Charles is an impeccable classic – regal and creative at once. Nicknames for Charles are plentiful. Default nickname Charlie is an every-boy staple, while the other go-to, Chuck, feels casual and cool.
But what if you’re after something a little less popular? Formal name Charles ranked #46 in 2020, while Charlie was #204 for boys – and #122 for girls!
Classic given names tend to have lots of potential short forms, and Charles is no exception. If you’re considering naming your son Charles, but want something other than Chuck or Charlie for daily use, this is the list for you!
Arlo – The suggestion that sparked this post! A few years ago, I saw this mentioned on a forum. It seemed so obvious, and yet so much of a stretch, too. But there it is – chARLes. If Carlo is the Italian form, couldn’t Arlo potentially be among the nicknames for Charles? I think it works – though I also think Arlo stands on its own quite nicely.
Cal – When thinking about nicknames for Charles, my mind wandered to nicknames for feminine forms Charlotte and Caroline. If Callie is an accepted short form for Caroline, could Cal be short for Charles? Cal lends the buttoned-down formal name a sort of sporty-cowboy casual cool. And if you love Cal, but can’t embrace Calvin or Calder, then this might be ideal.
Cale – The Hawaiian form of Charles is the green and leafy Kale. Cale might be even more of a stretch than Cal, but the potential is there.
Carl – Strictly speaking, Carl isn’t among the nicknames for Charles – it’s another version of the name, familiar in German, as well as much of Scandinavia. In the US, Carl is out of favor nowadays. But if you’re a Charles looking to reinvent yourself, the capable Carl might be worth a thought. Carl sounds like the kind of guy who takes care of things – your car’s engine, your tax return.
Carlo – If Luca and Matteo are stylish, how about Carlo? It’s an Italian heritage choice with that lively ‘o’ ending. Over the years, plenty of families have put English versions on the birth certificate, but used a heritage choice at home. Your Charles-called-Carlo wouldn’t be the first.
Chas, Chaz -This one has been around for a while. Actor Chazz Palminteri helped put it on the map – though he was born Calogero, not Charles. Chaz has a split personality: one-part prep school student on the crew team, and one-part tough guy. A bonus? In any spelling, Chaz is a familiar short form of the name, even if it isn’t a super-common one.
Chase – Maybe you love modern names, but fear they might be perceived as fleeting. Or maybe your partner is very much a William-James-Joseph kind of namer – then Charles, called Chase, could satisfy. It’s not such a stretch from Chaz to Chase, and while it isn’t traditional, the sounds are clearly there.
Hal – Following the Arlo model and borrowing from Cal, could Hal be a short form of Charles? With Bob a common diminutive of Robert, Hal isn’t so far removed.
Harley – Motorcycle enthusiasts have given this name to their sons – and daughters – over the years. But if you’re concerned that Harley is too daring a name, putting Charles on the birth certificate is a good fallback. It’s just one sound removed from the friendly, enduring Charlie – though Harley has a very different vibe.
Huck – The second name that got me thinking about this post, thanks to a very sharp reader who shortlisted Charles called Huck. And why not? The sounds aren’t quite there, but if you can call Charles Chuck, then Huck seems like an option. After all, Huxley isn’t for everyone, and Huckleberry is for … well, only a handful of truly bold baby namers. Charles is among the safest of possible names to put on your son’s birth certificate if you’re set on finding a formal form of Huck.
What’s your favorite nickname for Charles? Did I miss any possibilities? Do you think some of these work better – or not at all?
Originally published on August 29, 2014, this post was revised and re-posted on July 25, 2019. Additional updates took place on January 30, 2021 and June 2, 2021.