Name Help: Four Letter Boy NamesName Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, 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!

Emily writes:

We have three boys, and we’re expecting our fourth! Our sons all have one-syllable, four-letter nicknames: Will (William), Jake (Jacob), and Nate (Nathaniel).

It’s not something we planned, but we’d like to stick with it for this baby, especially as he’ll be our last.

We could use some help with our options. So far, we have:

Nicholas – My husband’s name. Probably not a junior. We could call him Cole, which I love. But would people want to call him Nick?

Finn – Maybe my favorite boy name right now! But longer names seem very Irish – Finnegan, Finley – and we’re not.

Our last name is Italian, like man-C-knee. Because of that, we’ve ruled out M names. We like names that are traditional, but not old-fashioned, and easy to spell and pronounce.

If we weren’t going to worry about the four-letter part, I like sound of Benjamin, though we know two under two, so maybe we’d feel like it was taken.

Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.

Dear Emily –

Congratulations on boy number four!

That symmetry with formal names and short nicknames is so pleasing. Keeping the pattern makes sense to me!

And yet, I’m surprised at how few options I found.

Part of the challenge? Will, Jake, and Nate are Top 100, mainstream favorites. By definition, there are only so many possibilities at that same general level of popularity. At first glance, Pendleton-called-Penn fits … except it doesn’t, not really.

I do think Nicholas-called-Cole works. Yes, it will take some repetition, and some people will default to Nick. But there’s some magic to saying, “Oh, my husband is also Nick, so we call him Cole.” But does that feel satisfying to you? Or is the (occasional) hassle something you’d rather avoid?

Now on to Finn: would you consider Fintan, Finan, or Finnian? They’re all Irish. But I think Finnian man-c-knee is less of a mismatch than Finnegan man-c-knee. (Maybe?) Another thought: Griffin “Finn” man-c-knee. Though, as with Nicholas-called-Cole, Griffin-called-Finn isn’t as automatic as your older sons’ nicknames.

On to some more possibilities!


Andrew, called Drew – It’s classic and, while you might get the occasional Andy, Drew is very well established, too.

Beckett, called Beck – Will, Jake, Nate, and Beck sound like they should be out riding horses together somewhere. But maybe Beckett is too much of a departure from the more traditional William, Jacob, and Nathaniel?

Gabriel, called Gabe – One of the first names that came to mind, particularly because it’s such an automatic short form.

Grayson or Greyer, called Gray or Grey – I think these names have tons of potential, but again, they’re a little outside of your usual style.

Lucas or Lucian, called Luke – Luke doesn’t require a formal name, of course. But plenty of options exist, and I think Lucas-called-Luke is the most obvious choice if you rule out Cole and Finn.

Raphael, called Rafe – Raphael isn’t terribly common in English, but the name counts as a classic, and Rafe fits well with your older boys’ names.

Zachary, called Zach – Zachary peaked a few years ago, but it still feels like a solid choice for a son.

Ezekiel, called Zeke – The more current alternative to Zachary/Zach, but maybe a little on the different side.

Overall, my top pick is Lucas-called-Luke. It’s popular, yes. But I’m assuming you meet lots of other children with your sons’ names, and don’t mind at all. And you shouldn’t! They’re strong, solid choices – popular names catch on for a reason.

I also appreciate the way that Luke has a completely different vowel sound that Will, Jake, and Nate. And while it repeats the ‘k’ ending of Jake, I think Luke and Jake sound very different.

Readers, over to you! Can you suggest some traditional four-letter boy names with built-in longer forms?

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. I am leaving my suggestions without having read the other’s suggestions so here are my favorites of Abby’s and then some of my own…

    Nicholas nn Cole
    Beckett nn Beck
    Gabriel nn Gabe
    Lucas nn Luke
    Daniel nn Dane
    Andrew nn Drew
    George nn Gage
    Benjamin/Bennett nn Benn
    Peter nn Pete
    Thomas nn Thom
    Jason nn Jace

    1. Now that I have read the comments, I am not sure why I did not think of these two, one being my own son’s name, and the other being a name on our boy’s shortlist which I love but which we never used:

      Joseph nn Joss
      Henry nn Hank

      Love love love

  2. Frederick – Fred
    Llewellyn – Llew
    Oliver – Noll
    Richard – Rich, Rick
    Paulinus – Paul
    Theodore – Theo is great imho.

  3. What about naming him Benjamin and using the four-letter nickname Benj? One of my profs in grad school went by Benj; I like the way it strikes a balance between the solid familiarity of Ben and the sweetness of Benjy.

  4. I really love Nicholas called Cole. I don’t think it will take much at all for people to get Cole. It’s not an unusual nickname for Nicholas, and if you only introduce him as Cole, that’s what people will call him. The fact that he is the youngest and named after his dad is so perfect. I wouldn’t be able to resist that! Plus, I love that it fits right in with his brothers, but has different sounds. Jake and Nate have the long as and the hard k and t. Will and Cole are both softer in their sounds, so they all balance well together. The symmetry of the set is lovely!

  5. I know two men named Daniel who go by Dane.

    Henry nn Hank is an excellent suggestion!

    My favorite, though, is Nicholas with the nn of Cole.
    First, if a son is going to get his father’s name, it’s always the first-born; in this case, the youngest gets the honor.
    Second, Cole sounds completely unique from Will, Jake, or Nate when yelled from downstairs.
    Third, Nicholas is every bit as classic as William, Jacob, and Nathaniel.

    Best wishes and congrats to your growing family!

  6. Zachary (Zach) is a home run. It sounds like a match with his brothers and sounds the best when spoken out loud with your last name. Congratulations to you and your family!

  7. I think Cole would be perfect! My daughter uses the nickname that you don’t think of first for her formal name, and it’s been no big deal (Margaret -> Maisy). There are SO many kids these days who don’t go by former generations’ go-to nicknames (often because they use no nickname at all). I love Gabriel, but that would leave Will as the only one without the long A. I know you like 4-letter names, but I think Thomas -> Tom, Benjamin -> Ben, Samuel -> Sam and Daniel -> Dan really fit the sibset style-wise and sound-wise. What about Josh? Also a J but sounds totally distinct from Jake. Or Christopher? I like Luke as a whole name by itself more than as a nickname for Lucas or whatever. I like Zach for the symbolism to of being the end of the alphabet, and he’s the last kid. I think Raphael, Ezekiel, or Finnegan would be much bigger outliers to your sibset even if they have a 4-letter nickname than Tom, Ben, Sam or Dan would be. Cole, Drew, Josh, and Zach tick all of your boxes and fit the popularity and style of your other kids, without sounding too similar (also Michael and Matthew if you would consider an M name).