Sadie’s Sisters: Old Fashioned Nickname Names for Girls

Sadie's Sisters

I’m a nickname fanatic, and old fashioned nickname names for girls are some of the best.

I prefer putting a big mouthful of a formal name on my child’s birth certificate, then adopting a short form for everyday use.  If I had a Sadie, she’d be Sarah.

But that’s me. There are plenty of good reasons to skip the formal name and go right to the nickname, and plenty of parents who prefer it.

In fact, these old fashioned nickname names for girls have risen in use over the last decade.

Consider:

  • Sadie was among the fastest-rising girls’ names of 2013, leaping from #120 to #50, and remains a Top 100 favorite.
  • High profile birth announcements abound, including Christina Applegate’s Sadie, Tori Spelling’s Hattie, Jimmy Fallon’s Winnie, Drew Barrymore’s Frankie, and Jessica Simpson’s Birdie to name just a few.

So for your consideration, I’ve pulled together a list of old fashioned nickname names for girls that stand on their own.

If old fashioned nickname names for girls like Sadie and her sisters are your style, read on …

Borrowed from the Boys

Bobbie – Once a fresh favorite for girls, Bobbie isn’t miles away from Abby.

Billie – Willa and Willow seem more fashionable, but Billie offers a retro cool that makes it wearable – and rare.

Charlie –  Remember those 1970s commercials for the fragrance Charlie? It sparked the idea of Charlie as a girl’s name, one that’s accelerated in our era, making this a true unisex pick.

Frankie – Amanda Peet used it for a girl; so did Drew Barrymore. A former Top 1000 staple, lately Frankie is rising in use again.

Freddie – Frederick and Frederica are underused classics, worthy of a comeback. Should that happen, Freddie might be the next Charlie.

Georgie – Lynn Redgrave starred in Georgy Girl in 1966. The character’s full name? Georgina. I think Georgie wears even better today.

Jamie – Style-wise, Jame fits. Except that it’s more mom-name today.

Johnnie – Musician Melissa Ethridge named daughter Johnnie Rose after her father, John. Sure, there’s Jane and Joanna, but maybe Johnnie is worth considering to honor a John, too.

Maxie – I might never have put Maxie on this list – it seems too ready-made for teasing. Except isn’t Maxie kind of swingy and cool?

Time-Tested Classics

Callie – Callie updates Kaylee and Kelly nicely, while still feeling traditional-ish.

Carrie – From Theodore Dreiser to Stephen King, fictional Carries are plentiful. So are real-life ones, like country star Carrie Underwood and the late, great Carrie Fisher.

Ellie – Ellie might serve as a short form of many a name, but today it’s wildly popular on its own.

Elsie – Reality star-turned-designer Lauren Conrad embraced this as a nickname through her initials – L.C. – but Elise works, too. Zooey Deschanel chose it for daughter Elsie Otter in 2015.

Gracie – Grace feel virtuous and elegant Grace, while Gracie seems more casual and approachable.

Hallie – Once a nickname for Harriet, today Hallie bridges those old-school names and favorites like Hailey.

Janie – This nickname feels little more mischievous than buttoned-up Jane.

Maggie – Many a Maggie is a Margaret, including Dame Maggie Smith. But the English actor makes the case for using just Maggie, as many parents have already done.

Rosie – Another name in the key of Janie and Gracie, Rosie feels casual and cozy.

Ruthie – Ruthie wears cowgirl boots, a sassier version of the serious Ruth.

Sophie – Sophia’s French cousin, timeless and sweet.

The Next Generation

Birdie – Busy Phillips bestowed this avian appellation on her daughter in 2008; Jessica Simpson did the same in 2019. While there are more subtle ways to evoke the finely feathered, Birdie feels more wearable than ever before.

Edie – Keira Knightley gave the name to her daughter, a sweet nickname name with style to spare.

Hattie – You might put Harriet or Henrietta on the birth certificate, but Hattie is far more popular than either.

Josie – We love Josephine, and this is the go-to short form.

Maisie – Once short for Margaret, Maisie now feels like a stand-alone choice.  I’m a big fan of the Maisie Dobbs series of mystery novels, set in twentieth century England between the wars.

Millie – Thoroughly modern Millie makes a spunky nickname for the super-sweet Millicent, but at the moment, it’s just Millie that’s climbing the popularity charts.

Posie – Rumored to be the baby name of Kylie Jenner, this sweet botanical name has a lot of vintage style.

Sylvie – The French form of Sylvia is an Appellation Mountain reader favorite.

Former Favorites

Bessie – There’s something about Bessie that screams antique. And yet, Tess names are having a good moment, so maybe it’s time for Bess + company, too?

