Chances are good that you do. It’s a set of words or phrases that only make sense in your small group. Even though I’ve known that my family – both the home I grew up in, as well as my own household – has a complicated, convoluted familect for years, I’d never heard the term until I came across this article from Atlantic Monthly (paywall).
Some words or phrases come from things young children mispronounce. (My nephew used to call vanilla “gevella” and somehow, so do my kids – even though they’ve never shared a roof.) Others are in-jokes or offhanded phrases that stick. (For reasons too complicated to explain, when I’m anxious, my kids say that I’m “stripey.”) And bilingual homes often develop them through some mix of both. (I often remark that my husband speaks three languages – English; his parents’ native Polish; and some strange mix of both.)
But now I’m wondering: can given names ever come from familects?
I’m guessing the answer has to be yes. After all, using a loved one’s nickname as an honor name is one possible strategy.
At the moment, though, I can’t quite think of an example – though one of my sisters has a nickname that emerged this way.
Do you have a familect? Can you think of any given names that might emerge from your familect?
I’m declaring Isabeau a name to watch. That’s because teenage figure skating phenomenon Isabeau Levito just won the US Women’s Figure Skating Championship. Fun fact: Levito’s name comes from Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in the 1985 film Ladyhawke. Assuming this is just the beginning of Levito’s career, she could be very much in the spotlight for the 2026 Milan Winter Olympics. And the name? With all those vowels, including the “o” ending, and the twist on long-time favorite Isabella, it’s irresistible.
Octavia, Olympia, and Ophelia all appear in the latest edition of British Baby Names birth announcements. Plus Ludo – twice!
What do Everlena and Pearlean have in common? Laura’s deep dive into antique African American names explains.
I think Wilkes for William and Edwin for Edward are winning substitutes. Not sure about all of these names, but it’s a great example of how to take a classic name and make it just a little bit different.
Okay, I’m sold on Calabash, thanks to this list from the Well-Informed Namer. Cress, Pepper, Rye, and Taro all get two thumbs up from me, too!
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