The nickname Cal could be the next Max.
Or maybe Gus.
Like those two mini names, Cal feels brisk and boyish. Cal is at home in the modern world, but feels like it might’ve stepped off the set of a black-and-white Western, too.
It might be complete, just as it is. But another syllable or two might help the name feel more complete.
TRADITIONAL ROUTES TO CAL
An Old Testament name that’s been in the US Top 100 for over two decades, Caleb requires no shortening. And maybe you’d call him Cale, with a long ‘a’ sound instead. But the nickname Cal works, too.
CALLUM and CALUM
Rare in the US, but common in the UK, Callum traces its roots to the saintly Columba. It comes with a peaceful nature name meaning – dove.
Presidential and philosophical, Calvin peaked in the 1920s. Right on schedule, Calvin is rising in the rankings again, a century later. It’s the full name of baseball great Cal Ripken.
The surname of famous sculptor Alexander, Calder leans artistic. But it’s also a major name in ice hockey, making this an artist-athletic double threat … and a logical route to the nickname Cal.
From the name of a tenth century King of Munster, Callahan belongs with upbeat Irish surname names we all love. It’s a heavy favorite with Appellation Mountain readers.
CALLAN and CALLEN
These could be borrowed from Irish surnames, or they might just be creative Cal-Allen mash-ups. Either way, they fit in perfectly with so many two-syllable boy names we love.
Jazzy, thanks to legendary performer Cab Calloway.
A Maryland heritage pick, and possibly an alternative to Calvin for those seeking something different.
MACALLISTER and MCALLISTER
A Scottish surname meaning son of Alasdair, this name is cousin to classic Alexander. Short form Mac makes for one obvious choice, but the nickname Cal works, too.
RARE CAL NAMES
This Spanish surname comes from the Late Latin calderia – cooking pot, or cauldron. Cauldron-like craters were called calderons; and that led to the surname. It’s rarer than rare, but fits with so many Cal- names parents love.
Caliban should fit right in with Caspian and so many three-syllable boy names that feel fresh and appealing. Only Caliban is a villain in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Oh, and it rhymes with Taliban.
We’ve named our children Georgia … and Dakota. So why not California? It’s romantic, dramatic, and as wearable as Cairo or Boston.
CALLISTUS AND CALLIXTUS AND CALIXTO
Back in the 200s, Pope Callistus I led the church for a few years before being martyred. Callistus, Callixtus, and variations like Calixto pop up over the ages.
At first glance, Calyx looks like Alex … or maybe Felix. It’s a botanical name, but also borrowed from myth and legend.
What do you think of the nickname Cal? Which longer form would you use? Are there others that should be on this list?
First published on October 12, 2012, this post was revised substantially and re-published on November 8, 2020.
What about Calidore
Other Cal-names for this list :
Calson, Calby, Calvery, Caldwell, Callough / Callow, Calvion, Hascal (familyname),
Callahan is my number two boy name. Love it! Cal is a fun and handsome nickname. I also like Calloway but that leans more girl to me.
I like Calyx and Callixto the best, they’d make cool boy names with that fun x.
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.
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.
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.
I like Callister nn Cal, another intreging Cal- name is Calbert
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
What about Caledon?
Oooh … great addition!