How to Come Up with a Nickname

Four Methods:Basing Your Nickname on Your Given NameUsing Other Aspects of Your Legal NameDrawing From Other SourcesAvoiding Nickname Pitfalls

There are many reasons why you may want a nickname. Your given name may be very long, boring, or difficult to say. There may be multiple people in your social circle with the same name, and you need an easy way to differentiate between them. You may simply not like the sound of your first name. Some people like to "try on" new nicknames when starting a new chapter in their lives. Whatever the reason, once you've decided to invent a nickname, it can be hard to figure out what the next step is. Fortunately, there are plenty of options.

Method 1
Basing Your Nickname on Your Given Name

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    Use only the first one or two syllables of your given name. The most common kind of nickname is just a truncated version of that person's first name. This is pretty basic, and can be a good option if you're changing schools, going off to college, or starting a new job, and you want a fresh start. It will be easier for you to adjust to a nickname that sounds similar to what you're used to being called, and because you will be meeting new people you won't have to ask them to start calling you something different than what they're used to. There are three major ways you can do this.[1]:
    • Simply chop off at least one syllable from the end of your name. Examples of this are "Jon" from "Jonathan," "Bea" from "Beatriz," "Sam" from "Samantha" or "Samuel," "Jess" from "Jessica," and "Santi" from "Santiago."
    • Add an "-ie," "i," or a "y" to a shortened version of your given name. If your given name is already only one syllable, you can also add these sounds to it instead. This is more common for names used in childhood, but many adults also go by these. Common examples are "Charlie" from "Charles," "Susi" from Susana," and "Jenny" from "Jennifer." Sometimes you must add an extra consonant to spell your new nickname properly, as in "Winnie" from "Winifred," "Patti" from "Patricia," and "Danny" from "Daniel."
    • Add a silent "e." This can be a variation of truncating your name, as in "Mike" from "Michael," or it may change the sound of the name completely, as in "Kate" from "Kathleen."
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    Base your nickname on a different syllable of your given name. Use the same rules as above, only pick either a middle or final syllable. Traditional examples of starting at a middle syllable are "Tony" from "Anthony" and "Tina" from "Christina." Traditional examples where only the last syllable is used are "Beth" from "Elizabeth" and "Rick" or "Ricky" from "Frederick."
    • You can always use this as a guide to come up with your own non-traditional nickname. For example, if your given name is "Patrick," you can go by "Trick" instead of "Pat."
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    Consider other traditional diminutives of your first name. There are a number of unique nicknames based on given names that you can draw from depending on your culture.
    • There are many English nicknames that originally drew from rhymes. Examples of these are "Peggy" from "Margaret," "Dick" from "Richard," and "Bill" from "William." Others were established by historical fads or letter swapping, such as "Hank" from "Henry" and "Ted" from "Edward."[2]
    • Spanish nicknames have their own conventions. Many diminutives, especially for children, end in "-ita" (for girls) or "-ito" for boys. Examples are "Lupita" from "Guadalupe" and "Carlito" from "Carlos." Other examples of traditional nicknames are "Lola" from "Dolores," "Chuy" from "Jesús,"[3] "Pepe" from "José," and "Paco" from "Francisco."[4]

Method 2
Using Other Aspects of Your Legal Name

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    Use a middle name. If you just don't like first name, you can simply use a middle name instead. Many people have one or more name in addition to their given and surnames. It is also quite common for some to use one of those names in place of their first.
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    Use your surname. Although this route is taken more often by men, women can also use their last name as a nickname. Sometimes this kind of nickname happens organically when too many people in a class, office, or social circle have the same given name. It also works well if your first name is long or difficult to pronounce, while your surname is short and simple.
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    Go by your initials. Use your first two initials (or both initials if you don't have a middle name) to make a nickname. For example, someone named "Thomas James" could be "TJ" or someone named "Mary Katharine" could go by "MK." Not all initials work as nicknames. Make sure yours rolls off the tongue. In general, the best initial nicknames are two syllables and end in either an "ay" sound like K or an "ee" sound like D[5]. Some people even go by just the first initial of their given name.
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    Make an anagram. An anagram is when you rearrange the letters of a word to create a new one. A famous fictional example of this is the villain Lord Voldemort from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series: "I am Lord Voldemort" is an anagram of his original name, "Tom Marvolo Riddle."[6]
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    Be punny. You might turn "Mandy" into "Mandible," "Sal" into "Salamander," or "Ryan" into "Rhinoceros."[7] You can use alliteration, where your nickname is the first consonant of one of your legal names. You can also pick a word that rhymes with one of your names.
    • You can also draw from either the original meaning of your name or something that sounds similar to it. For example, "Ursula" comes from the diminutive of the Latin word for "bear." If your name is Ursula, you could pick a nickname that relates to bears like "Honey"[8]. The name "Herbert" derives from words roughly meaning "bright army,"[9] but sounds like the Latin-derived English word for flavorful plants.[10] A subtle pun for someone with that name could be something like "Sage," "Thyme," or even "Basil."

