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A nickname is a substitute for the proper name of a person, place or thing. It is commonly used to express affection, amusement, a character trait or defamation of character. It is distinct from a pseudonym, stage name or title, although the concepts can overlap. Also known as sobriquet, it is typically informal. [1]



The compound word ekename, literally meaning "additional name", was attested as early as 1303. [2] This word was derived from the Old English phrase eac "also", [3] related to eacian "to increase". [4] By the 15th century, the misdivision of the syllables of the phrase "an ekename" led to its rephrasing as "a nekename". [5] Though the spelling has changed, the pronunciation and meaning of the word have remained relatively stable ever since.

Various language conventions

English nicknames are generally represented in quotes between the bearer's first and last names (e.g., Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower and Daniel Lamont "Bubba" Franks ). It is also common for the nickname to be identified after a comma following the full real name or later in the body of the text, such as in an obituary (e.g., Frankie Frisch, "The Fordham Flash" ). Any middle name is generally omitted, especially in speech. Like English, German uses (German-style) quotation marks between the first and last names (e.g., Andreas Nikolaus „Niki“ Lauda ). Other languages may use other conventions; for example, Italian writes the nickname after the full name followed by detto "called" (e.g., Salvatore Schillaci detto Totò ), in Spanish the nickname is written in formal contexts at the end in quotes following alias (e.g. Alfonso Tostado, alias «el Abulense»), in Portuguese the nickname is written after the full name followed by vulgo or between parenthesis (e.g. Edson Arantes do Nascimento, vulgo Pelé / Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé)) and Slovenian represents nicknames after a dash or hyphen (e.g., Franc Rozman – Stane ). The latter may cause confusion because it resembles an English convention sometimes used for married and maiden names.

Various societal uses

In Viking societies, many people had heiti, viðrnefni, or kenningarnöfn (Old Norse terms for nicknames) [6] which were used in addition to, or instead of, the first name. In some circumstances, the giving of a nickname had a special status in Viking society in that it created a relationship between the name maker and the recipient of the nickname, to the extent that the creation of a nickname also often entailed a formal ceremony and an exchange of gifts known in Old Norse as nafnfestr ('fastening a name').

In Bengali society, for example, people will often have two names: a daknam (pet name) which is the name used by family and friends and a bhalonam which is their formal name. [7] [8]

In England, some nicknames are traditionally associated with a person's surname. A man with the surname 'Clark' will be nicknamed 'Nobby': the surname 'Miller' will have the nickname 'Dusty' (alluding to the flour dust of a miller at work): the surname 'Adams' has the nickname 'Nabby'. There are several other nicknames linked traditionally with a person's surname, including Chalky White, Bunny Warren, Tug Wilson, and Spud Baker. Other English nicknames allude to a person's origins. A Scotsman may be nicknamed 'Jock', an Irishman 'Paddy' (alluding to Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland) or 'Mick' (alluding[ clarification needed ] to the preponderance of Roman Catholicism in Ireland), and a Welshman may be nicknamed 'Taffy' (from Welsh Dafydd , David). Some nicknames referred ironically to a person's physical characteristics, such as 'Lofty' for a short person, or 'Curly' for a bald man.

In Chinese culture, nicknames are frequently used within a community among relatives, friends, and neighbours. A typical southern Chinese nickname often begins with a "阿" followed by another character, usually the last character of the person's given name. [9] For example, Taiwanese politician Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is sometimes referred as "阿扁" (A-Bian). In many Chinese communities of Southeast Asia, nicknames may also connote one's occupation or status. For example, the landlord might be known simply as Towkay (simplified Chinese :头家; traditional Chinese :頭家; Pe̍h-ōe-jī :thâu-ke) Hokkien for "boss") to his tenants or workers while a bread seller would be called "Mianbao Shu" 面包叔 (literally, Uncle Bread).


In the context of information technology, nickname is a common synonym for the screen name or handle of a user. In computer networks it has become a common practice for every person to also have one or more nicknames for pseudonymity, to avoid ambiguity, or simply because the natural name or technical address would be too long to type or take too much space on the screen.