Bettie, Betty – Another overlooked Elizabeth shortie.

Bonnie – The little girl who inherited all of Andy’s beloved friends in the Toy Story series might encourage parents to consider this pretty name.

Dottie – If Dorothy is on the comeback trail, will some of her retro nicknames revive, too?  Dolly is another possibility, but Dottie seems like Sadie’s sister.

Dovie – It appeared in the US Top 1000 a century ago. If Birdie works, maybe Dovie does, too.

Florrie, Flossie – The Italian city of Florence has a long history as a given name, and these throwback diminutives fit right in with Sadie and company.

Lottie – Top Ten Charlotte can shorten to this sweet name.

Minnie – Yes, there’s the mouse. But there’s also the actor – born Amelia Fiona Driver.

Nellie – An older generation thinks of Little House on the Prairie’s mean girl extraordinaire, Nellie Olsen. But Nellie can be short for lots of gorgeous names, and might work independently, too. Nella is another option in the Ella-Stella-Bella line.

Sallie – Often spelled Sally, the -ie ending has just as much history. I was sure Kieran Shipka’s Mad Men would boost the name, but it didn’t happen.

Susie – Also spelled Suzy and lots of other ways, Susie takes midcentury Susan and makes it even more throwback.

Tessie – If you’re a huge Boston Red Sox fan, then you know the Dropkick Murphys “Tessie.” It’s the latest version of a 1902 song, long associated with the baseball team.

Tillie – Sometimes short for stylish Matilda, Tillie sounds awfully sweet. But if Molly and Millie work, Tillie can, too.

Trudie – If Sadie and other old fashioned nickname names for girls are back, why not Trudie? It’s spunky, retro and strong.

Rarities

Arlie – Arline started out as a well-born child kidnapped by gypsies in a nineteenth century opera, but today Arlene sounds like a granny name. Arlie might be an Arlene nickname, or have origins of its own. Either way, it feels like a more modern spin on the once popular sound.

Dessie – In Ireland, Dessie might be a nickname for Desmond – and thus, exclusively masculine. In the US, it sounds more like a – very wearable – riff on Bessie.

Dixie – Too Southern, maybe? Dixie leans a little bit cutesy, but that middle ‘x’ can be quite stylish.

Dulcie – This name is sweet – literally, from the Latin dulcis. Longer form Dulcinea conjures up Toad the Wet Sprocket and Don Quixote – though the literary Dulcinea was actually named Aldonza.

EffieThe Hunger Games raised the profile of this name, traditionally short for Euphemia. Since Effie Trinket only leads our girl Katniss into danger, maybe parents are inclined to overlook it. In the UK, it’s connected to a traditional Scottish name, and much more common.

Frannie – A more feminine alternative to Frankie.

Hettie – Another possibility for Henrietta, as well as Hester or Hestia.

Icie – A name that once charted in the US Top 1000, a century or so ago.  Perfect for our Frozen era?

Lettie – Formal name options include the salad-esque Lettice, or the lacy Letitia. If Victorian valentine isn’t your style, Lettie might appeal.

Lindie – Lucky Lindy was aviator Charles Lindbergh’s nickname. Swing-era dance craze the Lindy Hop was named in his honor. Linda is a Baby Boomer, and elaborations like Melinda and Belinda don’t feel especially current, either. But Lindie might work as a nickname for nature name Linden, the elegant Rosalind – or on its own.

Mamie – Associated with classics like Mary and Margaret, as well as former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower – and yes, it was her birth name.  If Maisie is an option, maybe Mamie is, too? Meryl Streep’s daughter Mary Willa Gummer is known as Mamie, and she’s forging her own career as an actor, which might boost the name’s profile.

Zadie – If Sadie works, why not her zippy cousin? The z-to-s switch has worked out just fine for novelist Zadie Smith.

Zazie – An Isabelle nickname, popularized by actor Zazie Beetz.

Zelie – There have definitely been women named Zelie. And while the exact origins are debated, the recent canonization of Saint Zelie Martin might raise the profile of this stylish name.

Would you consider a short, ends-in-ie name for a daughter? And if so, would you put it on her birth certificate or opt for a more formal version?  Which are your favorites?  Are there others that should be on this list?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on November 21, 2009.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on June 2, 2014 and again on July 1, 2019.

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64 Comments

Love so many on this list. Bonnie has been a longtime favorite of mine but I couldn’t convince my husband for any of our three girls. I would be so enchanted to meet a young Bonnie!

