Prudence (though his was called Pru) Martha (matty), Heston (Hest) and our favorite, Henrietta, who was known as Hen. We plan on using the it for our daughter.
on February 11th, 2010 at 11:21 am
Many of these names are on my shortlist, with the formal name included: Nell (Eleanor), Hattie (Harriet), Mamie (Mary), and Frankie (Frances).
Your inclusion of Dolly brought back pangs of regret. I have a niece named Dorothy, who went by the full version for the first 10 or 11 years of her life. I had been a big advocate of using a nickname, and went on an all-out campaign to get her to become a Dottie.
First, I lobbied the child herself. I showed her A League of Their Own with Geena Davis playing Dottie Hinson. Thousands of fans screaming “Dottie! Dottie!” did the trick with her, so at that point it was just a matter of re-education of the friends and family.
I was relentless. Birthday and Christmas gifts were tagged with Dottie labels, her name was re-entered as Dottie in my cell phone, if someone referred to her as Dorothy in my presence, I pretended not to know who they were talking about. It worked! Only a couple of people still call her Dorothy. She started high school this year and introduced herself to her new classmates as Dottie.
But my success was short-lived. After making the Dottie transition, I was watching a Presidential documentary and was taken with the name Dolly (as in, Madison), a name I hadn’t really considered at the time of my nickname campaign. If only I had watched the documentary before the re-naming process… (sigh)
on February 11th, 2010 at 11:26 am
Becca, Elsie, Gen, Molly, Norah, Sukie, Torie all great nn’s!
on February 11th, 2010 at 1:55 pm
It’s rather bizarre as I have a HUGE love & appreciation for the names. Everything about them. Their popularity, etymology etc, but, I’m really not a vintage name fan. At times I almost feel sort of bad that I’m not a lover of this style.
But then again, what is vintage can also differ according to country.
The full names I liked or don’t mind are :
Genevieve (have Piper Genevieve on the list)
Charlotte (have Charlotte Eve on my list. I also like Charlotte Isobel) but the ONLY nickname I like is Charlie. Dottie etc male me cringe
Alexanderina & Sabrina
The nicknames I didn’t mind are:
May I suggest the nickname Callia for Caliope or Phoenie as a nickname for Phoebe?
on February 11th, 2010 at 1:57 pm
Thanks so much for this great info–my name is Joan and my mother often called me Nonie when I was a kid, but I had no idea it was a widespread nickname for Joan, I’d thought my mother made it up!
My daughter’s nickname is also on this list, Lena, although for us it’s short for Helena.
on February 11th, 2010 at 1:58 pm
Soooo sorry! I never what others wrote. I first wrote my comment & then read the posts. I sincerely mean no offense.
Oh, I also like Torie/Tory/Tori as a nickname
on February 11th, 2010 at 2:40 pm
Lucinda is on my list for my girl due in May. I would probably use nn Cindy and not Lucy. Cindy seems a little more rare and refreshing after hearing Lucy a lot lately. Also my sister has a dog named Lucy.
on February 11th, 2010 at 4:25 pm
UrbanAngel: No problem. Dottie’s an acquired taste. My niece wears it well, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. No offense taken.
on February 11th, 2010 at 5:52 pm
Caddie for Caroline (Was this the main character’s real name in Caddie Woodlawn?)
Delia (although I love Cora more for Cordelia)
Dolly for Dorothy (I’m more of a Dottie person, though)
Elsie for Eleanor
Flossie (I love it for Felicity, though)
Frankie for Frances
Hattiy for Harriet (I’ve only seen the Hattie spelling)
Letty (I love it for Scarlett)
Lollie (So cute!)
