Cal: Getting to Cal from Calvin, Callum & Calyx

American professional baseball player Cal Ripk...

American professional baseball player Cal Ripken practices his swing before a game at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan, in 1993; by Rick Dikeman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Max and Gus are short names that make for great retro picks, with plenty of longer options to fill out your son’s birth certificate.  Max can be Maxwell or Maximilian or even Maximus, if you’re raising a future gladiator.  And August and Angus are only two of the ways to get to Gus.

But are there other names like those two?  To be like Max and Gus, a name should feel both throwback and modern at once.  Short, but with lots of possible longer forms.

How ’bout Cal?  He’s part-cowboy, part-grandpa, and there’s no shortage of names that could lead to this nickname.  Baseball great Cal Ripken – born Calvin – lends him some sporty charm, too.

The Traditionals

Calvin – He’s presidential and philosophical.  At his most popular in the 1920s, he’s stayed in use over the decades.  Today Calvin feels like Walter – a little old school, but not in a bad way.

Caleb – An Old Testament name that’s been in the US Top 100 for over two decades, Caleb requires no short form.  Cale, with a long a sound, would be the more obvious choice.  But Cal could work, too.

Callum/Calum – Rare in the US, but big in the UK, this name traces back to the peaceful Columba, worn by several early saints, and derived from the Latin for dove.

The Surnames

Calder – The last name of a famous sculptor, descended from a long line of accomplished artists, Alexander Calder lends this name some real style.

Callahan – Derived from the name of a tenth century King of Munster, Callahan strikes me as both an upbeat, Irish choice and a name at home on the range with lil’ cowpokes like Wyatt.

Calloway – Jazzy, thanks to legendary performer Cab Calloway.

Calvert – A Maryland heritage pick, and possibly an update to Calvin for those seeking something different.

Mcallister – This one means “son of Alasdair,” linking him to the oh so popular Alexander.  Short form Mac might be more obvious, but there’s no reason to overlook Cal.

The Surprises

Callistus, Callixtus, Calixto – Back in the 200s, Pope Callistus I led the church for a few years before being martyred.  There’s general disagreement about the details of his life, though all of the accounts agree that he was born a slave and rose to prominence.  He’s long been considered a saint, and two more popes borrowed the name Callistus or Callixtus.  As for Calixto, he’s the Spanish form.  Calisto and Callisto are also masculine monikers in some cultures, but in English, they might be too close to the mythological – and female – Callisto, as well as Calista.  The French Calixte might be an option.

Calyx – Close to Alex and Felix at first glance, this is a botanical name and one from myth and legend, too.  There’s a case for Calyx as a feminine appellation, but this is the kind of rarity that could work for either gender.

Caliban – A villain from The Tempest, but a rather appealing sound – except for the whole rhymes-with-Taliban part.

California – In an era of kids called Montana and Dakota, California remains mostly off-limits.  But why?  He’s not more outrageous than many a state name, and California is certainly a romantic, appealing place to inspire a child’s name.

Calderon – A Spanish surname derived from the Late Latin calderia – cooking pot, or cauldron, and later applied to craters and basins on the landscape.  This makes Calderon part-surname, part-nature name – and an appealing possibility for getting to Cal.

What do you think of Cal?  Does he fit with Max and Gus?  Which longer form would you use?  Are there others that should be on this list?

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  1. says

    Cal is sexy, I think. Maybe helped along by the James Dean character in the movie East of Eden. Love all the wide variety of ways to get to this nickname.

  2. Katharine says

    It’s so funny that you’ve chosen ‘getting to Cal’ this week because my friends in the States (I am in the UK) have just named their son Calton – a name I’ve never heard before: is it common? Unusual? I’ve never met a Cal in the UK, plenty of little Callums though.

  3. Beth says

    My nineteen month old is Callum and while we planned Cal as a nickname, it hasn’t been used much. More often, I call him my Cally boy. I like that it’s available as an option when he gets older though.

  4. Megalady says

    I’m not a huge fan of Cal, though he does have a certain charm that Max and Gus share.

    If I were to aim for Cal though, I think I might go with the oh-so-cool-sounding Calixto. I also really dig Pascal, which is pretty fitting since my husband is a bit of a Francophile and Technophile.

  5. punkprincessphd says

    How appropriate is this! My father-in-law is Calvin, usually called Cal. My husband and I have long held onto Callum as our boys’ name, as it also tangentially honours my father, William. Just last week, my husband’s brother and sister-in-law announced that their future son will be named Caleb – nn Cal! We joked that the youngest brother would be free to use Calhoun .

    So obviously some great suggestions, and which gives three sons a variety of ways to honour their dad :)

  6. Alecia says

    I have a 2year-old Callum. We never meant for a nickname but we end up calling him Cal most if the time. I wasn’t fond of the name Cal before but now it really suits my funny, sweet, on-the-go boy.

  7. C in DC says

    There’s a little Calder (prn. more like Caulder) in the girls’ class at school. I like the Cal names; there are some good ones for girls too, such as Caldera.

  8. KatieB says

    I’ve been loving Cal a lot lately, maybe as a stand alone name? Calvin is nice.
    Some more ways to get to Cal…Caldwell (of course there is the Caldwell banker association :\) and maybe Cahill. I also think Callister on its own would be an interesting choice.

  9. Photoquilty says

    I love Calvin, but never Cal. And Cal Ripkin has something to do with that. Also, in my head, Cal chews a blade of grass, talks with a twang; Calvin doesn’t.

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