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.
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.