A nickname is a name of an entity or thing that is not its proper name. It may either be used instead of, or in addition to, the proper name. Not to be confused with a familiar or truncated form of the proper name, such as Bob, Bobby, Rob, Robbie, Robin, and Bert for Robert which is called a short name.
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 of the names, e.g., referring to children. 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.
In 1440 AD, misdivision of ekename
(1303), an eke name
, literally "an additional name," from Old English eaca
"an increase," related to eacian
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.
In the time of slavery, slaves used nicknames, like 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 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
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.
Many writers, performing artists and actors have nicknames, which may develop into a stage name
. 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
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 (i.e. Catherine "Cate" Jones). The middle name is eliminated (if there is one). Very rarely is the middle name mentioned with the nickname (exceptions being when the first name is composed of two words, e.g. "Beth Ann").
- They may refer to a person's job or title.
- Sawbones (or further shortened to "Bones," as in Dr. McCoy from Star Trek: TOS) or Doc for Doctor
- They may reference a person's physical characteristics, personality or lifestyle choices.
- In English
- Tubs, Chubby, Chubs, Fatso, or Wideload for a fat person
- Four-Eyes for a person with glasses, and train tracks for braces
- It should be noted that in English such nicknames are often considered offensive and derogatory unless the nickname is based on a trait that is viewed positively. All of the above examples would be offensive in the majority of instances.
- Sometimes, a nickname descriptive of the person will be given to one member of a social group that shares a given name with another member of the same group, e.g. "Gay Anthony" or "Little Jake".
- 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.
- It may allude to a person's mental characteristics, (though often used sarcastically):
- They may refer to the relationship with the person. This is a term of endearment.
- A nickname can also originate from someone's real name.These are usually used to make names shorter and thus easier to say.
- CJ for someone whose initials are C.J. This initialisation almost exclusively ends in J. It is less desirable, and often insultingly used, for someone called, for example, Benjamin Uriah Murton, who may be tortured by the nickname "Bum" for the rest of his life.
- 'Tommo' for an Andrew Thompson.
- 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" placed in front of his given name, as in "Big 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, or Sonny.
- The third generation carrying a name (usually with III after his name) is often referred to as Trey, Tripp, or Trip (from Triple).
- The fourth generation carrying a name (usually with IV after his name) may be referred to as Ivy (as in IV) or Dru (from Quadruple).
- The fifth generation carrying a name (usually with V after his name) may be referred to as Quint, Quince or Quincy (from Quintuple).
- It may relate to a specific incident or action.
- It may compare the person with a famous or fictional character. Examples:
- 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 Gloucester.
- It may refer to a person's political affiliation. Examples:
A famous person's nickname may be unique to them:
- Tippecanoe for William Henry Harrison
- Dubya for George W. Bush, an exaggeration of Texan pronunciation of the name of the letter 'w', President Bush's middle initial.
- Opa for the Dutch lifesaving KNRM-hero Dorus Rijkers. Dorus became a Grandpa (Dutch:Opa), at the age of 23 (by the marriage to a widow with eight children), and soon everybody called him Opa.
- 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.
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 is not necessarily the case. In Bengali society, for example, every person traditionally has one or more nicknames (dak nam or "call name") and they are rarely directly related to that person's proper name (bhalo nam or "good name"), and is very often a nonsense word (such as Bablu, Hablu, Babju, Babli, Gabli, Gablu, Ghapshu, Bapshu, etc.). Traditionally, in Bengali society, one did not receive a "good name" at birth. Various relatives would call a person by a variety of nicknames, which over time might be reduced to one or a few. A "good name" would not be decided upon until such time as it was required, such as enrollment in school. Amongst Bengalis, nicknames are used only by relatives or people who have known a person from before school age. In educational and professional settings, a person uses only his or her "good name" and his or her nickname(s) will likely be unknown.
Nicknames of geographical places
Particularly with geographical places, it is important to distinguish between nickname and title. A nickname is almost always a brief term that is either friendly or derogatory and can be substituted for the real name at will. A title is usually a multi-word term, often created for promotional purposes, sometimes created as a putdown, that cannot be substituted for the real name at will.
Most of the "city nicknames" are not nicknames; they are titles. For example, Kansas City is titled (or dubbed) 'Heart of America' and 'City of Fountains'; it is nicknamed KC. People will use KC frequently in everyday speech as a substitute for Kansas City; it is the popular nickname for the city. By contrast, the term 'City of Fountains' is uncommonly used as a title (not a nickname).