Great blog! 🙂
on February 11th, 2010 at 6:32 pm
I am not a huge fan of this era’s nicknames but some stand out as refreshing: Dosia, Elsie, Gen, Delia, Maida, Nan, Rilla, Winnet.
on February 11th, 2010 at 8:19 pm
I love the nicknames! Caddie for Caroline is probably my favorite. I also really like Sukey.
on February 12th, 2010 at 9:56 am
Thanks for including a link for the complete list. What a treasure trove of naming history that offers because not only does it include the nicknames, but provides an interesting list of names that were used in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Letty is a nickname that I looked into recently. While Leticia is the more usual given name associated with Letty, Letty has also been used as a nn for Violet since the 18th century.
As for the comment about Polly as a nn for Mary, I’ve read that it came from Mary to Molly to Polly. With so many girls named Mary, a new nn for the name came from rhyming Molly to Polly. Thomas Jefferson’s daughters Martha and Mary were called “Patsy” and “Polly”.
on February 12th, 2010 at 9:59 am
Oops, that should be 18th and 19th centuries…
on February 12th, 2010 at 6:07 pm
I’m not quite sure why Victoria is considered a vintage name. It was ranked 19 in 1994. (The year I was born) I go by the nickname Tori and there are 6 other girls who go by Tori/Tory/Torie/Torrie/Torre in my grade.
I adore the nickname Dottie for Dorothy!
on February 13th, 2010 at 11:58 am
I LOVE “Lollie” for Caroline and am putting it on the short list!
Rebecca E. Said
on February 13th, 2010 at 10:28 pm
Becca is actually a very common nickname for Rebecca in the states and I should know. When I was in middle school, there were five other Rebeccas in my theatre class besides myself. And all of them went by Becca. Oddly enough, it was around that time that I started being called Becca. My mother hates the name “Becca” and calls me Beccie. I also occasionally go by Becks.
on April 9th, 2010 at 9:03 pm
LOVE this list! I adore the name Victoria with Torie as a nickname but was afraid Torie was too 80s…I am thrilled to know that the roots of that nickname go back so much farther.
We are anticipating the birth of our first in August. Our front running name is Victoria Charlotte (Torie)
on May 22nd, 2010 at 3:11 pm
I love this!
Here in Ireland, Becca is very common for girls named Rebecca – including my sister, who, as a moody teenager refuses to answer to her full name. It has to be “Becca”. Not quite sure that that was what my parents intended when they named her “Rebecca”, but well!
I love Flossie and Clemmie as nicknames, they’re adorable! And I quite like Rana for Lorraine, it’s far more interesting than “Lori”.
Another vintage nickname (not on the list) that I absolutely adore is “Effie”. I believe it was originally a nickname for the name Euphemia, but I’ve heard it recently being used as a nn for Elizabeth, and even Ophelia. It would also work for Evelyn, and probably several other names.
on July 17th, 2010 at 10:52 pm
I guess the “nickname name” trend was also popular in the late 19th/early 20th century as well, because my great-grandmother was named “Flossie” — not Florence, just Flossie. 🙂
on July 28th, 2010 at 6:15 am
Florrie is a sweet nickname for Florence. I had a great-grandmother named Florrie Emily. Fidella is another of these old fashioned names. It cames from “fidelity” which means faithfulness. Della is a sweet name or nickname derived from that. Fidella Jane was my great-great grand mother’s name. She would have been born around the 1870’s. She was one of our state’s first woman doctors.
on July 31st, 2010 at 3:28 pm
My grandma’s name was Elnora (I’m a little more partial to Eleanora), and she went by Nonie as a young girl. I think the reason was her younger brother couldn’t pronounce her name.
Bettie Pitts Said
on August 10th, 2010 at 6:43 pm
Has anyone ever heard of the name Lorraine being a nn for Elizabeth. I need to prove this to the Social Security office
Rebecca K Said
on September 12th, 2010 at 1:21 am
I’d rather walk on a million razor blades then take a bath in lemon juice than be called — shudder — Becca. I have a pathological aversion to that nickname… and apparently to many other vintage nicknames, because I’m pretty meh to the whole list.
-Becky (or Rebecca, or Beck)
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on June 2nd, 2011 at 2:54 am
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