Method 3
Drawing From Other Sources

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    Base your nickname on personal characteristics. Many nicknames are drawn from the things that make a person unique: a runner might be called "Legs," a proud New Yorker living away from New York might be called "NYC," or a straight-A student might be called "Prof."
    • You might also incorporate an adjective that describes a person into his name, as in "Honest Abe."[11]
    • A variation on this is to use an ironic nickname that does not describe the person at all. Famous example of this are "Curly" from The Three Stooges[12] and "Little" John, the gigantic friend of the legendary Robin Hood.[13]
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    Draw from inside jokes. This is one of the best sources for nicknames, but it is also the most difficult to control. Inside jokes can be a rich source of inspiration, but you can't force them to happen, or to catch on. You just have to cross your fingers. If you have an inside joke already in mind, try to think of nicknames that might be drawn from it.
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    Use online resources. There are lots of quizzes and nickname generators online that can suggest potential nicknames based on your personality and your given name. These might be a good source of inspiration if you are stuck.

Method 4
Avoiding Nickname Pitfalls

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    Avoid giving yourself a grandiose nickname. This can work in some instances—a scrawny guy ironically giving himself the self-deprecating nickname “Muscle Man” might be funny—but calling yourself “The Chick Magnet” will probably not endear you to most people.
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    Stay calm. No one likes the guy who is constantly getting frustrated at people for forgetting to call him "The Terminator." They also tend to be wary of the guy who forces nicknames on people who don't want or like them. Nicknames should be a fun, casual thing. Getting too worked up about it tends to alienate people.
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    Be kind. The point of a nickname is to express friendship and affection. Giving people nicknames that hurts their feelings or makes them uncomfortable is just bullying.[14]
    • If you're unsure about whether a particular nickname is ok, try it out in a one-on-one setting. This will help the other person feel safe to express dislike for the nickname.
    • If you are having trouble gauging your friend's reaction, ask "Did I make you uncomfortable when I called you _____ just now?" If the answer is yes, don’t try to convince your friend otherwise. Your friend's feelings are more important than your cool idea.[15]
    • Sometimes nicknames that sound insulting are actually just playful teasing between friends. The important difference is in how the nickname makes the other person feel.[16]
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    Avoid nicknames that are hard to remember or pronounce. Most nicknames that stick are snappy and to-the-point. “Cthulu” might seem like a cool idea, but it’s unlikely to catch on. Stick to nicknames that are easy to spell and nor more than a few syllables.
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    Avoid inappropriate nicknames. If you want a nickname to catch on widely, you should pick something that will be appropriate in any situation.[17] "Dr. Sexy" is probably not a good idea. If you think a nickname may have a meaning you are not aware of, Google it.


  • Let it happen naturally. Usually, nicknames are made up by other people, and it can be tricky to give one to yourself.[18] The exception is when you first introduce yourself to new people, but only if your nickname can be considered a normal one for your culture's standards.
  • Be prepared for some people not to take you very seriously. Try to have a sense of humor about your nickname.
  • Start introducing yourself with your nickname instead of your real name, or format your introduction like this. "My name is blank, but you can call me: insert nickname,"
  • Try scrambling the letters in your name. For example, the name Bethany can be turned into Baye or Bay.

Article Info

Categories: Name Changes