Do not assume that your relative’s nickname was derived from their actual birth, legal, or Christian name. The reasons for that nickname may now be lost to history and could be for reasons ranging from the serious to the sublime. NIcknames are usually alternate names based upon a characteristic, life event, behavior, etc. and do not stem from the actual name itself. Shortened names are usually referred to as diminutives.  twelvefoot


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8 Responses

  1. Amen – my father[‘s nickname was Bunk. Apparently my mother and sister had asked, in the past, where it came from and he claimed not to remember. On the other hand, my mother’s nickname was Fuzz and seeing pictures of her hair as a teenager or young adult leaves no doubt as to where the nickname came from. And my nickname is a combination of theirs which I have had, with variations, since birth; I should write that down somewhere so my great grandchildren will understand its origin.

  2. It’s possible, too, that a nickname was derived to help distinguish other family members with the same name. For instance, we have several Valentines, Johns and Abrahams in my father’s family several generations back. Some of the Valentines have nicknames. I’ve seen “Red Fox” for one, “Squire” for another. As for the ones named John, I’ve seen one nicknamed “Devil Jack”. The most famous of the ones named John was also given the nickname of Nolichucky Jack or just Chucky Jack, based on the fact he lived on the Nolichucky River in what is now Tennessee.

    I can’t help but wonder if “Red Fox” had red, or reddish hair. I don’t even wish to speculate on how “Devil Jack” got his name. LOL

  3. My Aunt Pink’s given name was Maude. She got her nickname because she tried to dye her blonde hair red. You can figure out the rest… :o)

  4. All my life I wondered why my uncle, whose name was Albert Porter Cox, was known by everyone included his sister, my Mother, as Dolly. Not many years ago I found in our Family History material a photograph of him with his older brothers and sister. He was dressed in a little doll like outfit looking like littlle Lord Fontleroy. Ah ha. Uncle Dolly.

  5. Yes I agree. My partner’s Uncle was nicknamed “Dot”. Nobody knew why until his son volunteered that Dot had had a mole on his leg and this led to his nickname. But although the son knew the reason, his daughter did not. And when I told her, she replied “yes that’s right, he DID have a big mole on his leg!” My father, named Harry is called Bill and his father named Reginald was called Clive. Go figure. Why didn’t the parents just give the boy the right name in the first place????

  6. My father-in-law was always Budd. His name was Harry. There seem to be a number of Budds or Buddys in his generation. He was born in 1900

  7. My dad was always known as “Nubb.” eventually heard that he was a preemie and was “no bigger than a nubbin’.” Also my tall grandfather George was always called “Shorty.” You are right We need to document these.

  8. Interesting post on nicknames. They are popular in my family and can make identifying deceased relatives a challenge, especially for those of us whom as children only knew our elders by their nicknames vs. their legal first names. Hence Bud is legally Harry, Babe is legally Edward, Sparky is legally Joseph, Scooter is legally Russell, Beaver is legally Bret, Pudsy is legally Carol, Doodles is legally Darma, Red is legally Solomon, Snooky is legally Carol (another one in the family), and the list goes on and on.

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