How to Come Up With Nicknames

Nicknames have been around for as long as the written word.

Many historians believe that Plato wasn’t a real name, rather it was a nickname given to the famous philosopher.

That is how it goes with nicknames, in most cases, you don’t get to choose your nickname.

In fact, you could have different nicknames in different quarters. For example, your mom and dad might have different nicknames for you. Your friends will also have different names for you.

Irrespective of who gives a nickname, most nicknames come from the following sources:

How to come up with nicknames

Physical Characteristics

Nicknames, monikers, and aliases can be used by people to describe a certain physical characteristic or way that someone looks.

For example, in Australia, red-headed guys are often nicknamed ‘Bluey and an individual who blinks a lot, or never blinks at all, might be called ‘Blinky.’

Also, nicknames can be ironic. For example, a short guy named Jimmy could be nicknamed ‘Big Jim.’

Furthermore, nicknames based on physical attributes may be derogatory. For example, a one-eyed guy named Sunday could be nicknamed One-eyed Sunday.

Examples of Nicknames Based on Physical Characteristics

  • Beanpole: great for someone who is tall and thin
  • Tiny: a fun nickname for a small person. Or, ironically used for a big person
  • Sputnik: a classic nickname for a person with a ‘bowl’ haircut. This nickname references the Russian space program, too
  • Freckles: a cute nickname for someone who has a lot of freckles
  • Babyface: a perfect nickname for someone who looks a lot younger than they are

Personality

Also, nicknames can be based on a person’s personality or quirks.

For example, a guy called Dave who likes to go out a lot might be nicknamed ‘Dave the rave.’ Or a shy woman called Susan might earn herself the pet name – ‘Shy Susie.’

Remember, nicknames often have an element of humor, so that it can be ironic. A guy called ‘Quiet Brian’ might have an unstoppable motor-mouth!

Examples of Nicknames Based on Personality

  • Debbie Downer: A good nickname for someone who is quite depressive.
  • Miss Sunshine: A perfect nickname for a girl with a sunny disposition, or use it ironically!
  • Einstein: The ideal nickname for your brainy friend.
  • Nervous Nellie: Someone who is nervy and cautious a lot of the time.
  • Sloth: A great nickname for someone who is slow or lazy.

Their Real Name

Many nicknames are based on the person’s real name. Quite often, a person’s name is shortened or modified to create a nickname.

People with multi-syllable names such as Joseph, Nicolas, and Benjamin often go by the shorter version of their name. In this case, Joseph becomes Joe, Nicholas becomes Nick, and Benjamin becomes Ben or Benji.

Names can be lengthened as well. For instance, Juno might become ‘Juno Bug.’ A guy named Barack could be nicknamed Obama because he shares the same first name with Ex-President Barack Obama.

Furthermore, nicknames can be derived by adding a suffix to someone’s name. For example, add a ‘y’ onto the end of Smith, and it becomes Smithy.

We also use other diminutives as nicknames. For example, the -ette suffix can denote femininity or smallness. As found in Smurfette, Babette, and Lovette.

Examples of Nicknames Based on Their Real Name

  • Mac: The perfect nickname for anyone whose last name starts with Mac or Mc
  • Jonesy: A common nickname for someone whose last name is Jones
  • Rob, Robbie, Bob, Bobby: All are shortened forms of Robert
  • Issy: A commonly-used nickname for women, from Isabella, Isadora, and the like
  • Steph: A unisex nickname for people called Stephen and Stephanie

Traditional Nicknames

Also, some first names are associated with traditional nicknames. Richard turns into ‘Dick’ among the baby-boomer generation – this is less popular these days! Or Charles becomes ‘Chuck’ and William ‘Bill,’ like Bill Clinton. These associated nicknames pass in, and out of fashion and with time, some of these pet names fall out of usage.

Similarly, many languages have traditional nicknames for individual names. For instance, in Arabic cultures, people called Mohamed are often called Hamoudi or Momo.