Our first was almost Frances, nn Frannie or Francie. Our last was very nearly Edie. We’d have used Maisie in a heartbeat but had already used it on a dog (we also had a Dixie). So, I’d say this list is pretty much my style!

I have a Dovie! She’s almost 3. I also have a Sophie. So obviously I love this list/genre.
I usually lean towards a more formal name with options, but would not be opposed to putting say just Betty (one of my favorites) on a birth certificate. It would probably come down to which name my husband and I could agree on…
I really like Dolly as a nickname for Gwendolyn, and Minnie for Minerva :).

There are so many of these nicknames as full names in my family tree, including great grandmothers named Sadie and Hattie and an aunt named Nancy (which started out as a nickname for Anne). I share your desire for a formal name with one of this great cozy nicknames, but also feel weird about the idea of introducing my kiddo with “I named her Sarah, after my grandfather’s mother, Sadie.” (Side note: the actual Great Grandmother Sadie in question was actually “Sadie Nancy” (the aunt is named after her) — and it cracks me up to think that her birth certificate could just have said “Sarah Ann” if her parents had had a different naming philosophy (well, let’s be honest, any naming philosophy).

THANK YOU! Oh, the things I think I know off the top of my head, but need to remember to fact check. Updating now!

I’m currently loving Nell, Bess, and Mae as stand alone names and Dot and Kit as updated versions of vintage nicknames. I am waiting for Kay to be ready for a comeback.

Funny what you said about Jamie Abby, here in the UK if you were to ask someone if they considered naming a future child (or current -if they have any-) Jamie I think only about 5% of people would say yes. But of that 5% only around -I’d guess- 5% would say they’d use Jamie for a girl, I’m in my mid twenties and I knew at least 5+ boys called Jamie (with varying spellings) at school. According to the ONS stats for 2017 543 boys were named Jamie [making it the 116th most popular boys names], in stark contrast only 20 girls were named Jamie in 2017 {check https://www.ons.gov.uk/file?uri=/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/livebirths/datasets/babynamesenglandandwalesbabynamesstatisticsgirls/2017/2017girlsnames.xls if you don’t believe me)

Bonnie is already on our shortlist, but I am also a huge fan of Maisie, Sadie, and Sylvie. However, Trudie made me swoon…Now I just have to talk the hubster into letting me use it…

Been thinking about nicknames for girls lately and I realized that this one isn’t on the list: Essie, could be short for Estelle or Esmeralda. Very cute!

The Zelie I’m familiar with is the mother of St. Therese. Called Zelie but her full name was Marie-Azelie. Azelie being French for Azelea.

We have a Rosemary, called Rosy/Rosie almost exclusively. For this baby, our top contenders are Lucy, Daphne, Sophie, and Bonnie, my favorites being Lucy and Bonnie 🙂 So yes we like names that end in the EE sound lol.

So, you’re pronouncing Erie like fairy, and not like Lake Erie? To me, a person who lives near the Great Lakes, Erie is all [eerie] to me, not [airy].

A recent -ie find for me is Celie! Yes, [see-lee], a nickname for Celia, Cecilia, Cecily, Celine, Cecile, etc. It’s likely too nickname-y for me, but I think it is elegant enough, like Sylvie, to stand alone without feeling dowdy or overly young, which is how I feel many nicknames end up sounding.

As someone who was almost named Maggie, not Margaret, I’m glad I don’t have a nickname name. Also, my sister is a Sarah, never called Sadie. My brother jokingly calls her Sue, but I think he likes it because it rhymes with his nickname for me, Lu. My mom used to call her Sarah-Beth – no, her middle name isn’t Elizabeth or Beth – and she’s more often than not “Sari.” Coincidentally, I grew up with a girl whose younger sister was Sari, just that.

I went to high with school with a Sarah-called-Sari. It’s an appealing nickname, but I can’t quite imagine it on a birth certificate. Then again, there’s Suri.

As for Erie, personally I can’t see it as anything other than eerie. But I spent most of my life in Pennsylvania.

Spelled Eiry, I can imagine getting the rhymes-with-fairy pronunciation. And I’m not sure how much my formative years in the Keystone State have skewed my view.

So I am really pining lately for a daughter called Hattie. I like Harriet and Henrietta, but I don’t adore either of them enough to actually use them. But I’d never use Hattie as a full name, so you see my dilema. I’ve considered Helena to honor my MIL whose middle name is Elaine, but I don’t think she’d think that counted. Soo, I thought, what about Lulette? She’s my great grandmother whose name I have ALWAYS wanted to use, but I don’t want a Lulu. And I figured Lulette -> Ettie -> Hettie -> Hattie…. I know, it’s a stretch. But do you think it’s too big of a stretch to use it? Maybe if I put her in hats constantly and act like that’s how the nickname came about? What do you think?

