Name Help

Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.

We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!

Jen writes:

We’re expecting our third child any day now, and I thought I had the name picked out. But three separate (and totally unrelated) people have asked if that name is “short” for anything, and now I’m having doubts.

We have two children. Our son is James Engler LastName IV. We call him Jack, because Jim and James are already taken, and I have a sister-in-law called Jamie, and a nephew Jameson.

Our daughter is Elizabeth Avery. Elizabeth is my middle name, my grandmother’s name, and his mom’s name. Avery I just liked. (She was almost Avery Elizabeth, but we know two other Averys!) We call her Ellie.

We were all set to name our daughter Lucy Marie. Marie after his grandmother, and Lucy because I just plain love it.

But now three totally separate people have asked me if Lucy is short for anything. I didn’t think it had to be, but when I mentioned it to my husband, he said that he liked Lucille. I don’t hate Lucille, but I don’t love it the way I love Lucy.

Do I need a longer name for Lucy?

Hi Jen –

This is such an interesting dilemma!

First: there is absolutely no need to have a longer name for Lucy. Lucy is the most popular of the Luc- names for girls, at #62 in 2014. It’s traditionally given as an independent name, just like Mary. The ‘y’ ending doesn’t mean it is – or ever was! – short for something.

But even if Lucy was traditionally a nickname, there’s no reason to expect that would still be true today. Sadie was once short for Sarah. Many a Molly was actually a Mary, not so long ago. But today? Sadie is Sadie, Molly is Molly, and Kate, Jack, Tom, Maggie, and Charlie may not have formal names, either. There are plenty of good reasons to put the every day use name on the birth certificate.

That said, I think people are asking because they know that your Jack is really James IV, and your Ellie is actually an Elizabeth. Assuming they also know that those are both family names, they may be wondering if Lucy is actually named after your great aunt Lucia. (Or insert similar explanation here.)

I’m also guessing that if this was your first child, no one would think to ask.

So you’ve set a pattern that others are picking up on, but does that mean you have to continue the pattern?

Formal Names for LucyI’m pretty sure you can guess my answer: of course not! There are good reasons to have a formal name, but if the name you love doesn’t require – or lend itself to one – there are equally compelling reasons to go nickname-free.

But what it you just plain want a formal name for Lucy, other than Lucille? You could consider:

  • Louise, Louisa, or maybe even Eloise. Louise and Louisa are rare, but instantly recognizable as given names. Eloise is more familiar, but I’ve never heard it shortened to Lucy – and it might be confusing with a big sister called Ellie.
  • Lucia, Lucinda, Lucienne, or Luciana – all of which are reasonably familiar. Lucia ranked #230 in the US last year, the most popular of the group.
  • Or, for the really obscure, Luca, Ludovica, Lucretia, Lucasta, or Luscinia.

It’s impossible to know what Lucy would prefer. Maybe she’d love to be a Lucia, or maybe she’ll dislike correcting people, “Please call me Lucy,” for the rest of her life.

I’m inclined to tell you to stick with the name you love, especially if you’re not certain about which name you’d choose instead.

But I’m curious to hear from readers: is it important for Lucy to have a formal name/nickname, just like her siblings?

If you do think a formal name is a good idea, which one would you suggest?

Lucille is, I think, far and away the most obvious choice. Partially because of the great Lucille Ball, we all think of Lucille-called-Lucy as natural.

Assuming there are no family connections to any of the possibilities, I quite like the idea of Louisa called Lucy. James, Elizabeth, and Louisa. Jack, Ellie, and Lucy. It’s a sweet trio, and the formal names/nicknames do form a pleasing pattern.

If – and only if – that’s something you want to continue.

Readers, please vote in the poll! Would you give Lucy a formal name just to match her siblings’ 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 names Lucy it’s not short for anything and I like it that way. I see no need to name your daughter a formal name like Lucille. But the problem with just Lucy is that everyone she meets will ask her if it’s short for something. It drives me crazy.

  2. I have always loved Lucy, and my child has a name that can be shortened to that, but it’s so popular now. I worry about giving her an out of top one k name and then shortening it to something so popular. My other child’s name went from a mid five hundred to a top fifty in the past decade, and I’m hearing it all over now. She’s already a “last initial” in one day f her classes. 🙁

  3. I agree with everyone who’s encouraged you to use the name you love. Lucy is a great name all on its own, and I think it fits in beautifully with Jack and Ellie as well as with James and Elizabeth.

  4. I have a Lucy, and while we debated going with a longer name, I liked them less than simply Lucy. And I couldn’t bear to give a name I like less as her “official” name. And I wanted to maximize the chances that she would go by Lucy, not something else. (If you name her Lucille, she may choose to use that in the future. Would that make you sad. (Of course, she may decide to go by Belinda and change it completely, so you certainly can’t control what a person will do with their name.))

    Also, while I do appreciate the symmetry of having three kids with long names yet called by short ones, and I do understand wanting to keep the naming style similar among all the kids. But there is a glaring difference that, IF this sort of thing matters to your kids, then the fact that the older two have first names as family names and the third has the family name as the middle will still matter. (I don’t think it matters and I’m certainly not judging or looking side eyed.) Just that you shouldn’t change the name you love to make it “equal” when in reality there is still a difference.

    Being able to say to a child “We gave you, each of you, our very favorite name for you” seems worlds better than saying “We gave you all the same style of name”

  5. I have a Lucy, and we decided that Lucy was “enough” on its own and didn’t need to be short for anything. Like others (and Abby) said, just because it is short and ends in Y doesn’t mean it’s a nickname. (I’m one who would never go with Charlie over Charles or Ellie over Eleanor.)

    However, because it is short and ends in Y, we did worry that she might feel, as an adult, that it felt young and girly and not quite serious enough in some situations. So we did hedge our bets by giving her another name that is more consonant-full and almost unisex. If she wants, she can use that one on her resume or dissertation or nameplate.

    Also, she is an only child now, but the other girl names we were kicking around were long, nickname-heavy things like Elizabeth, Katherine, and Margaret. If we ever have another girl, I do feel that these names are off the table or moved to middle status because they don’t quite match in length or style. I wouldn’t want Lucy to think she got the young, light (NPI), short name, and I wouldn’t want her sister to feel she got the long, formal, serious one.