Thursday, March 29, 2012


It's amazing how many ways a new name can come about. While diminutives becoming names in their own right is something we're all familiar with (Kate, Jack, Mia, Liam), I was surprised to find out how many names were originally descriptive nicknames. As you can imagine, most were originally surnames, but a few were first given in honor of a single famous individual.
I'm leaving out nicknames derived from places/nationalities (done that already), those derived from animals (way too many), and those derived from hair/eye/skin color (again, too many, and they've mostly been covered already, too).
It's also worth noting that English often has a tendency towards sarcastic nicknames--"Tiny" for a big fellow, "Happy" for a rather dour person, "Einstein" for a slow thinker, etc. 

  • Algernon (AL-jer-non, English)--from French, "mustached". Originally given in honor of Sir William de Percy, a friend of King William the Conquerer. 
  • Augustus (aw-GUS-tus, Latin)--"great, venerable". Originally given in honor of Octavian, the first Roman emperor. Modern forms include August & Austin.
  • Barrett (BAIR-ret, English)--"dispute"; nickname for an argumentative person.
  • Blythe (BLITHE, English)--"cheery"
  • Braden (BRAY-den, English, or BRAH-dan, Irish)--from Irish, "son of the salmon". Probably originally a nickname for a clever person--in the legend of Finn McCool [Fionn mac Cumhaill], Finn gains great wisdom after eating a magic salmon.
  • Buck (BUCK, English)--"male [esp. of deer]"
  • Cade (KAYD, English)--"round"
  • Cameron (KAM-er-on, English, Scottish)--from Gaelic, "crooked nose"
  • Cassidy (KAS-sid-ee, English)--from Gaelic Caiside, "curly-haired"
  • Chase (CHAYSE, English)--nickname for a hunter
  • Courtney (KORT-nee, English)--from French, "short nose"
  • Crispin (KRIS-pin, Latin)--"curly-haired"
  • Curtis (KUR-tis, English)--from French, "polite, refined"
  • Devin (DEV-in, English)--from French, "divine, holy" [can also be a variant of Devon, a locational surname]
  • Felix (FEE-liks, FEH-liks, Latin)--"lucky"
  • Gale (GAYL, English)--"cheery, jovial"
  • Gemma (JEM-mah, Italian)--"jewel"
  • Giselle (jih-ZEL or zhih-ZEL, English, French)--from Germanic, "pledge, hostage". Likely arose from the medieval practice of sending noble children to be fostered in foreign courts, ensuring good relations between their peoples.
  • Grant (GRANT, English, Scottish)--from French, "tall, grand"
  • Hoyt (HOYT, English)--"stick", nickname for a very thin person.
  • Kaloyan (kahl-oy-ahn, Bulgarian)--from Greek kalos Ioannes, "handsome John". Originally given in honor of Emperor John II of Bulgaria. 
  • Kennedy (KEN-ed-ee, English)--from Irish Cinnéde, "misshapen head"
  • Leroy (LEE-roy, English)--from French, "the king"
  • Lloyd (LOYD, English, Welsh)--from Welsh, "grey"
  • Lucasta (loo-CAHS-tah, English)--from Latin lux casta ("pure light"). Writer Richard Lovelace's nickname for his love, Lucy, for whom he penned many poems.
  • Mallory (MAL-lor-ee, English)--from French, "unlucky"
  • Paul (PAWL, English)--from Latin Paulus "small" or "humble"
  • Seeley (SEEL-ee, English)--"happy, fortunate"
  • Talmadge (TAL-madj, English)--from French, "knapsack"; a nickname for someone who often wore a knapsack, like a peddler or soldier.
  • Terrell (TEHR-rel, ter-REL, English)--from French, "puller"; a nickname for a stubborn person.
  • Trey (TRAY, English)--"third"
  • Truman (TROO-man, English)--"trustworthy man"
  • Tyson (TYE-son, English)--from French tison, "firebrand"; a nickname for an argumentative person. [can also be a patronymic, "Dennis' son"]
  • Vaughn (VAWN, English, Welsh)--from Welsh, "little"
  • Wiley (WYE-lee, English)--"tricky" [can also be a locational surname]

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