"I, Jimmy Carter...": James Earl Carter is sworn in as President of the United States using his nickname "Jimmy" in January 1977. Carter-inauguration-large.jpg
"I, Jimmy Carter...": James Earl Carter is sworn in as President of the United States using his nickname "Jimmy" in January 1977.

Nicknames are usually applied to a person and they are not always chosen by the recipient themselves. Some nicknames are derogatory name calls.

Abbreviation or modification

A nickname can be a shortened or modified variation on a person's real name.

Name portions


A nickname may refer to the relationship with the person. This is a term of endearment.



Nicknames of U.S. states, 1884 Nicknames of the states, 1884.jpg
Nicknames of U.S. states, 1884

Many geographical places have titles, or alternative names, which have positive implications. Paris, for example, is the "City of Light", Rome is the "Eternal City", Venice is "La Serenissima", and New Jersey is the "Garden State". These alternative names are often used to boost the status of such places, contrary to the usual role of a nickname. Many places or communities, particularly in the US, adopt titles because they can help in establishing a civic identity, help outsiders recognize a community or attract people to a community, promote civic pride, and build community unity. [12] Titles and slogans that successfully create a new community "ideology or myth" [13] are also believed to have economic value. [12] Their economic value is difficult to measure, [12] but there are anecdotal reports of cities that have achieved substantial economic benefits by "branding" themselves by adopting new slogans. [13]

By contrast, older city nicknames may be critical: London is still occasionally referred to as "The Smoke" in memory of its notorious "pea-souper" smogs (smoke-filled fogs) of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and Edinburgh was "Auld Reekie" for the same reason, as countless coal fires polluted its atmosphere.


Besides or replacing the demonym, some places have collective nicknames for their inhabitants. Many examples of this practice are found in Wallonia and in Belgium in general, where such a nickname is referred to in French as "blason populaire".

See also

Related Research Articles

Surname conventions and laws vary around the world. This article gives an overview of surnames around the world.

A patronymic, or patronym, is a component of a personal name based on the given name of one's father, grandfather (avonymic), or an earlier male ancestor. It is the male equivalent of a matronymic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Surname</span> Part of a naming scheme for individuals, used in many cultures worldwide

A surname, family name, or last name is the mostly hereditary portion of one's personal name that indicates one's family. It is typically combined with a given name to form the full name of a person.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chinese name</span> Naming customs of Chinese culture

Chinese names are personal names used by individuals from Greater China and other parts of the Sinophone world. Sometimes the same set of Chinese characters could be chosen as a Chinese name, a Hong Kong name, a Japanese name, a Korean name, or a Vietnamese name, but they would be spelled differently due to their varying historical pronunciation of Chinese characters.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Personal name</span> Set of names by which an individual is known

A personal name, full name, or prosoponym is the set of names by which an individual person is known, and that can be recited as a word-group, with the understanding that, taken together, they all relate to that one individual. In many cultures, the term is synonymous with the birth name or legal name of the individual. In linguistic classification, personal names are studied within a specific onomastic discipline, called anthroponymy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Middle name</span> Additional portion of a personal name

In various cultures, a middlename is a portion of a personal name that is written between the person's first given name and their surname. A middle name is often abbreviated and is then called middle initial or just initial.

Personal names in German-speaking Europe consist of one or several given names and a surname. The Vorname is usually gender-specific. A name is usually cited in the "Western order" of "given name, surname". The most common exceptions are alphabetized list of surnames, e.g. "Bach, Johann Sebastian", as well as some official documents and spoken southern German dialects. In most of this, the German conventions parallel the naming conventions in most of Western and Central Europe, including English, Dutch, Italian, and French. There are some vestiges of a patronymic system as they survive in parts of Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, but these do not form part of the official name.

