names with lots of nicknamesNames with lots of nicknames are everywhere. It’s why you’re not sure if your new colleague Elizabeth is a Liz or a Beth. And it’s the reason Robert makes a point of saying “please call me Rob” after every introduction.

And yet, parents sometimes raise a wary at eyebrow at nickname-rich names. After all, life is complicated. Having your everyday use match your legal identity? There are plenty of good reasons to embrace this approach.

But names with lots of nicknames come with plenty of benefits, too. So before you drop Margaret, Charles, and Evangeline from your list, consider these ten reasons to embrace nickname-rich choices.


It frees us to use cute – even cutesy! – short forms.

Not sure if Lulu works on a district attorney? Fretting that Freddie won’t be taken seriously someday?

Put Louisa and Frederick on their birth certificates. And then they can choose a sweet short form for their entire lives … or gracefully grow into their longer name.

Formal names signal the gravity of a special occasion.

In religious and academic ceremonies, a formal name is the equivalent of a well-cut suit.

Make no mistake – Callie can earn a PhD and a Nobel prize, too, but Caroline might be the dressed-up name to engrave on the medal.

It’s worth noting that there’s almost always choice involved. Maybe you’re Max instead of Maximilian at your casual, backyard wedding – but if you’d ended up marrying in a cathedral, Maximilian could have felt like the appropriate choice.

That’s the beauty of names with lots of nicknames – they dress up and down.

Nicknames can honor a loved one while still making space for individual identity.

Naming a child after grandma Betsy is simpler if her given name is Elizabeth. You, too, can write Elizabeth on the birth certificate but call your little girl Eliza.

It can even make a family name dance. Katherine might always the firstborn girl’s name in your family, but Kiki is your daughter.

Formal names can soften a trendy or risky name.

Let’s say you love breezy, modern Jax, but aren’t sure how you’ll feel about it in twenty years.

Naming him John or James Xavier leaves space for Jax to keep his edgy nickname name or change it to Jack or Jamie or James down the road.

Names with lots of nicknames can feel affectionate.

Nickname-rich choices make it easy to distinguish between your public and private selves.

The dentist calls you William. But only your sister knows when you’re Will, Billy, or Bud.

Of course, she might also call you Swamp Monster or Billykins. That’s traditionally how nicknames operated. But there’s plenty of space for names that aren’t quite so out-there to serve as affectionate, in-family kind of terms of endearment.

Sharing names gets a little easier with nickname-rich names.

Two classmates named Ava will always be Ava S. and Ava R.

But two classmates named Isabella might be Isabella and Bella. Or Izzy and Bea. They’ll both have choices.

Names with lots of nicknames function even better in extended families. Maybe you and your brother both want to name your sons after dad. But his Robert answers to Robbie, while yours is always Bo.

Grand or unusual names might become a little more wearable.

Maximilian and Magdalena are mouthfuls. They’re long and traditional names that we all know … but might not immediately spell correctly.

Using a nickname – whether that’s Max or Miles, Meg or Leni – can help make such names feel more accessible.

What if you ARE the nickname type?

Parents sometimes reject names with lots of nicknames because they think they won’t ever shorten their child’s name.

But then they’re holding their sweet, cuddly newborn and finding that Holden is much too grand. Next thing you know, he’s Holdie instead. Or much as you love the name Riley, her slightly older sister can’t call her anything other than Ry-Ry.

What’s wrong with room to grow?

We buy our children’s winter coats with a little room, assuming they’re grow between November and March.

And so that adorable baby Charlie might benefit from having Charles in the back of the closet, ready for when he grows into it.

Names with lots of nicknames preserve your child’s choices.

We name strangers.

Maggie is like a mini skirt – attractive, but there’s not a lot of fabric to work with. But Margaret is a ball gown, with layers to parse:  Greta, Margo, Margaret in full. Nickname-rich names offer the gift of easy reinvention.

Where do you stand on names with lots of nicknames?



Amy, Mia, Minnie, Lia, and more


Bea, Bebe, Betty, Bix, Trixie, and more


Kat, Cate/Kate, Kit, Hettie, and more


Ellie, Nell, Nola, Nora, and more


Betty, Betsy, Ellie, Elise, Liz, Liza, and more


Greta, Maggie, Maisie, Margot, Meg, Rhett, and more


Lola, Nell, Penny, Poppy, and more


Dora, Dot, Tess, Thea, Thora, and more


Vica, Vicky, Queenie, Ria, Tori, and more



Dex, Sasha, Xan, Xander, and more


Arlo, Charlie, Chase, Chuck, Huck, and more


Chris, Kit, Topher, and more


Dom, Nick, Nico, and more


Ed, Eddie, Ned, Ward, and more


Jamie, Jay, Jem, Jimmy, and more


Jon, Jono, Nat, Nate, and more


Nat, Nate, Niel, Thane, and more


Cole, Nick, Nicky, Nico, and more


Beto, Bo, Bobby, Rob, and more


Ted, Teddy, Theo, and more


Bill, Will, Wills, Wim, and more


But wait, you might say: how can I explain that my Charles is a Chase, or my Victoria answers to Queenie?

It takes some effort – and a willingness to speak up. In general, look for opportunities to use and emphasize – whether that’s in conversation or by personally backpacks and other gear. Be willing to gently remind those in your life who need to know – and to ignore situations where it’s less important. And it can help to announce both your child’s name and preferred nickname at birth.

For more tips, check out this article.

Do you like name with lots of nicknames? Which ones are your favorites? 

Originally published on August 13, 2013, this post was revised and re-published on October 16, 2021.

nickname rich names nickname rich names

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. My Alexandra feels like an Andi to me and has for 19 months now but I just didn’t have the confidence to call her this because it is not as intuitive. She is now calling herself Al so I guess she will end up being an Allie or Alex. I still see an Andi when I look at her but I’m afraid it’s too late to start calling her that.

  2. I know the conventional wisdom is to bestow the more “serious” or formal name as the given name. But lately I’ve been thinking about how some of these could easily go both ways, giving the “nickname” name a bit of a safety net in the direction. For example, if Anne can use Annie for an informal nickname, couldn’t Annie use Anne as a formal nickname? And Jamie could choose to go by James in professional contexts, even if it’s not on his birth certificate.

  3. I think you can absolutely do that. As a mother of an Annie (it’s my favorite name, too), let me just share with you our naming process.
    We, too, thought she would need a formal name. And we agonized over it: Ann/Anne was the name of relatives that we weren’t trying to honor, Annabel wasn’t “us”, Annika wasn’t ethnically relevant to us, Anna rhymed with banana, Annalie just didn’t do it for us. We settled on Anneline (three syllables, rhymes with “mine”), and we were satisfied. But DID WE LOVE IT? Did it make us swoon? Did we want to use it verbally, or was this just for formal documents?
    In the end, the name we loved was Annie. That’s what we wanted to use for EVERY occasion. And we use her full name (Annie Marion, the middle in honor of my grandmother) all the time, with great joy. And that’s the name that will be used in her formal occasions, and we’ll love hearing it every time.
    So, I LOVE nickname rich names with heritage and history. I love family names passed down through generations. I love having the formal and casual option. And Juliana is gorgeous. But my lesson learned is to use the name you LOVE, the name that gives you that rush, whichever option that is.