Surprising Source Names that Transform 33 Familiar Nicknames

Feb 7th 2018

When it comes to fashion, nicknames and formal names don’t always go hand in hand. Take the nickname Molly. It has been a popular favorite since the 1970s—the same time period that Mary, the traditional source for Molly, has been in a historic slump.

The "Molly approach" is is the standard modern response when a nickname is hot and a formal name is not. You just cut out the middleman and take the nickname straight. That wasn't always such an obvious answer. In ages past it was a safe bet that any Nancy was officially Ann, and any Jack was christened John. But starting in the 20th Century, unwanted full names started getting the boot. Today, parents write names like Charlie (not Charles) and Millie (not Mildred) on thousands of birth certificates.

If Charlie or Millie is the name you really love, the nickname-only solution is a direct route to it. There is another option, though. You can attach the nickname to an unexpected formal name. Instead of a Mildred, your Millie could be a Romilly, or Camilla, or Milan.

Choosing an alternate source maintains the classic flexibility of a formal name/nickname pair. In fact, the more dramatic the full name, the more stylistic range the name pair represents. (Tim is simply “short for” Timothy, but a total change of pace from Timber.) The fresh-source approach can also be a solution for namesake dilemmas. Using grandpa’s nickname is a nice alternative to just hiding his unfashionable name in the middle name slot.

Below are 33 examples of familiar nicknames with their common sources, and potential fresh alternatives. I’ve tried to choose a representative range of styles in full names, from Beatrice to McAllister to Jedi. The goal is to illustrate how easily most nicknames catch onto new partners. After all, generations back Jenny was a pet form of Jane, not that unconventional Cornish name Jennifer.


Nickname                 Standard                   Surprise
Angie Angela Evangeline
Becca Rebecca Beckett
Billie Wilhelmina Abilene
Callie Caroline Calliope
Carly Carla/Caroline Scarlett
Evie Eva/Eve Genevieve
Jan Janet January
Letty Letitia Violetta
Lola Dolores Lorelei
Millie Mildred/Millicent Camille
Molly Mary Amalia
Nell Helen/Eleanor Cornelia
Nikki Nicole Veronica
Penny Penelope Aspen
Ricki Erica Beatrice
Sadie Sarah Mercedes
Tilly Matilda Ottilie
Winnie Winifred Winslow


Nickname                 Standard                   Surprise
Ben Benjamin Benaiah
Brad Bradley Braddock
Cal Calvin McAllister
Charlie Charles Carlisle
Coby Jacob Cobalt
Denny Dennis Denver
Don Donald Donatello
Ernie Ernest Copernicus
Ike Isaac Ichabod
Jed Jedidiah Jedi
Jerry Gerald/Jerome Jericho
Louie Louis Lucian
Nick Nicholas Dominick
Rick Richard Maverick
Tim Timothy Timber


The Brand-New Names of…1969

Feb 1st 2018

If it’s in the zeitgeist, it’s in the names.  Every cultural shift, every hot trend, every new societal understanding leaves lasting footprints in the form of baby names.

When it comes to the tumultuous times of the late 1960s, those footprints may look faint from a distance. Top-10 girls’ names of the year of Woodstock included Lisa, Kimberly, Amy and Tammy – not exactly the sound of revolution. But if you dig deeper, you find reflections of the unique spirit and events of the era.

I searched through historical data for names that registered in the stats for the first time ever in 1969. The signs of the times are clear, from the silly to the profound. Here’s a name-based snapshot of what was on parents’ minds in 1968-69.

Barbarella, Che Guevara. Images: Wikimedia Commons

World Events

Aldrin (M): 1969 moon-walking astronaut Buzz Aldrin

Che (F): Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara (Che debuted in the boys’ column a year earlier)

Tuesdee (F): Jockey Tuesdee Testa, who became the first woman to win a race at a major U.S. racetrack in 1969

Pop Culture

Barbarella (F): Cartoonishly sexy 1968 science fiction film Barbarella

Cassidy (F): Acclaimed 1969 western film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Chastity (F): The birth name of a child born to singers Sonny & Cher in 1969

Tige (M): TV’s Mod Squad star Tige Andrews

Trevino (M): Upstart 1968 U.S. Open Golf champion Lee Trevino

Spirituality and the Age of Aquarius

Dharma (F): Term with varied important meanings in Buddhism and Hinduism

Shalom (F): Hebrew word for peace

Uranus (F): In astrology, the ruling planet of Aquarius

Zen (M): A school of Buddhism emphasizing meditation

African Pride

Africa (F): The whole continent

Biafra (F): Secessionist state which fought for independence from Nigeria, 1967-70

Ghana (F): The West African nation

Nubia (F): Historical Nile region, home to early African kingdoms

Tanganyika (F): East African territory that was a sovereign state in the early 1960s, now part of Tanzania


Can You Match the Name to its Siblings?

Jan 24th 2018

You shall know them by the company they keep.

That's the idea behind the "sibling clouds" in our Namipedia. On each name page, we invite readers to submit the names of siblings they've encountered. ("Know a Sebastian? What are his siblings named?") The top 25 sibling results are displayed, with the size of the type reflecting how many times each name was submitted. For popular name pages, the 25 displayed names may be distilled from many thousands of individual name submissions. 

The resulting set gives you a unique perspective: names, as described by other names. Seeing names favored by the same families not only offers ideas for potential brothers and sisters, but paints a picture of a name’s cultural setting and stylistic impact. 

See for yourself. I've gathered a variety of sibling clouds from Namipedia pages. Can you match the names to the sibling sets? (Answers below.)


Maisie (F)
Ezra (M)
Braylee (F)
Ophelia (F)
Chad (M)
Olive (F)
Sojourner (F)
Tucker (M)
Edgar (M)
Riot (M)
Linda (F)














. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A. Chad
B. Ophelia
C. Braylee
D. Edgar
E. Ezra
F. Sojourner
G. Linda
H. Maisie
I. Tucker
J. Olive
K. Riot