Mary, Cosima, Mimosa: Getting to Mimi

by appellationmountain on January 31, 2014

English: Poster for the 1896 production for Pu...It’s no secret that I love those repeating syllable short forms – Coco, Lulu, Mimi.

Mimi feels a little more established than some.  Maybe that’s because I know a handful of grandmothers and great aunts who answer to Mimi.  Or maybe it is a longer history of use in American English.  Remember when Tom Cruise married Mimi Rogers?

But she does truly belong with those flirty Gallic names with the repeating sounds.  La Boheme’s main character is named Lucia, but she sings “They call me Mimi.”

This makes Mimi a character name in long-running musical Rent, too – it’s based on the opera – but there’s no mention of that character having a formal name.

I’ve always associated Mimi with Mary names, French and Italian.  But that’s not exclusive – her famous association with Lucia reminds me of Bonnie, sometimes a generic nickname for a girl, along the lines of Bud for a boy.

So what are the possibilities if you’d like to call your daughter Mimi, but want something more formal for a given name?  Read on …

Getting to Mimi: The Mary names

Nearly any of the Mary names could be shortened to Mimi, but a few seem to scream for the short form.

Maria – Some connect Mimi with Italy, and Maria is the preferred form of Maria used in Italian.  There’s no shortage of Maria nicknames – Mia also has possible roots with the Italian Maria – but Mimi works.

Mariah – She’s a cousin to Maria, with a different pronunciation.  The musical Mariah Carey made this one famous, as she’s known for using the nickname Mimi – it has appeared in giant letters on her stage set during her performances, and she titled her 2006 tour “The Adventures of Mimi.”

Marian, Marion, Mariam, Miriam, Mariamne - I have a soft spot for Mariam and Miriam, among the less expected of the old school forms of Mary.  Plus the repeating Ms make Mimi a natural.  But she fits with Marian and Marion, too.  Is Mariamne too much?

Mary - She has to have a spot on the list!  Once so many girls answered to Mary that nicknames were inevitable – a classroom, a street, even a family could have a Mary Anne and a Mary and a Molly, too.  But as Mary grows rarer, it is tough to make the case for needing a nickname, and fewer and fewer families are resorting to short forms like Polly and Mimi – though they remain options.

Getting to Mimi: Starts with Mi

Most names that start with an Mi could lead to Mimi.  Those with an extra ‘m’ might work best of all.

Michaela, Micaela, Michelle – All of the feminine forms of Michael lend themselves to Mimi to some degree, though I think the softer sounds of Michelle don’t fit nearly as well as the Italian Micaela.

Miranda – The Shaksepearean Miranda feels magical, but Mimi brings her back down to earth.

Mimosa – She’s a lovely botanical possibility – more closely associated with a champagne cocktail in the US.  But if you’re looking for a can’t-miss way to get to Mimi, she’s a strong contender, with Mim as her first syllable.

Getting to Mimi: Ends with -mi

Aimee, Amy – How can it be that Mimi never caught my eye as a nickname for Amy?  Repeating a name’s last sound isn’t a conventional way to make a nickname – but it would probably strike most as perfectly reasonable.  The français spelling Aimee feels even more connection to Mimi.

Naomi, Noemi – Another well-established name ending with -mi.  Naomi is the better-known version in English, but Noemi and Noemie are the Italian and French forms.  Both have seen some use in the US in recent years.

Getting to Mimi: Other Possibilities

Amelia – The Princess Diaries boosted Amelia, a name already on the rise, and made possible nickname Mia an option.  Mimi feels like a possibility from Amelia, too.

Cosima – The name that inspired this post!  Lovely chef-television host Nigella Lawson has two children with Italian names: son Bruno and daughter Cosima.  Cosima has long answered to Mimi.

Dominica – Also spelled Domenica, the strong mi sound lends itself to Mimi.  And it might be slightly more wearable than Domi, more current than Nikki or Nicky.

Madeleine – She’s impeccably French – and with so many girls answering to Maddie, there’s definitely the potential for out-of-the-box nicknames.

Margaret – Just like Mary, Margaret was once so common that many a nickname was associated with Margaret.  I’ll admit that I’ve never heard of a Margaret called Mimi, but if Greta and Daisy are possibles, why not Mimi?

Matilda – Can Matilda be Mimi?  She wouldn’t have occurred to me as an option, but I heard her mentioned somewhere, and decided she might just work.

Which formal name would you use to get to Mimi?  Are there other names that should be on this list?

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