Since it is your child, you could nickname her anything really. 🙂 Lulette nn Hattie. Just be prepared to explain that her name is this, but we call her this just because. Another one I thought of was Charlotte with the nickname Hattie, but that might be too common for you to use.

Sarah

Well, Clio’s full name is Claire Caroline Wren, so I’m comfortable with a stretch. 🙂

Plus I do love the idea of honoring your great grandmother, but still giving your daughter a current, distinct name of her own. So Lulette, nn Hattie, is fine in my book.

The downsides to a stretch nickname have been minimal so far. I explained it to the daycare director and all of her forms read Claire Sandel (Clio); I’ve never heard her called anything but Clio. (Or Chloe, but that’s another story.) As an A. Abigail, I will say that it can be irritating to be referred to by my first name by my bank, insurance company, etc. I imagine Clio will have the same experience. Or not … but again, minor hassles, not real problems.

I think you could even go from Matilda to Hattie (Matilda -> Mattie -> Hattie), and I personally LOVE the name Matilda (but then, I also love Harriet!)

Back to the Sarah-Sadie-Sally conversation:

Personally, I like the name Sarah. I like formal names that also sound cute for little girls and sophisticated for older women, and Sarah is one of those names. But I don’t think I’d put it on the birth certificate.
I know a Sarah (it’s amazing I know only one, you’d expect to know more) and her name really works with her personality .

My cousin named her daughter Millie Claire. I think its cute on her now…but I don’t know if it will wear well on her in, say, 20 years. (She 1 and a half) I prefer formal names for the birth certificate and resume, if nothing else.

To me, names like Julie, Sophie and Lucy could stand very well on their own because they were never really nicknames to begin with. I think Sadie works fine on her own, I think of a Southern Belle, circ.1800s, and not really of a child, so it does not have that childish vibe going on in it for me, same goes with Bonnie, which I find adorable and feels she is badly neglected. I think Hattie is really cute too, but I prefer her more as a nickname for something longer.

What? No Josie? That usually ranks alone too, not that I’d use it alone.

From your list, I adore Tillie and would consider it as a nickname for Ottilie or maybe Matilda.I’ve started thinking Tilley alone, as that’s the surname I was trying to honor.
Maisie is sweet and Arlie’s got sass, but I wouldn’t use those as anything but nicknames either. Count me in the nicknames are not full names camp! 🙂

My birth name ends in -ie, and I hate it. A lot of the women in my family have names with an ‘ee’ sound at the end. It’s way too cutesy IMO. I wouldn’t give my daughter a formal name like that.

I’m seriously considering using Elsie as a middle name should I ever have another daughter in the future. It was my grandmother’s name, and so because of that, doesn’t seem like a nickname to me. However, Mark and I are trying very hard to ensure that Roseanna doesn’t become Rosie. It will probably be a losing battle, but Rosie is just way too cutsie for me (pun intended).

We have a 4 year old Rose, who doesn’t go by Rosie. 🙂 A couple of her friends have tried called her that, but she doesn’t like the nickname at all. “I’m Rose, not Rosie!” So maybe your Roseanna will be the same way.

I think Elsie is a good middle name. 🙂

Growing up, everyone in my house’s name ended with the -ee sound, so it appeals to me. I probably wouldn’t use a name that didn’t have an -ie/y nickname available. That said, I don’t think I would use any of these without a formal version. That’s why I don’t have an Alfie, I just couldn’t put it on the birth certificate and didn’t like Alfred enough.

French names, on the other hand, are a different story. Julie, Sophie and company are not nicknames. One I adore is Nixie, she’s not a nickname for anything but I don’t think I could put it on a birth certificate.

I love the name Maisie. So cute, but I don’t think I would use Maisie on her own, except I don’t love Margaret. I’ve always loved the name Matilda though, but I don’t like Matty (too many Maddie’s) and Tillie is growing on me, but I’m not there yet so I’m thinking I could call Matilda – Maisie. It’s a stretch, but I’m okay with it. 🙂

I’m a Julie and I always wished my mother had named me Julianne or Julia, so I probably wouldn’t put an “-ie” on a birth certificate. But I have a such a soft spot for Celie, Elodie and Annelie, that I can’t say that’s an absolute.

Oops, that will teach me to press submit before I’m finished pondering.

I find Juliet/te more informal than some of the names listed here, considering it’s a Julie diminutive. Interesting that 😛 That -EE sound seems unfairly maligned for reasons I will never understand.