A diminutive is a word obtained by modifying a root word to convey a slighter degree of its root meaning, either to convey the smallness of the object or quality named, or to convey a sense of intimacy or endearment. A diminutive form is a word-formation device used to express such meanings. In many languages, diminutives are word forms that are formed from the root word by affixation. In most languages, diminutives can also be formed as multi-word constructions such as "Tiny Tim", or "Little Dorrit". Diminutives are often employed as nicknames and pet names when speaking to small children and when expressing extreme tenderness and intimacy to an adult. The opposite of the diminutive form is the augmentative.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eastern Slavic naming customs</span> Human naming system in Russia and environs

Eastern Slavic naming customs are the traditional way of identifying a person's family name, given name and patronymic name in East Slavic cultures in Russia and some countries formerly part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.

Spanish names are the traditional way of identifying, and the official way of registering, a person in Spain and Hispanic America. They are composed of a given name and two surnames. Traditionally, the first surname is the father's first surname, and the second is the mother's first surname. Since 1999, the order of the surnames in a family is decided when registering the first child, but the traditional order is nearly universally chosen.

A name suffix in the Western English-language naming tradition, follows a person's full name and provides additional information about the person. Post-nominal letters indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honor. Other examples include generational designations like "Sr." and "Jr." and "I", "II", "III", etc.

Filipinos have various naming customs. They most commonly blend the older Spanish system and Anglo-American conventions, where there is a distinction between the "Christian name" and the "surname". The construct containing several middle names is common to all systems, but the multiple "first" names and only one middle and last name are a result of the blending of American and Spanish naming customs.

Polish names have two main elements: the given name, and the surname. The usage of personal names in Poland is generally governed by civil law, church law, personal taste and family custom.

Indian names are based on a variety of systems and naming conventions, which vary from region to region. In Indian culture, names hold profound significance and play a crucial role in an individual's life. The importance of names is deeply rooted in the country's diverse and ancient cultural heritage. Names are also influenced by religion and caste and may come from epics. In Hindu culture, names are often chosen based on astrological and numerological principles. It is believed that a person's name can influence their destiny, and selecting the right name is essential for a prosperous and harmonious life. Astrologers may be consulted to ensure a name aligns with the individual's birth chart.India's population speaks a wide variety of languages and nearly every major religion in the world has a following in India. This variety makes for subtle, often confusing, differences in names and naming styles. Due to historical Indian cultural influences, several names across South and Southeast Asia are influenced by or adapted from Indian names or words.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bulgarian name</span> Name system

The Bulgarian name system has considerable similarities with most other European name systems, and with those of other Slavic peoples such as the Russian name system, although it has certain unique features.

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Jenkins is a surname that originated in Cornwall, but came to be popular in southern Wales. The name "Jenkin" originally meant "little John" or "son of John". The "kin" portion is of Dutch or Danish origin (-kijn), which then gained a certain popularity in England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mononym</span> Individual who is known and addressed by a single name

A mononym is a name composed of only one word. An individual who is known and addressed by a mononym is a mononymous person.


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  5. "nickname". Retrieved 10 June 2020.
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  7. Lahiri, Jhumpa (2003-06-09). ""Gogol"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2021-12-24.
  8. Singh, Amardeep (2007). ""Names Can Wait": the Misnaming of the South Asian Diaspora in Theory and Practice". South Asian Review. 28 (1): 21–36. doi:10.1080/02759527.2007.11932500. ISSN   0275-9527. S2CID   166091604.
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  10. "Ronaldo Nazario – "O Fenômeno"". Archived from the original on 21 September 2020. Retrieved 2 July 2021. Nickname: R9
  11. Ideas, Name (4 August 2023). "300+ Best And Unique Nicknames That Start With S 2023".
  12. 1 2 3 Muench, David (December 1993). "Wisconsin Community Slogans: Their Use and Local Impacts" (PDF). University of Wisconsin - Extension. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-03-09.
  13. 1 2 Andia, Alfredo (September 10, 2007) "Branding the Generic City" Archived 2008-05-21 at the Wayback Machine , MU.DOT magazine