Examples of Nicknames Based on Tradition

  • Meg: Traditional nickname for Margaret.
  • Hank: Traditional nickname for Henry.
  • Ted or Teddy: Traditional nickname for Edward.
  • Jack: Traditional nickname for John.
  • Kat or Cat: Traditional nicknames for Katherine, spelled with a K or a C.

Nationality or Hometown

Nicknames are frequently based on where a person is from, especially when that person is living in another city or country. For example, an American in a foreign country could be nicknamed “The American or Yankee.”

Similarly, Cities or boroughs could be used as nicknames. A woman from Manhattan who visits Brooklyn or Queens might get called ‘Manhattan.’ In some cases, these nicknames are based on nationwide jokes. For example, a New Zealander from Auckland might get called a ‘Jafa’ (just another f***ing Aucklander) when living outside the city!

Examples of Nicknames Based on Where Someone is From

  • Kentucky Fried: A fun nickname for someone from Kentucky, USA
  • Kiwi: A commonly used nickname for people from New Zealand
  • Banana Bender: Slightly derogatory nickname for people from Queensland, Australia
  • Arky: A person from Arkansas, USA
  • Scouse: A person from Liverpool, UK
  • Lagosian: A person from Lagos, Nigeria.

Remember to be a bit careful when choosing a nickname based on which country a person is from; you don’t want to cause offense or be racist in any manner.

Rhymes

Like Lewis Carroll’s character ‘Humpty-Dumpty,’ some nicknames can be based on rhymes and connotations. So, ‘Jake the Snake’ might be a shifty guy and ‘Stormin’ Norman’ might be a tearaway.

These types of nicknames can be playful and lighthearted: ‘Slim Jim’ could be a slender guy – or a bit of a sausage!

If you’re choosing a nickname for yourself, have a think, maybe there is a rhyme that goes well with your name. But make sure that the connotations that arise suit you or the person that you are choosing the nickname for. There’s no need to be ‘Slick Rick’ if you don’t identify with the ‘smooth guy’ connotations that come up.

Examples of Nicknames Based on Rhymes

  • Silly Billy: a well-known nickname for people who are careless or a bit silly
  • Lucus Mucus: a slightly cruel name for someone who is quite snotty!
  • Jelly Belly: a nickname that can be used affectionately or in a derogatory way
  • Jim Jam: the perfect nickname for children called Jim, plays on the colloquial word for pajamas.
  • Luke the Fluke: an ideal nickname for someone who gets lucky a lot

Occupation

Many nicknames are derived from what a person does for a living.

Some of these nicknames are traditional, like ‘Sparky’ in Australian English refers to an electrician.

So, when you’re trying to come up with a Nickname for a person, consider the person’s profession and any interesting element of their job that would make a great nickname.

Examples of Nicknames Based on Occupation

  • Doc: Short form of Doctor; appropriate nickname for a medical doctor or any other kind of doctor.
  • Prof: an ideal nickname for a professor, academic or even a bookish person!
  • Bones: for an orthopedic medical professional or a paleontologist.
  • Cheif: the perfect nickname for someone who holds a high rank in an organization
  • Cooky: for people who are chefs or cooks
  • Ambulance Chaser: for lawyers who work mostly on accident and injury small claims

Mannerisms and Quirks

Every person has particular and unique quirks or mannerisms. These idiosyncrasies can be either endearing or annoying – or perhaps both at the same time!

Mannerisms can be seen in both the way a person speaks and the way in which they act or behave.

Some people exhibit a lot of wacky or goofy quirks. For example, Kramer from ‘Seinfeld.’

Also, some people have a particular turn of speech that distinguishes them. For example, Chandler from ‘Friends’ had a habit of starting every sentence ”Could it BE anymore…”.

Perhaps, the person who needs a nickname has an interesting and obvious quirk that could be played upon.

