Winter, Winifred: Getting to Winnie

Lake Winnipesaukee boats

Short, sassy nickname names are having a moment.  First came Sadie and Hattie, and I’ve heard dozens of others that could wear nicely on a modern girl.

Now the spotlight is on Winnie, the darling daughter of late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon and wife Nancy Juvonen.

Besides the newest starbaby, there’s the cuddly stuffed-with-fluff bear, the heroine from Tuck Everlasting, the Wonder Years girl-next-door, and, on a different note, the former Mrs. Nelson Mandela.

The Fallons had a very specific reason for choosing their daughter’s name.  The proud papa told interviewers that his daughter’s name was inspired by Lake Winnipesaukee, a New Hampshire resort where the couple decided to tie the knot.

While I’m usually in favor of putting a formal name on the birth certificate, the Fallons’ choice makes sense.  (Winnipesaukee is a non-starter as a given name.)  And Winnie can stand on her own, at least as well as Millie and Lily and lots of other names.

But let’s say you’ve decided to name your daughter Winnie and would like a formal name.  What are your options for the birth certificate?  Possibilities abound!

Getting to Winnie: The Logical Choices

Winifred – Take the Welsh elements gwen – fair – and frewi – peace – and you have a name worn by a seventh century saint.  It was whispered rom Gwenffrewi to Winefrida in Latin.  We know her as St. Winifred.  The spelling was probably influenced by the Old English masculine name Winfred.  While Winfred is pretty much extinct, there’s been the tiniest uptick in the number of Winifreds in recent years.  She could make a comeback.  Winnie Mandela’s full name is Nomzamo Winfreda.

Winona – A Dakota name for a firstborn daughter, Winona made a splash in the 1980s thanks to actress Winona Ryder – yes, Winona is her given name.  Then in the 1990s singer Wynonna Judd hit it big – though she was born Christina.  The name actually had a good run in the 1910s and 20s, meaning that you could have a Winona on your family tree.  Today she’s pretty rare, but makes for an obvious way to get to Winnie.

Winter – One of the middles chosen by Nicole Richie and Joel Madden for their daughter Harlow Winter Kate in 2008, Winter has followed season names Autumn and Summer up the popularity charts.  And why not?  Winter has it all – she’s a modern nature name with that stylish -er ending, plus she still retains the option of a kicky vintage short form.

Gwendolyn – She might not make the logical choices list, save that Gwendolyn was the full name of Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years.  Sure, Gwendolyn might more logically lead to Gwen.  But somehow such a high profile Winnie makes me think that it would be easy to use Gwendolyn – or Gwendolen – as a formal name.

Getting to Winnie: Not Quite Win, But Might Work

Gwynne, Gwyneth – If Gwendolyn works, how about other names with the wyn sound?

Wynne – Just like Jane becomes Janie, Wynne could become Winnie.  And yet, the spelling strikes me as a little bit of a barrier – I’m tempted to spell it Wynnie.

Wilhelmina – The letters are all there.  Winnie seems as logical a short form as Billie or Minnie.

Getting to Winnie: The -wens

Arwen – Expanding on the idea of Gwendolyn and company, would other -wen names work?  Arwen is a Lord of the Rings invention that has found favor with parents in recent years.

Bronwyn, Bronwen – She’s a traditional Welsh pick without an obvious nickname option.

Elowen Ellie is the obvious choice, but maybe Winnie makes for a more distinctive possibility for this Cornish nature name.

Olwen – Another Welsh name, this one borrowed from my family tree.  More tailored than Olivia, with that -wen ending again.

Rowen, Rowan – It’s another surname pick and a tree name, too.  Somehow Rowan seems even farther removed from Winnie than Arwen and Olwen, but it is still a contender.

Getting to Winnie: Obscurities

Roswinda, Roswitha They’re both forms of an old Germanic name, worn by a tenth century nun considered the first female playwright in the Western World since the fall of Rome.  The meaning of her name is debated, as is its spelling.  And yet, there’s something intriguing about Roswitha and Roswinda – clunky, medieval, wearable only if you’re willing to bestow a sweet short form like Winnie.  The -winda version is more obvious, but the -witha might work, too.

Winsome – If Winter is the kind of word name that we immediately embrace, Winsome is … not.  Why?  The meaning is positive – cheerful, joyful.  But there’s a suggestion that someone who is winsome is childlike and innocent, too.  Pleasing qualities, yes, but with a sort of sunshine lightness that might make the name difficult to wear for a future auditor or district attorney.  Maybe in the middle spot …

Kaywinnet – When I first watched Firefly, I was stunned that Joss Whedon, namer extraordinaire, had called a character Kaylee.  The story is set centuries into the future.  Of all the great names, is Kaylee really the one that endures?  And then we learn that her full name is Kaywinnet, and my faith is Joss was restored.  The name has really never been used – and it might just be too out there to consider.  But that’s why she’s under obscurities …

Are there names that I’ve missed?  Which formal name would you use for Winnie?

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20 Comments

Don’t forget that winnie the pooh’s namesake was a bear called Winnipeg. A little awkward if you live in manitoba, but it could work. Just don’t go with nearby lake Winnipegosis as your inspiration…

Thanks! I remember reading about the bear in the London Zoo called Winnie, but I didn’t know about the Winnipeg connection … interesting!

My grandma had an elderly friend who we called “Aunt Winnie.” Winnie was short for Alvina.

It’s a bit of a stretch, but I’d think names that include -vin- could easy lead to Winnie as well, like Lavinia, Vincenza or maybe even Evangeline or Vanessa?

One that I’ve always liked is Winry…I first heard it on Fullmetal Alchemist, but I’ve never been able to find out if it has origins beyond the show or not.

Love Winnie! I would probably use Winifred or Winter to get to Winnie.
I never thought of Rowen… interesting!

p.s. LOVE Appellation Mountain!

I’m a huge fan of Winifred (my way of honoring two grandfathers named Alfred and Wilfred). And its a huge plus that it is the name of another Joss Whedon character (I’m a super fan!) Winifred called Fred. However I prefer Wyn or Winnie for the nickname.

I also like Wyndolen/Wendolyn and Winsome, but as you said, only in the middle name spot.

I was thinking about this because my husband likes Win. Not Winnie… just Win.

Winter and Ceridwen both went over well (I like Win more than Ceri/Kerry for Ceridwen), and I like Gwendolen, but he doesn’t. He was willing to consider Gwyneira though? Bit of a stretch but it’s got the Gwen/Gwyn sound so… maybe?

How is Roswinda pronounced? I’ve only heard Roswitha said rose-veet-a? Am I being stupid?

Winslet is my top name right now for my little girl, with the nickname Winnie, I’m planning a bee themed nursery as a nod to the “stuffed with fluff bear” connection 🙂 I didn’t remember the connection to Tuck Everlasting, which makes me love it even more…I had thought of Wonder Years but was curious as to what her full name was thanks for filling in that blank!