Biased of course but I can’t see Bonnie as a traditional nickname for any name. It’s a word/endearment that became used infrequently as a personal name in the late 18th century . In saying that, it, could come from anything informally.

I’m considering Dulcie and Sylvie for this child and again they’re full forms to me. Dulcie is a 19th century re-coinage of the medieval English Duce/Dowse and Sylvie obviously is the French Sylvia.

My great grandmother hated her name Sarah and went by Sal exclusively. I prefer Sadie to Sarah but that’s because I find Sarah strangely heavy considering its meaning and if not a bit plain.

It certainly grates on me to no end to see names like Julie, Lucie and Sophie called diminutives only. It’s incorrect.

The -y/-ie nicknames and ‘cuter’ full names like Daisy/Poppy are so common in Britain (and certainly not uncommon here) I have no trouble picturing a Dr/Lawyer Millie, Tilly or Poppy. There’s going to be a fair few of them in 20+ years and plenty of women have borne them over many hundreds of years without any undue suffering.

Some I can’t get behind, the more nursery forms such as Dolly, Bunty, Tiggy, Topsy, Tuppy etc.. Yes, I have my limits.

I started thinking about all of this because a) I have an aunt Sarita, named after her grandmother (my great-grandmother) Sara. So Sadie actually has been on my short list over the years. And then, I realized that I love Trudie – but couldn’t ever call a daughter Gertrude.

And Jodi, you’re right. Head over to http://www.meilleursprenoms.com and you’ll find a wealth of French names that end in -ie – not nicknames, formal names.

Hattie and Hettie are long-time favorites of mine, but I’d use Harriet or Hester. Note that I would. My DH would not. But I’d be thrilled to meet a little Hattie.

My grandmother was Sarah and went by Sally for almost her whole life. It even says Sally on her gravestone. I always thought it was strange that Sally was anickname for Sarah, but no stranger than Sadie, I guess.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the name Edie, but I’m not a fan of the more formal versions Edith or Edna… I think Edie has stand alone quality and I would def. put it on the birth certificate.

I agree – Edie is just on the right side of wearable as a formal name. It’s a stretch, but she *could* also be short for Endellion.

I love Edie too! I’ve actually been considering her as a possible nickname for Meredith – do you think that’s too much of a stretch?

I’m no expert on French names, but it’s my understanding that names like Sylvie, Sophie etc that *sound* like nicknames for Sylvia, Sophia etc. are actually just French *forms* rather than nicknames. Those I could absolutely see putting on a birth certificate. But as a Jodi who has wished her whole life to have something like Johanna on my birth certificate, no. No nicknames on my girls. They deserve better 🙂

I could do Sylvie. I love Sylvie!

I also like Amelie, Eulalie and Elodie, but those are all three syllables which makes them less nickname-y 🙂

I would definitely NOT put an -ie ending name on a birth certificate. I’m not sure I would even use an -ie nickname. They’re just too cutesy and diminutive

I know a Sophie who’s about 5 years old, who has a baby sister named Sadie. I don’t know why their parents gave them nicknames, but that’s how it is!

I think some of these names, like Erie, Dulcie, and Zelie, could very well stand on their own. But names that are widely known as a nickname for another name I don’t think could. I can’t imagine a Dr. Minnie Jones or a Tillie Joseph, representing the People of Maryland. Its too cutesy and little girl.. perhaps that’s just been rooted too firmly in my mind, but thats still my perception.

I know a five year old girl who’s name is Millie Rose (full first name). She was named after her mother’s grandmothers, Rose and Millie, which was short for Millicent. But Millie is just Millie. I have a very hard time imagining her as an adult with this name.

Actually, there IS a Hattie Harrison in the Maryland House of Delegates! I didn’t know that when I wrote this, swear. 🙂

That said, I agree with you – it’s not my style and I wouldn’t want to be named Millie Rose.

Zadie, though – maybe …

I wanted to use Maisie for our daughter, back in 2005. But my husband wouldn’t go for it, because it rhymes with “crazy”. DD did turn out to be rather a difficult baby, so we may have ended up calling her “crazy Maisie”. A few years on, Maisie does sound a bit too cutesy and I think I’d rather go for ‘Margaret’ and use ‘Maggie’ or ‘Maisie’ as a nickname.

I think Minnie is cute, but probably wouldn’t use it.

I know a Bonnie, who is 28 and have never really thought of her name as too cute. Her daughter, Elizabeth, goes by Lizzie.

I like ‘Tillie’ as a nickname, but would definitely go with Matilda.

I do like the -ie ending, being a Jennie (full name) myself.