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A nickname (also spelled "nick name") is a descriptive name given in place of or in addition to the official name of a person, place or thing. It can also be the familiar or truncated form of the proper name, which may sometimes be used simply for convenience (ex. "Bob", "Bobby", "Rob", "Robbie", "Hob", and "Bert" for the name Robert)The term hypocoristic is used to refer to a nickname of affection between those in love or with a close emotional bond, compared with a term of endearment. The term diminutive name refers to nicknames that convey smallness, hence something regarded with affection or familiarity (e.g., referring to children,) or contempt.Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 6th edition The distinction between the two is often blurred.

As a concept, it is distinct from both pseudonym and stage name, and also from a title (for example, City of Fountains), although there may be overlap in these concepts.

A nickname is sometimes considered desirable, symbolising a form of acceptance, but can often be a form of ridicule.


The compound word ekename, literally meaning "additional name", was attested as late as 1303. This word was derived from the Old English phrase eaca "an increase", related to eacian "to increase"). By the 15th Century, the misdivision of the syllables of the phrase "an ekename" led to its corruption into the form "a nekename." Though spelling has changed, the pronunciation and meaning of the word have remained relatively stable ever since.

Uses in various societies

In Viking societies, many people had nicknames heiti, viĆ°rnefni or uppnefni which were used in addition to, or instead of their family names. 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.

Slaves have often used nicknames, so that the master who heard about someone doing something could not identify the slave. In capoeira, a Brazilian martial art, the slaves had nicknames, to protect them from being caught, as practicing capoeira was illegal for decades.


In the context of information technology, a nickname (or technically a nick) is a common synonym for a screenname or handle.

Nickname is a name to shorten a name. Nick is a term originally used to identify a person in a system for synchronous conferencing. In computer networks it has become a common practice for every person to also have one or more nicknames for the purposes of anonymity, 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.

Performing arts

Many writers, performing artists and actors have nicknames, which may develop into a stage name or pseudonym. A bardic name may also result from a nickname. Many writers have pen names which they use instead of their real names. Famous writers with a pen name include Dr. Seuss, Mark Twain, Lemony Snicket, Lewis Carroll and George Orwell.

