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Popular Nicknames

Popular Nicknames
Popular nicknames may be used on their own on the birth certificate or might be short forms for proper names ranging from the common to the unusual.

The nicknames here rank highly on both the US and the British lists of popular baby names. These top nicknames are friendly and likeable, but may be much more widely-used than you guess given that they're used as diminutives for such a broad range of names. Don't be surprised if your little Ellie or Jack is one of many on the playground!

The up side of these popular nicknames is that they make any name friendlier and more accessible. So you can choose a name of a mythological hero or a great-great-uncle and make it friendly in the contemporary world through one of these top nicknames.

TheoHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Theodore
  • Meaning:

    "gift of God"
  • Description:

    Many modern parents use Theo as the short form for Theodore rather than the dated Ted--including some celebs, such as Dallas Bryce Howard-- but others bypass the Grandpa name Theodore entirely and skip right to the hip nickname Theo. Short and ultra-chic, Theo's a cool, contemporary baby name choice.

NoraHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish, diminutive of Honora, or Greek
  • Meaning:

    "light"
  • Description:

    Nora has two separate origin stories, as a derivative of both Honora and Eleanor. The Irish and Anglo-Norman version derives from Honora, based on the Latin word honor. The Hungarians spawned Nora as a short form of Eleonora, a variation of Eleanor.

LeoHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "lion"
  • Description:

    Leo was derived from the Latin leo, meaning “lion.” Thirteen popes have carried the name, including St. Leo the Great. In Germanic languages, Leo has historically been used as a nickname for names including Leon and Leopold. In Latinate languages, Leonardo is considered a full form for Leo.

TheaHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "goddess, godly"
  • Description:

    Thea is a diminutive of names ending in -thea, including Dorothea, Althea, and Anthea. It is also the Anglicized spelling of Theia, the Titan of sight, goddess of light, and mother of the moon. She was the consort of Hyperion, and mother of Helios, Selene, and Eos.

MaxHeart

  • Origin:

    English and German diminutive of Maximilian or Maxwell
  • Meaning:

    "greatest"
  • Description:

    Max was derived from Maximilian, a Latin name that originated from the Roman family name Maximus. The character name Max in the children's classic Where the Wild Things Are had an impact on baby namers. Max is a widely used name internationally.

PoppyHeart

  • Origin:

    English from Latin
  • Meaning:

    "red flower"
  • Description:

    Poppy, unlike most floral names which are sweet and feminine, has a lot of spunk. Long popular in the United Kingdom, where it peaked at #5 in 2014, Poppy is just starting to catch on in a big way in the US, where it entered the Top 1000 for the first time in 2016 and – just three years later – the Top 500 in 2019.

ElsieHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Elizabeth via its Scottish variation, Elspeth
  • Meaning:

    "pledged to God"
  • Description:

    Not so long ago, Elsie might have been on a list of Names Least Likely to Succeed—but look at her now! She is currently ranked very highly in the U.K., and in the US, she's widely used as well, having returned to the popular names list in 2005 after a thirty-year hiatus. Elsie is now one of the fastest-rising girl names starting with E.

SadieHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Sarah
  • Meaning:

    "princess"
  • Description:

    Sadie started as a nickname for Sarah, but their images couldn't be more disparate. Where Sarah is serious and sweet, Sadie is full of sass and fun.

EllaHeart

  • Origin:

    German; English
  • Meaning:

    "all, completely; fairy maiden"
  • Description:

    Ella has parallel derivations, first as the Norman variation of the Germanic Alia—itself a nickname for names containing the element ali. It’s also a Hebrew name, referring to a tree in the pistachio family or in modern Hebrew, "goddess." In English speaking countries and Scandinavia, Ella developed as a diminutive for names beginning with El-, such as Eleanor and Elizabeth.

EllieHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Eleanor and Ellen
  • Meaning:

    "bright shining one"
  • Description:

    Ellie derived as a nickname for names beginning with El-, such as Eleanor, Ellen, and Elizabeth. It is increasingly being used as a standalone name, particularly in the UK. Ellie is the standard spelling, but Elly and Elli are occasionally seen as variations.

JackHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of John
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    Jack is a derivative of John that originated in medieval England. The name went from John to Johnkin to Jankin to Jackin to Jack. The name was so common in the Middle Ages that Jack became a generic term for a man.

MiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian word name or Scandinavian short form of Maria
  • Meaning:

    "mine or bitter"
  • Description:

    Mia originated as a short form of Maria, which ultimately derived from the Hebrew name Miryam. In modern times, Mia has been used as a nickname for names including Amelia, Emilia, and Miriam. Mia is also an Italian and Spanish word meaning 'mine.'

EvieHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Eve or Eva
  • Meaning:

    "life"
  • Description:

    Evie was derived from Eve, which in turn comes from Chawwah, a Hebrew name related to the concept of life. Evie can be used as a nickname for any name that starts with Ev-, including Eva, Evelyn, and Evangeline, but also for names such as Genevieve and Maeve. Evie is typically pronounced with a long E sound, but a short E is also valid.

LenaHeart

  • Origin:

    English, Scottish, Dutch, German, and Scandinavian, diminutive of various names ending in lena
  • Description:

    This pet form of Helena and other ena-ending names, long used as an independent name, is attracting notice again as an option both multicultural and simple. Lena was a Top 100 name from 1880 to 1920.

WinnieHeart

  • Origin:

    English diminutive of Winifred
  • Meaning:

    "holy peacemaking, gentle friend"
  • Description:

    This pet form of such names as Winifred and Edwina and Gwendolyn has loads of vintage charm, a la Millie and Maisie, with a decidedly winning vibe. And it just got celebrity cred as the baby daughter of Jimmy Fallon.

PiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "from Mount Olympus"
  • Description:

    Soft name in the Mia-Nia-Tia family, Pia is heard in both European and Hindi languages.

RayHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Raymond
  • Meaning:

    "wise protector"
  • Description:

    Ray, still and forever, is one of the all-time hippest boys' names, with its jazzy Ray Charles biopic overtones. It's one of the coolest middle names), but works perfectly fine as a first.

TeddyHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Theodore or Edward
  • Description:

    Teddy is in some ways one of those midcentury boys' nicknames -- like Jimmy or Bobby or Billy -- yet because it was never that popular, it feels timeless too. The preferred short form of Theodore these days may be Theo and of Edward may be....Edward, but Teddy can work adorably for either and grows up to Ted.

MollyHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Mary, Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "bitter"
  • Description:

    Molly originated as a diminutive of Mary, spawning from medieval variations Malle and Molle. Molly has been used as a stand-alone pet form of Mary since the Middle Ages, and has been consistently popular as an independent name in the U.S. over the past several decades.

AnnieHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Ann
  • Meaning:

    "grace"
  • Description:

    Annie is one of the most open and optimistic, the-sun'll-come-out-tomorrow type of name, having been celebrated over the years in song (Annie Laurie), comic strip (Little Orphan Annie), folklore (Annie Oakley, born Phoebe), and film (Annie Hall). It strikes a nice old-fashioned-but-jaunty chord that still has appeal, but we do suggest that you consider putting a more formal version on her birth certificate.

RoryHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "red king"
  • Description:

    Rory is a buoyant, spirited name for a redhead with Celtic roots. The name Rory is getting more popular overall, but for the past few years has been trending decidedly toward the boys' side -- however, it's been rising to new heights for girls in recent years.

EdieHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Edith
  • Meaning:

    "prosperous in war"
  • Description:

    Edie is part of the Evie-Ellie et al family of cute and friendly short forms that sometimes stand on its own. Briefly popular in the 1960's, it could well be due for rediscovery.

GusHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Augustus, Angus, Gustave, Augustin, Augusten, Augustine, August
  • Description:

    Gus is a homey grandpa nickname name that can work as a short form for any of the above or stand on its own as a cutting-edge replacement for Max and Jake--though it was off the Top 1000 from 1978 until 2016, when it squeaked in at Number 999.

NellHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Helen, Eleanor, et al
  • Meaning:

    "bright, shining one"
  • Description:

    Nell, once a nickname for Helen, Ellen, or Eleanor, is a sweet old-fashioned charmer that is fashionably used today in its own right. While Nell is perfectly in tune with contemporary vintage name style, it hasn't taken off the way some of its sisters have and so maintains an air of distinction. Use Nell or Nellie as a short for any name from Eleanor to Penelope or just name her Nell.

BillieHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Wilhelmina, Wilma
  • Meaning:

    "resolute protection"
  • Description:

    Billie is a tomboy nickname name, part of the growing trend for using boyish nicknames for girls and now destined for stardom along with its most famous contemporary bearer, music sensation Billie Eilish.

MaggieHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Margaret
  • Meaning:

    "pearl"
  • Description:

    Maggie is a cute, earthy short form that has been in style for several decades now, still sometimes used as an independent name by such parents as Jon Stewart. First used in Scotland, it got a large bump in popularity via the 1971 Rod Stewart hit song "Maggie May." Today's Maggie might just as well be short for a more adventurous name such as Magdalena or Magnolia as for the classic Margaret.

    Maggie Gyllenhaal was born Margaret.

BellaHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Isabella, Italian
  • Meaning:

    "beautiful"
  • Description:

    Bella derived as a diminutive of Isabella and other names with the suffix -bella. While Isabella is a variation of Elizabeth and thus means "God is my oath," Bella is considered to mean "beautiful." This is because Bella is related to the word for "beautiful" in languages including Spanish, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, and Greek, as well as the name Belle, which means "beautiful" in French.

MacHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish or Irish
  • Meaning:

    "son of"
  • Description:

    In Ireland and Scotland, Mac and Mc mean "son of"; here, Mac is a generic fella, or a short form cooler than either Matt or Max. Mac can be a nickname of any longer Mac or Mc starting name such as McCoy or Macalister. If you want to make it feel more complete, you can always spell it Mack.

BelleHeart

  • Origin:

    Short form of Isabelle or French
  • Meaning:

    "beautiful"
  • Description:

    Belle has nothing but positive associations, from "belle of the ball" to "Southern belle" to the heroine of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. As if this weren't enough good things, Belle is also one of the most familiar and usable names that mean beautiful. Though it has been overshadowed by the Twilight-influenced Bella and longer forms like Isabella and Annabella, Belle has its own Southern charm and would make a pretty choice as a first or middle name.

GiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian
  • Meaning:

    "God's gracious gift"
  • Description:

    Gia is a cute if slight name that calls to mind stylish sisters Mia, Lea, Pia, Tia, and Nia. One of the most familiar Italian baby names in the US, Gia is a short form of Gianna, which in turn is a diminutive of Giovanna, the feminine form of Giovanni, the Italian equivalent of John—all of them meaning "God's gracious gift."

RomyHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Rosemary, Roma, Romana, Romilly etc.
  • Description:

    Austrian actress Romy Schneider seemed to be the singular bearer of this international nickname name until it found new style currency in the past decade.

AceHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "one, unity"
  • Description:

    No longer tied to the hapless Ace Ventura, this jaunty, high-flying nickname name is starting to take flight among celebrity and other parents, with its countless positive references to doing well in tests and poker games, on the tennis court and golf course, and in the air.

KateHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Katherine
  • Meaning:

    "pure"
  • Description:

    Kate, in the headlines via Catherine Middleton, has been as pervasive as Kathy was in the 1950s and 1960s, both as a nickname for Katherine and Kaitlyn and as a strong, classic stand-alone name. Kate has an image that's independent, smart, and energetic, recalling Kate Hepburn, the heroine of The Taming of the Shrew/Kiss Me Kate, and contemporary Kates Winslet, Hudson, Moss, Spade and Beckinsale. Cate Blanchette has helped popularize that spelling of the name.

FrankHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Francis or Franklin
  • Meaning:

    "Frenchman or free man"
  • Description:

    A Top 10 name from the 1880s until the 1920s, Frank has fallen from favor but still has a certain warm, friendly real-guy grandpa flavor that could come back into style, like other such choices as Jake and Jack. Maybe thanks to Sinatra, it's become a new hipster favorite with such couples as Diana Krall and Elvis Costello.

CharlieHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Charles or Charlotte
  • Meaning:

    "free man"
  • Description:

    Charlie is one of the friendly, tomboyish male nickname names--another is Sam-- now used almost as frequently for girls: in 2015, it ranked higher on the girls list than on the boys list for the first time. That makes Charlie one of the most popular unisex names around today. The name Charlie, for females, has been jumping up the charts since it reappeared, after a 50-year hibernation, in 2005.

RosieHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "rose"
  • Description:

    Rosy-cheeked and cheery, Rosie (also spelled Rosy) has been standing on her own for many decades, back to the days of 1943 musical Sweet Rosie O'Grady. She's one of the perky nickname-names that are filling the popularity lists of other English-speaking countries. In the US, she came back to the Top 1000 in 2013, after a 30 year hiatus.

BoHeart

  • Origin:

    Norse nickname
  • Meaning:

    "to live"
  • Description:

    A popular name in Denmark, in this country Bo has some cowboy swagger and a lot of substance in its minimal two letters. In Mandarin Chinese, Bo means "wave".

HallieHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "dweller at the meadow by the manor"
  • Description:

    Hallie -- it rhymes with alley and is not to be confused with Halle or Hailey or Holly -- is one of those comfy nicknamish names that are in favor in these complicated times.

JamieHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of James
  • Meaning:

    "supplanter"
  • Description:

    Jamie is typical of the relaxed unisex names starting with J that seemed so cool in the sixties after decades of Jeans and Joans, though now pretty tepid. Jaime and even Jamey and Jayme are alternate spellings.

FordHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "dweller at the ford"
  • Description:

    The long association to the Ford Motor Company doesn't stand in the way of this being a strong, independent, single-syllable name.

TessHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Theresa
  • Meaning:

    "to harvest"
  • Description:

    With its solid Thomas Hardy background, Tess has a lot more substance, strength, and style than most single-syllable names, with an efficient yet relaxed image.

JosieHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Josephine, feminine of Joseph
  • Meaning:

    "Jehovah increases"
  • Description:

    Josie is jaunty and friendly: among the most winning of all nickname names. She's been on the social security list since records began being kept.

CallieHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek diminutive
  • Meaning:

    "beautiful"
  • Description:

    This Hallie-esque nickname name is starting to dip, while the sleeker, more nouveau Cali is rising.

CaseyHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "brave in battle"
  • Description:

    Casey is a name with a big wide grin, Irish, friendly, and open, and associated with several American folk heroes--Casey Jones, the engine driver of the Cannonball Express who gave his life to save his passengers, and the legendary Casey at the Bat.

BettyHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Elizabeth
  • Meaning:

    "pledged to God"
  • Description:

    Combine the popularity of Betty White and Mad Men's glamorous Betty Draper Francis, with the residual sweetness of Ugly Betty's Betty Suarez, and the result is an impending return of the name. It's got presidential cred via Betty Ford and feminist history through Betty Friedan.

LeeHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "pasture, meadow"
  • Description:

    A name that has a bit of a shouldn't-I-be-a-middle-name sound, though still in use as a first for both genders. Lee might be a good choice if you want something that sounds at once traditional yet modern, unisex but not newly-minted. And while it absolutely works as a first name, Lee is still one of the top middle names for boys.

ArtHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Arthur
  • Meaning:

    "noble one; bear man"
  • Description:

    Though short and brisk, no nickname name could have a more creative image. Comic actor Chris O'Dowd named his son Art, as in his native Ireland it's used as a name on its own, separate from Arthur., coming from an ancient word for “”a bear,”” and used in the sense of “”outstanding warrior”” or “”champion.”” A pagan High King of Ireland, Art’s rule was so honest that two angels hovered over him in battle.

BenHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "son of"
  • Description:

    Ben, the diminutive of Benjamin or Benedict, can easily stand on its own as a simple, strong, nice-guy choice, though it's somewhat attenuated. Ben is this generation's Bob or Bill.

BeeHeart

  • Origin:

    Animal name or diminutive of Beatrice
  • Meaning:

    "she who brings happiness"
  • Description:

    We've seen Beatrice and Beatrix climb in popularity, along with traditional nickname Bea. And now there's Bee, giving it a buzzy nature world spin, plus a tie to popular late night TV''s Samantha Bee, not to mention Aunt Bee on the old The Andy Griffith Show TV show. Bee can theoretically be short for any girl names starting with B.

CalHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Calvin
  • Description:

    A homey sitting-by-the fire-type nickname name.
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