With so many centuries of use behind it, classic Elizabeth has developed dozens of short forms, across multiple languages. That makes it evergreen, but also surprisingly versatile.
Many Elizabeth nicknames now feel like stand-alone names in their own right. Others read like imports, more expected in German or French.
And some flow more naturally from international variations of the name, particularly Elisabeth, which leads more naturally to Lisa.
But with so much history, we expect Elizabeth nicknames to range from the obvious to the obscure.
It’s a strength of choosing a classic given name for a child.
Read on for some great, unexpected Elizabeth nicknames.
Unexpected Elizabeth Nicknames: Starting with B
The ‘b’ sound of Elizabeth is obvious, and it’s led to one of the most common Elizabeth nicknames: Beth, as in the Kiss ballad. But there are plenty of other options for unexpected Elizabeth nicknames, all brought to us by the letter B.
Babette – Babette might feel more like a spin-off name, like Isabelle or Bettina, than the other Elizabeth nicknames. Babette doesn’t quite feel connected, does it? And yet it is a French nickname for Elizabeth, and sometimes bestowed independently. Celebrated 1987 film Babette’s Feast won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. (The movie was Danish, but the Babette character is from Paris.) Credit the name’s use in the US in the 1950s and 60s to poet Babette Deutsch, as well as a very successful French film starring Brigitte Bardot as a Babette. Today, it might fit in with other -ette ending names for girls, and probably reads a little bit hipster, in the key of Odette.
Bess – Tess is having a moment, but Bess remains in limbo. The first Queen Elizabeth of England is sometimes called “Good Queen Bess,” so this nickname is nothing new. If you love your girl’s names slim and trim, a nickname like Bess is both less expected than Liz or Beth, and nicely retro, too.
Betsy – Okay, there’s nothing truly unexpected about Betsy. We all know it’s a nickname for Elizabeth. But it’s so seldom heard these days that it belongs on this list. It feels retro, but more like Nancy than Sadie – a name that has history galore, but we’re not quite ready to revive.
Betty – I fully expected to meet more baby Bettys after we met the icy Betty Draper on Mad Men. But nope. In 2014, there were 190 girls named Betty. That’s more than the 135 newborn Bettys the year before the AMC original series debuted in 2007, but not quite enough to call this name back. Still, if you’re after an unexpected retro Elizabeth nickname, Betty might be exactly the right combination of familiar and seldom heard in 2016.
Billie – Wilhelmina is classic but clunky. Billie peaked in the 1930s, but still makes many parents think of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” which puts this name in style limbo. Is it an early twentieth century name ready for revival, or a 1980s mainstay? I say it’s the former, and think that Elizabeth, nicknamed Billie, is an unexpected but very workable option.
Birdie – I’m not certain how Birdie made it onto lists of possible nicknames for Elizabeth, but you’ll find it included on the longer lists. It was a sometimes-nickname Don Draper used for Betty on Mad Men, which might make it more familiar today. But it pre-dated the successful television series. Still, with bird names for girls so white hot in 2016, an Elizabeth called Birdie would work nicely.
Buffy – The story goes that Buffy is based on a child mangling of Bethy. It makes sense, right? And yet, I find it surprising how many people seem to accept Buffy as one of the Elizabeth nicknames while rejecting Lily. Credit successful 1960s sitcom Family Affair. It featured a widowed father and his three adorable children. The younger daughter is Ava Elizabeth, called Buffy. By the time Buffy the Vampire Slayer became a 1992 comedy, and then an acclaimed television series later that decade, the name stood on its own. The Slayer’s full name is Buffy Anne. While Buffy is seldom heard and slightly fluffy, the heroine proves that this Elizabeth nickname has bite.
Elizabeth Nicknames: Starting with E
In English, nicknames often come from the first syllable of the name – Abby, Ben, Carrie, Dave, Evie, Fred, Greg, Harv and so on. No surprise, then, that El- names top this list of Elizabeth nicknames.
Elle – Elizabeth is a long name for a daughter. Spare, short Elle is the opposite – a single, elegant sound. Elle is the French word for she, and a famous fashion magazine, too. Supermodel Elle Macpherson and Legally Blonde’s main character, the resourceful and stylish Elle Woods, both helped to boost the name. It could also be short for Eleanor or really any El- name, but it works beautifully with the enduring Elizabeth.