Nicknames for people

To inform an audience or readership of a person's nickname without actually calling them by their nickname, the nickname is placed between the first and last names and surrounded by quotation marks (e.g. Catherine "Cate" Jones). The middle name is eliminated (if there is one). Very rarely is the middle name mentioned with the nickname, except when the first name is composed of two words, e.g. "Beth Ann".
  • They may refer to a person's job or title.
    • "Bones" for a forensic scientist or mortician.
    • "Doc" for a doctor.
    • "Sparky" for an Electrician.
  • They may refer to a person's physical characteristics, personality or lifestyle choices.
    • In English:
      • "Four-eyes" for a person with glasses.
      • "Train tracks", "tin teeth", or "braceface" for a person with braces.
      • "Fatso" for a person that is overweight.
      • "Butterface" for a girl that is good looking everywhere "but her face".
      • It should be noted that in English such nicknames are often considered offensive or derogatory, unless the nickname is based on a trait that is viewed positively. All of the above examples would be offensive in most contexts.
    • In Spanish-speaking cultures:
      • Flaco (thin, weak)
      • Palito (little stick)
      • El Gordo (the fat one)
      • Description of one's physical characteristics in a nickname should almost never be taken as an insult in Spanish (for instance, in the title of Univision's hit variety show, El Gordo y la Flaca).
  • Sometimes an adjective can become a nickname for a member of a social group that shares a given name with another member of the same group, e.g. "Gay Anthony" or "Little Jake". For example, in a department with two professors with the initial and lastname Z. Liu, they may be referred to as "Important Liu" and "Adjunct Liu".
  • A nickname can can be a shortened or modified variation on a person's real name.
    • They can be contractions of longer names Margaret to Greta
    • With many nicknames a letter, usually R is dropped ie: Fanny from Francis, Walt from Walter.
    • During medieval times the letter R would often be swapped for either L or D, ie: Hal from Harry, Molly from Mary and Sadie from Sally.
    • In nineteenth century, frontier America, Mary and Molly were often given the nickname Polly.
    • Letter swapping for nicknames is common, usually the letter R for another letter. ie: from Robert: Hob, Dob, Rob, Bob and Nob, from Richard: Rick, Dick and Hick, Bill from Will which in turn comes from William and Peg from Meg which is derived from Margaret.
    • Sometimes a nickname can come from the back of the name (ie: Drew from Andrew, Xander from Alexander)
    • It can also can come from the front of the name (ie: Chris from Christopher/Chistine, Sam from Samuel/Samantha and Ed from Edward/Edmond/Edwin)
    • Another possible nickname can come from the middle (ie: Liz from Elizabeth or Della from Adelaide)
    • Before the 17th century most nicknames had the diminutive ending "in" or "Kin", where the ending is attached to the first syllable. (IE: Watkin/Walter/Wat-kin Hobkin/Robert/Hob-kin or Thompkin/Thomas/Thom-Kin.) While most of these have died away, a few remain such as Robin (Rob-in, from Robert), Hank (Hen-Kin from Henry), Jack (Jan-kin from John) and Colin (Col-in from Nicolas).
    • Many nicknames usually drop the final one or two letters and add ether ie/ee/y as an ending ie Davy from David, Charlie from Charles and Jimmy from James.
    • In some cases another name may be used as a nickname. For example, on the show Dead Like Me the main character was called George, which was short for Georgia.
    • Initialization, which forms a nickname from a person's initials (i.e. A.C. Slater from Albert Clifford Slater)
    • Nicknames are sometimes based on a person's last name (i.e. "Tommo" for Bill Thompson) or a combination of first and last name (i.e. "Droopy" for Andrew Peterson, or "A-Rod" for Alex Rodriguez)
    • Loose ties to a person's name with an attached suffix. For Example, Gazza for English footballer Paul Gascoigne (though used more widely in Australia for Gary) and similar "zza" forms (Hezza, Prezza, etc.) for other prominent personalities whose activities are frequently reported in the British press. See also Oxford "-er" for a similar but wider phenomenon.
  • It may allude to a person's mental characteristics (though often used sarcastically):
  • In Comics, it usually refers to a character's special powers:
    • "Wolverine" for James Howlett because of his claws and excellent sense of smell.
    • "Flash" for Wally West because of his super speed.
  • They may refer to the relationship with the person. This is a term of endearment.
    • In Japanese culture, Japanese honorifics is designed so that term of endearment convey the exact status of the relationship between two people. However, the recipient of the honorific is allowed to restrict the use when used by a certain person.
  • To avoid confusion between peer groups with the same given names, surnames may be used.
  • A nickname can be used to distinguish members of the same family sharing the same name from one another. This has several common patterns among sons named for fathers:
    • The first bearer of the name can be referred to as Senior, Daddy or have "Big", or "Older" placed in front of his given name, as in "Big Pete", or "Older Pete".
    • A son named after his father (but not after his grandfather) is often referred to as Junior, Chip (also a diminutive of Charles, but in this case in reference to "a chip off the old block"), Skip, Sonny, or Deuce. Skip can also refer to a man named after his paternal grandfather, implying that the name "skipped" a generation. Another common, but much less popular nickname for a son named after his father is having "Little" placed in front of his name, as in "Little Pete", though this tends to be avoided if possible (especially if the son happens to become physically bigger than the father he's named after) due to its unpopularity with most sons who share the same name with their fathers. Likewise, a similar, and more acceptable form of this kind of nickname is to have "Younger" placed in front the younger son's name, as in "Younger Pete".
    • The third generation carrying a name (usually with III after his name) is often referred to as Trey, Tripp, or Trip (from Triple). Skip also is a frequently used nickname for "thirds" because they "skipped" being a "Junior". (This is so because, technically, one is only a "Third" if both the "Senior" and "Junior" are living when the "Third" is born; however, in the United States, the practice of a "Junior" dropping the appellation upon his father's death has all but disappeared, so many more "Thirds" are found in the US.)
    • The fourth generation carrying a name (usually with IV after his name) may be referred to as Ivy, (as in IV) Quad, Quadry, or Dru (from Quadruple).
    • The fifth generation carrying a name (usually with V after his name) may be referred to as Quint, Quince, Quincy, or Quinton (from Quintuple).
  • It may relate to a specific incident or action. Examples:
  • It may compare the person with a famous or fictional character. Examples:
    • Napoleon or Hitler for someone with a dictatorial manner.
    • Pollyanna for someone with a very optimisitc view of things.
  • It may be related to their place of origin or place of residence. Example:
    • Gloucester, Paul from Gloucester or PFG for someone named Paul who comes from Gloucestermarker.
  • It may refer to a person's political affiliation. Examples:
  • A famous person's nickname may be unique to them:

In Anglo-American culture, a nickname is often based on a shortening of a person's proper name, a diminutive. However, in other societies, this may not necessarily the case.

In Indian society, for example, generally people have at least one nickname (call name or affection name) and these affection names are generally not related to the person's proper name. Indian nicknames very often are a trivial word or a diminutive (such as Bablu, Dabbu, Banti, Babli, Gudiya, Golu, Sonu, Chhotu, Raju, Adi, Ritu, etc.).

In Australian society, typical Australian men will give nicknames that may be ironic, for example, a man with red hair will get the nickname 'Bluey'.

Nicknames of geographical places

Many geographic places adopt nicknames because they can help in establishing a civic identity, help outsiders recognize a community or attract people to a community because of its nickname, promote civic pride, and build community unity. Nicknames and slogans that successfully create a new community "ideology or myth" are also believed to have economic value. Their economic value is difficult to measure, but there are anecdotal reports of cities that have achieved substantial economic benefits by "branding" themselves by adopting new slogans.

Collective nicknames of inhabitants of a geographical place

Besides or replacing the demonym, some cities and village have collective nicknames for their inhabitants. This tradition is still strong nowadays in Walloniamarker (Belgium), where this sort of nickname is referred to in French as "Blason populaire".

See also


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