Sadie's SistersI’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.


  • 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.


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.

old fashioned nickname names for girlsretro nicknames for girls

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. 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?

    1. 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.


    2. 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.

    3. How about Hannah or Hagatha, Harlow or Hadasseh? Anything that starts with Ha- could lead to Hattie.

    4. 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!)

  2. 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 .

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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! 🙂

  6. 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.

  7. 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).

    1. 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. 🙂

  8. 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.

  9. 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. 🙂

    1. I’ve seen Matildas go by Millie, I don’t see why Maisie couldn’t work. Non intuitive nicknames can be a hassle sometimes of course but that’s the risk you take.