Examples of Nicknames Based on Mannerisms

  • Way back: a great nickname for someone who uses the phrase ”I’m a gun from way back” a lot.
  • Blinky: perfect for a person who blinks a lot, or not at all!
  • Twitch: ideal for an individual who twitches or moves around a lot.
  • Jiggles: the perfect choice for people who jiggle their legs when sitting
  • Spangles: an awesome nickname for your high-energy and flamboyant friend

Initialization

Not all nicknames are complex or rich in meaning, in fact, some are very simple.

Consider the person’s initials, would they make a good nickname? Some of these nicknames are also derived from hyphenated first names, such as JP for Jon-Paul.

Not only the first and last initial can be used: many people make use of their middle initial in nicknames, too.

Throughout history, writers have a long tradition of using initialization. Thomas Stearns Eliot went by T.S.Eliot. His fellow modernist writer, Hilda Dolittle, went by H.D.

Initialization can be a great choice particularly if the moniker will go to someone who is studious or serious!

Examples of Nicknames Based on Initials

  • JJ: a common nickname for a person with two ‘J’s in their initials
  • JT: like Justin Timberlake
  • KC: a nickname which sounds good for people with these initials
  • CC: a perfect nickname for anyone with these initials. Can also be used as a first name – CeeCee
  • Dubya: for anyone with a ‘W’ initial. Use with caution; not everyone wants to be associated with George W. Bush!

Themes

In the quest for the perfect nickname, consider adopting a theme of sorts.

Would you like the nickname to be cute, funny, witty, cool, or perhaps even a little bit sexy?

Be careful with the more risque monikers though, if the nickname is NSFW (not safe for work) you might want to keep it as a pet name between yourselves only!

Consider fields such as mythology or literature too, and your theme can be as diverse as you want it to be. Use connotations to build up a shortlist of nicknames that fit into your chosen theme.

Examples of Nicknames Based on Themes:

  • Machiavelli: perfect nickname for someone who is witty. Or thinks they are!
  • Icarus: from mythology, Icarus flew too close to the sun. Perfect for someone who makes dangerous or impulsive decisions!
  • Neo: a cool nickname for a guy. Think of Keanu in the Matrix
  • Puppies: a funny nickname for a woman who is quite busty. Be careful; this nickname isn’t always appreciated!
  • Stallion: a sexy themed nickname for the man in your life

Hobbies, Likes, and Dislikes

Everyone has things they love to do and things they hate to do. Drawing on these can be an interesting way to come up with a nickname for someone.

Quite often these sorts of nicknames are based on metaphors that are well entrenched in the language. For example, we say that people who are green-fingered are great at gardening and that people who are good at multiple practical tasks are a jack-of-all-trades.

Remembering to include an element of humor or irony can produce an excellent nickname, particularly when the nickname plays upon things the person hates to do, yet is reflected in the nickname.

Examples of Nicknames Based on Hobbies, Likes, and Dislikes

  • Greenthumb: the perfect nickname for a gardener. Or those with interest in ‘herbs’!
  • Heisenberg: an ideal nickname for someone who loves chemistry, references ‘Breaking Bad.’
  • Sugar n Spice: a sweet nickname for someone who loves to bake.
  • Jitters: a funny nickname for someone who loves coffee, and drinks too much of it!
  • Kid Wonder: a cool nickname for someone into comics and comic book characters

Cultural References – TV

Like Chandler Bing, who we discussed above, TV offers up a wealth of characters who are a great inspiration when choosing a nickname for someone. For maximum impact when making a nickname based on a cultural reference from TV, choose a character that people know and love – or hate!

These don’t always have to be current TV or movie characters. Consider Tonto and The Lone Ranger, although we may have never seen the original TV show from the 50s, we have a sense of their characters. That is, the cultural currency they carry has endured.

Examples of Nicknames Based on TV

  • Maximus: for the gladiator in your life
  • Khaleesi: an ideal nickname for a beautiful blonde. Even better if she loves dragons!
  • Crazy Eyes: a perfect nickname for your slightly twisted friends.
  • Cartman: funny nickname for someone who looks a bit like a ‘South Park’ character
  • Hannibal: for the friend with worrying tendencies!

