Unexpected Penelope nicknames meet a need. After all, over 6,000 girls were named Penelope last year alone, and nearly 20,000 in the last three years.

That’s a lot of little girls sharing the name Penelope!

It’s a great name, of course, with roots in Greek mythology and literature. 

In Homer’s Odyssey, Penelope is the faithful wife of Odysseus. He goes off to fight the Trojan War, then takes a twenty-year detour coming home. All that time, Penelope is left to fend off her suitors, eager to marry a wealthy widow. Fortunately for everyone, Penelope is clever, and insists she can’t remarry until she finishes weaving a burial shroud for her father-in-law.

It’s sometimes said that the name Penelope means duck, but I prefer another suggestion: weaver. The character is remembered for her loyalty, quick thinking, and charm, admirable qualities, all, achieved by her deft weaving of a physical garment and a story, too.

Even if the etymology is debated, that’s the image that resonates.

The name succeeds for so many reasons.

Penelope marries the long and lovely sounds of favorites like Isabella and Olivia. Plus, Zoe and Chloe paved the way for interesting e-ending options.

Plenty of Penelopes answer to their full name, no nickname required.

But options abound.

Penny is the default, a sweetly vintage choice. There’s The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” and The Rescuers’ little girl Penny. 

But Penny isn’t for everyone – and definitely isn’t the only option. As the name’s popularity has soared in recent years, plenty of expectant parents are considering the name.

Read on for some unexpected nicknames for Penelope!

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Any name with a strong -el sound can claim these popular nickname options. They’re not the most obvious choice, but they all work.


There’s a definite ‘lo’ sound in Penelope. Lola is traditionally associated with Dolores, a name out of favor today. Lola can stand on its own, and has ranked in the US Top 300 for the last decade or more. But if you’re after a formal name, Penelope is a stylish possibility with the right sound. A similar option that’s even more obscure is Pola, as in Polish-born silent film star Pola Negri.


Once associated with girls’ names like Laura, Eulalia, or even Charlotte, Lolly could work for Penelope, too.


Traditionally associated with Eleanor and Helen, Nell works for Penelope, too. The ‘nel’ is right there in Penelope, transforming a long, extravagant name to a spare, simple one. This opens the door, of course, to Nella and Nellie/Nelli/Nelly, too. 


Plenty of names short to their first initial – Katherine to Kay, for example. While it’s possible to go by just P – or possibly Pea? – it feels less likely. (Though actress Penelope Cruz reportedly goes by Pe with her family.) So maybe Pia would appeal? Pia is a completely separate name, derived from the word pious. But it also feels like a potential nickname for any girl’s name beginning with the letter P.


If Penny is the default, then Pen/Penn also feels like a classic choice. This one is a little slimmer and more gender neutral. Back in 2007, actress Amanda Peet named her daughter Frances Pen, her middle name inspired by Amanda’s mom, Penny.


This feels like it belongs mostly in the funny nicknames category, the ones reserved just for family. But it’s also the nickname for Penelope Scotland Disick, the eldest daughter of Kourtney Kardashian. It makes this list because Kardashian named her lifestyle brand Poosh, taking it from private to very, very public indeed.


Poppy first hit it big in the UK, and it’s rising quickly in the US, too. With the strong repeating ‘p’ sound, Poppy makes sense as an affectionate form of Penelope.


Another possibility thanks to the repeating ‘p’ sound, and also bigger in the UK than the US. If Philippa seems too obscure, Penelope might be another route to sparky Pippa. Pippi – as in children’s storybook character Longstocking – could be another sweet short form.


Between Iron Man and Annie, there have been plenty of prominent characters called Pepper. But like Cricket and Bootsy, Pepper doesn’t feel strongly connected to any single given name. Instead, Pepper is the feminine equivalent of Buddy or Junior. But if Pippa and Poppy are possible short forms of Penelope, it stands to reason that Pepper would work, too.


At one point, naming your daughter Mary and calling her Molly was perfectly acceptable. Likewise, many a Mary became Polly. That feels a little surprising today. Instead, Polly sounds more like a potential nickname for Penelope.


Sweet, botanical Posy; quiet, literary Posy. This one is usually connected to Josephine, but traditional pairings are less well known in our who-needs-a-formal-name age. Posy could easily link to Penelope. It’s a stretch sound-wise, but then again, Posy for Josephine isn’t obvious, either.


Yes, there are a handful of women really named Pixie. And Pixie could be a nickname for nearly any name – see actress Pixie Lott, born Victoria. But that letter P means that Pixie works particularly well for Penelope. When it comes to cute nicknames, Pixie feels like the perfect fit for Penelope.


Because television’s Punky Brewster was actually Penelope.


When it comes to flowers, it’s easy to imagine most of them becoming names for our children. Sweetpea, though, is more of a stretch. Still, if finding adorable nicknames for Penelope is your goal, Sweetpea seems like an obvious choice.

What is your favorite Penelope nickname? 

First published on January 9, 2015, this post was updated on August 13, 2022 and again on April 18, 2024.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. So many times my name gets confused … Pamela, Melanie. Priscilla. Pauline.

    I’m a Penelope.
    Was Lady P, Poppy, sweet pea, pen pen, at times. My father used to call me penepaneza sometimes. Think I’d like to try out Polly. Looking for some sort of older persons name. As I hit mid century.