Elsie – Elsie has a lot of sass. It’s the given name of the fabulous Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey – though we rarely hear her called by her first name. And it’s a retro choice that wears well in our age of Sadie. It’s also a traditional nickname for Elizabeth, though if your heart is set on Elsie, it might be worth choosing the Elisabeth spelling instead.
Elizabeth Nicknames: Starting with L
Elizabeth nicknames starting with L seem like naturals – even though the first initial is E, the first sound is El, not Ee.
Libby – Libby is one of those names that we all know comes from Elizabeth, and the strong ‘el’ and ‘b’ sounds are obvious. I think Libby has a sort of preppy, buttoned-down feeling, but it’s certainly not a country club nickname like Muffy. In fact, with Abby, Gabby, Maddie, and Maggie so in favor, I’m surprise that we don’t hear more of Libby.
Lily – Before you cry, “No, nope, never – Lily just cannot be a nickname for Elizabeth. That’s all Lillian,” pause and consider this. Lily and Lillian probably started out as nicknames for Elizabeth, at least some of the time. My best guess is that the overwhelming majority of people don’t know this – I’ve found a few message boards with comments like “Lily is not a nickname for Elizabeth.” So, okay, it’s not common knowledge. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t so. The current Queen of England, Elizabeth II, was called Lilibet as a child, which makes me think that the Lily-Elizabeth connection was alive and well until sometime in the early twentieth century. Love Lily, but aren’t crazy about any of the obvious formal name options? Elizabeth works, too.
Liesel – If you’re German, and like the idea of a nod to your ancestry with your child’s name, an Elizabeth nicknamed Liesel might be ideal. (Or better yet, Elisabeth – since that’s the preferred spelling in Germany.) The Sound of Music character spelled it with one fewer vowel, Liesl. Either way, Liesel is one of those surprising names that everyone knows, but nobody uses. Another reason to love this name? The girl at the center of the New York Times bestseller, The Book Thief, is also a Liesel.
Unexpected Elizabeth Nicknames: Starting with T
T might be the least likely letter for Elizabeth nicknames. It’s dropped entirely in other forms of the name, like Isabelle. And yet, there are at least two unexpected Elizabeth nicknames that deserve a look.
Tess – If Bess works, why not Tess? Elizabeth is an unconventional choice, to be sure. Tess is traditionally short for Theresa (or Teresa or Therese). But the letters are all there, and scrambling them results in a short, sweet, and complete Elizabeth nickname.
Thea – Take the last two letters, add the first letter, and then tack on an ‘a’ and – ta da! Thea emerges as an unconventional Elizabeth nickname. It doesn’t require a formal version, especially in our age of Ava, Mia, and Leah. When it is a nickname, it’s typically associated with Theodora and Dorothea, or other names ending in the -thea sound. And yet, if you are an Elizabeth and none of the conventional Elizabeth nicknames fit, this could be one to consider.
Nicknames for Elizabeth: Starting with Z
Parents are in love with Z, from names like Zoe and Zuri to z-in-the-middle picks like Eliza and Hazel. If you’re after truly distinctive Elizabeth nicknames, start at the end of the alphabet, and the middle of this classic name.
Zabby – Here’s the thing about Zabby – it’s a smoosh of super-popular girl names like Zoe and Abby, a cousin to other just-add-Z options like Zadie. It doesn’t have much history of use as a nickname for Elizabeth, but I’ve heard it mentioned often enough to give it a place on this list. And when you look for Zabby, well … it’s right there, in plain sight: eliZABeth. So while it isn’t at all familiar, it’s perfectly possible to embrace the modern z sound in traditional Elizabeth, and call an Elizabeth Zabby.
Zella – Other Z Elizabeth nicknames might be more of a stretch. Zibby works, I suppose. But does Zella? It takes the middle Z, pushes it to the front, picks up the first syllable and then adds an a. It’s a stretch, yes, but we use Daisy for Margaret and Kaylee for Katherine so perhaps it’s a forgivable one. If you’re an Elizabeth looking for a truly stand-out nickname, Zella might be your best option.
What do you think of these unexpected Elizabeth nicknames? Are there others that should be on the list? Are there any that you would consider?
First published on March 11, 2016, this post was revised substantially on May 17, 2020.