Cultural References – Video Games

There’s no need for the person who needs a nickname to be a big gamer. Of the quests and protagonists who initially captured our attention from video games, many have spread far and carry the same cultural currency that TV characters and scenarios do.

Of course, if the person who is in want of a nickname is a gamer, you’ll have a rich mine to dig through while seeking the perfect alias for them. Or you could involve their gaming habits in the nickname: those who spent a lot of time gaming are often called hardcore gamers.

Examples of Nicknames Based on Video Games

  • Lemming: a perfect nickname for someone who always follows the pack
  • Blue Pill: an ideal nickname for people who live in an alternative universe, references the Matrix
  • Spyro: for your high-energy gamer friend who always has a mission
  • Croft or Crofty: perfect for a female gamer who is a bit like Lara Croft
  • Pacman: for the gamer who never stops eating!

Couple Nicknames

Nicknames don’t have to be for individuals; they can be given to couples, too.

Perhaps you know a real-life Bonnie and Clyde. Or a particularly romantic couple, the modern-day Romeo, and Juliet. When coming up with a nickname for a couple, or even a pair of people who are friends, think about the dynamic between them and how can you use that in crafting the perfect nickname.

Examples of Nicknames for Couples

  • Sugar and Spice: is one person sweet and the other a little spicy?
  • Stud and Muffin: a cute nickname for a couple
  • Louis and Marie: perfect nicknames for a regal and perhaps indulgent couple, this nickname references the last king of France and his wife
  • Adam and Eve: perhaps the most famous couple of all!
  • Scarlett and Rhett: although Rhett might have said he didn’t ‘give a damn,’ it was obvious he loved Scarlett deeply!

Inside Jokes

All couples and best friends have little jokes that only they know about. These inside jokes can run for years at a time and are an excellent source of nicknames, and ridicule! Choosing a nickname based on a joke that only a few people know, might mean losing a bit of the humor impact. But then again, it’ll be a lot of fun for the couple or the friends involved!

Examples of Nicknames Based on Inside Jokes

  • Myopic: the perfect nickname for a person who can never find things
  • Al Fresco: an excellent nickname for couples that might refer to more than dining preferences! *Hint hint, wink wink*
  • Moral compass: perfect nickname and joke for friends to refer to the (poor) choices you’ve made!
  • The Milky Bar Kid: referencing a famous commercial, this nickname could also apply to a part of your man’s anatomy!
  • East-West or North-South: the perfect nickname for someone who doesn’t know if they are coming or going

Famous Person/ Incident / Organization

It is not uncommon for people to be called a nickname based on a popular person or incident.

For example, after 9/11, every guy with a beard similar to Osama Bin Laden’s was nicknamed Osama. People from the Middle-East were called nicknames such as terrorists.

A better example would be calling a genius – Da Vinci or a rich guy – Bill Gates.

Examples of Nicknames Based on Famous People

  • MJ – A great dancer could be called Michael Jackson.
  • Gandhi – A knowledgeable and calm guy could be nicknamed Gandhi.
  • Rihanna – A lady with similar attributes to Rihanna.
  • Yokozuna – Not as common as it used to be, it is a funny nickname for fat guys.
  • CIA – For a secretive and mysterious person.

Now that you’ve read through the ways to come up with a nickname, either for yourself or someone else, get creative!

Consider the person’s real name, their appearance and personality, their hometown or nationality, and any rhymes that go with their name. Think about what they do, what they love and hate, and any special things that you know about them.

Each person is so diverse and full of different attributes and as a result, there are several cool ways to craft lighthearted, funny, and suitable nicknames for anyone.

Always remember to think outside the box: there’s no reason why someone who loves baba ganoush, the Middle-Eastern dip, can’t be called Noosh!

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