Name Help: Making a Nickname Stick Name 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!

Jordan writes:

Our daughter is due in May, and we can’t wait to meet her! I want to name her Charlotte. Yes, I know, I know. It’s very popular and there’s the princess and all that. But I named my dolls Charlotte, my hamster Charlotte, and it’s the only name I can imagine using. So, done.

Here’s the problem: I love nicknames. My nieces have sweet nicknames, and I want the same for my daughter.

What I do not want is the nickname Charlie. I’ve been girl-Jordan for years, and my husband is a guy named Taylor. It gets old. If she wants to be Charlie someday, that’s one thing. But I hope not.

I’d like to call our Charlotte Lottie. Besides the fact that it’s a girl name, I like the idea that there aren’t as many Lotties as there are Charlottes and Charlies. (We know a couple of Charlies already.)

But my mom tells me no one will call her Lottie. She’s got all these stories about parents who planned one nickname, but ended up using another one that they really didn’t like, like her Uncle Albert, who hated being called Al, but pretty much everyone did anyway.

Am I asking for trouble?

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

Dear Jordan –

Congratulations on your new daughter!

And oh, have I been where you are.

When our son was born, I wasn’t wild about the idea of calling him Alex, even though it’s the default nickname for Alexander. My husband was fine with Alex. I figured a nickname would evolve. So I let it go, and then realized that it’s pretty tough to undo these kinds of assumptions. Years later, he loves the name Alex, and it suits him – but I always wonder what might have been.

When our daughter came along, we planned to use a crazy nickname, not obviously connected to her given name at all. And it worked! Here’s my best advice on how to make an unexpected nickname stick.

First, introduce your child by the nickname.

You know that saying “begin as you mean to go on?”

Totally applies here.

Introduce your daughter as Lottie. Just Lottie. Don’t volunteer Charlotte, even though you love the name just as much. Many of us struggle to remember names, and we’ll never keep Lottie-Charlotte straight.

Second, use the nickname All. The. Time.

It’s not that you don’t love Charlotte every bit as much. It’s just that, at least in public, you’re trying to reinforce Lottie rather than Charlotte. So when you talk about her in the third person, it’s Lottie.

When you do share her full name, lead with her nickname.

Of course, sometimes you want to share her full name. When you do, try something like this:

Lottie is here! Born 5-1-19 at 4:10 AM, 7 lbs, 6 ounces. Welcome to the world, Charlotte “Lottie” MiddleName LastName. We love you so much already.

It makes it clear that you intend others to call her Lottie, too.

List her nickname on forms.

If you’re registering her for child care or a music time or baby swim lessons, put Lottie on her form.

Yes, you may need to list her full legal name, too. But lead with Lottie. Or add a line that indicates her nickname is Lottie. Some programs have this line already; really, they all should!

We do this everywhere except the pediatrician and dentist. Why? If you walk into a class and find your daughter’s name is already on her cubby or tambourine or what-have-you, this ups the chances that it will say Lottie. Which means all the other kids and parents you meet will think of her as Lottie, not Charlotte.

If someone does call her Charlotte …

You may want to refer to her as Lottie. Or even gently say, “oh, yes, but we’re calling her Lottie.”

When I said something similar to my sweet older neighbor as she held my days-old daughter, she said, “Okay, you’re going with that? Well, then, hello, Miss Clio. It’s nice to meet you.” Because most people do want to get your name – and your children’s names – right. Even when it surprises them!

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

If you call your daughter Lottie, the world will almost certainly follow suit. We don’t ask our neighbors for copies of their children’s birth certificates. No one pauses at the playground and says, “Wait, what’s your toddler’s full name?”

They’ll remember that your daughter’s name is Lottie, and that’s all that matters.

Maybe embroider it on something.

My daughter’s bottles had labels with her nickname. So did her snack containers. It’s what I wrote on the inside of her jacket. It’s not necessary, but it does help the world recognize that you have a preferred nickname, and here it is in embroidery thread/Sharpie marker/cute plastic label with a ducky on it, too.

Wait, what’s the big deal about using both?

Nothing at all! The older my daughter gets, the more likely I am to use her formal name. But here’s the thing: parents know the name Charlotte. It’s the one they’re almost certainly more likely to remember. You’re trying to ensure that they use Lottie instead.

