"I, Jimmy Carter..." James Earl Carter is sworn in as President of the United States using his nickname "Jimmy".

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,[1] which may sometimes be used simply for convenience (e.g. "Bobby", "Bob", "Rob", or "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.[2] 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.[3] This word was derived from the Old English phrase eaca "an increase", related to eacian "to increase".[4] By the 15th Century, the misdivision of the syllables of the phrase "an ekename" led to its corruption into the form "a nekename."[5] 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, viðrnefni, 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.

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.


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.

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.

Physical characteristics, personality, or lifestyle

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.

Social group

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.

Abbreviation or modification

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

Mental characteristics

It may allude to a person's mental characteristics (though often used sarcastically):

Special powers/abilities

In comics, it usually refers to a character's special powers:


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


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:


It may relate to a specific incident or action.

Famous/fictional character

It may compare the person with a famous or fictional character.

Place of origin/residence

It may be related to their place of origin or residence.


It may refer to a person's political affiliation.


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 are usually awarded to, not chosen by the recipient. For example, to differentiate two tennis partners with the same name from each other, the more junior tennis buddy may be given a differentiated name or "nickname". This is and never will be able to be chosen or even debated by the recipient. It simply is.....allocated. Paul number two in a team may be designated a name starting with the first letter of his surname. E.G.: Paul Haworth may be designated "Harry" and so on. It is a differentiator and not a statement.

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.[6] Nicknames and slogans that successfully create a new community "ideology or myth"[7] are also believed to have economic value.[6] Their economic value is difficult to measure,[6] but there are anecdotal reports of cities that have achieved substantial economic benefits by "branding" themselves by adopting new slogans.[7]

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 Wallonia (Belgium), where this sort of nickname is referred to in French as "Blason populaire".

See also

  • Athletic nickname
  • Australian national sports team nicknames
  • Category:Nicknames
  • Epithet
  • Hypocoristic
  • Legal name
  • Nicknames in darts
  • Pseudonym
  • Regimental nicknames of the Canadian Forces
  • Sobriquet
  • Terms of endearment
  • Victory titles


  1. -
  2. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 6th edition
  3. This word is all but obsolete today, but one example is found in What Snow Disrupts by Daniel C. Boyer.
  4. Harper, Douglas, Nickname,, retrieved 2007-08-31 
  5. "Nickname", Profiles in healthcare communications 22 (4): 1, 4–9, 2, July 2006, ISSN 1931-9592, PMID 16922251,, retrieved 2008-10-25 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Muench, David "Wisconsin Community Slogans: Their Use and Local Impacts", December 1993, accessed April 10, 2007.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Alfredo Andia, Branding the Generic City :), MU.DOT magazine, September 10, 2007

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