I suppose your mom might – and could – use Charlotte. Grandparents, I think, deserve some latitude. But my guess? They’ll default to Lottie, too. That’s because you’re not just teaching The World at Large your daughter’s name. You’re also teaching your daughter. And when your 2-year old refers to herself as Lottie? And your kindergartener practicies writing L-O-T-T-I-E in crayon? You’re good then. She can pretty much take it from there.

So go with your plan. Charlotte-called-Lottie is a great name, and it’s one that you loved forever. A little bit of deliberate reinforcement on your part will

Readers, what’s your best advice for helping others to understand – and use – your preferred nickname?

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. Totally agree with the above. My son Matthew is now 20.from 18 months until he went to High School, he was “Mattigan,” a name I found I loved, and was more unique than Matthew. So I did all of the above, which was a leeeetle hard as he didn’t start out as Mattigan. Especially the name badges thing, I made a shirt with “Mattigan” on it when we changed it so everyone would know! And it worked. In high school he was known as Matt and nor “professionally” likes Matthew (he’s in 2nd year Uni – we live in Australia) but Mattigan is the sweet little boy he was. Hope all goes well with your Lottie!

  2. This is definitely great advice!

    I love Lottie. If I had a Charlotte, that’s what I would call her. It is such an adorable, underused nickname!

  3. I am a day late coming to this. One of my first childhood heroes was a woman named Lottie Moon. She was a Southern Baptist Missionary to China (1873-1912). We learned about her in Sunbeams (a class for children that focused on missions) and at Christmas, there was always a big foreign missions fund campaign which was named after her. She was always called ‘Lottie’ (even though this was a nickname).

  4. My only reservation is that if you really only ever are using Lottie, you may have naming remorse about not actually using Charlotte, the name you love. You’ll only be hearing it in official settings, like a doctors visit, and that could be grounds for a bit of regret over time. Think about it for a bit – would you be ok with this?

    Charlotte doesn’t necessarily need a nickname. It’s beautiful in it’s own right.

    Another possibility is to use the two names interchangeably. We’ve had success using first and nickname interchangeably. For example, our eldest is an nn Eve, first name Evelyn. It’s a nice way to vary things up when you’re calling her in to dinner, etc. In your case, I wouldn’t default Charlotte to Charlie – Lottie feels like a fairly natural fit. So I don’t think you’re in the same degree of danger as Alexander to Alex.

    That said, you may have grown more attached to the nn. For some of our girls we’re more attached to the nn than the first name, so we’re at peace not using the first name. Our fifth daughter is a nn Bess, first name Elisabeth. We definitely like the name Elisabeth, but love calling her Bess. We’re ok for Elisabeth to be her doctor’s office name.

    Something to consider. I reckon in this case, it would also be fairly easy to change your mind later – increase or decrease the use of the nn.

  5. This might have just become my favorite of your posts, Abby.

    Everything is in perfect pitch.

    All four of my girls have first names that are abstract nouns, but each of them has a down-to-earth, familiar nickname. I love that they’re able to have whichever identity they prefer.
    As far as grandparents go, they insisted calling my third daughter by her full first name until, one day, she squared her little two-year-old shoulders and said in exasperation, “No, Gwampa! My name’s *insert nickname here*!” That cured them.

  6. I absolutely love Charlotte nn Lottie and I hope you use it! I know a few Charlottes of varying ages and none of them use a nickname, so I certainly don’t think Charlie is inevitable. Worst case, she’d end up defaulting to Charlotte, but it’s a really lovely name. I wouldn’t worry if I were you.

  7. I make sure to only introduce myself as Panya, never as my given name of Stephanie, except as Abby said at places like the doctor and other places where my legal name is required. Of course, the people at the doctor’s office try to shorten it to Steph when they call me in and I *HATE* it — that’s one of the reasons I go by Panya instead of Stephanie, to avoid Steph. If I’m standing right next to the person saying Steph then I always correct them with something like “-anie. Stephanie or Panya, not Steph.” Then, if there’s time and they’re friendly, we can have a short conversation about how I got Panya. My mom only calls me Stephanie, *never* anything else.

    My husband prefers to be called by his given name William, but when he put that on his name tag at work his coworkers tried to shorten it to Will, which he dislikes and has never gone by, so he had to get a new name tag with Bill on it. [And shockingly to ‘name people’ like me, some of his coworkers were baffled and didn’t understand how he got Bill from William!]