Definition and Examples of Nicknames

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

"Let me explain something to you," says Jeff Bridges as the Dude in The Big Lebowski. "I am not 'Mr. Lebowski.' You're Mr. Lebowski. I'm the Dude. So that's what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.". (Universal Studios, 1998)

A nickname is a familiar form of a proper name (of a person or place), or any descriptive name or epithet used informally. Also known as a sobriquet or prosonomasia.

From the Old English, "extra name"

Examples and Observations

  • "Rhymes, contractions, verbal analogs and suffix additions seem to be the commonest ways of forming a nickname by internal methods: 'Colley' yields 'Dolly,' 'Patricia' goes to 'Trish' and "Ramow' to 'Cow.'"
    (Jane Morgan et al., Nicknames: Their Origins and Social Consequences. Routledge, 1979)
  • "Nicknames are often descriptive, even if allusively so, though . . . they can be based on a person's forename or surname. They may replace an original name or be used in addition to it. The latter type of nickname is familiar with royal names, e.g., Alexander the Great, Ivan the Terrible, William the Conqueror. For such names, the formula with the is common, but the nickname may appear without it."
    (Adrian Room, An Alphabetical Guide to the Language of Name Studies. Scarecrow Press, 1996)
  • Teachers' Nicknames
    "Giving teachers nicknames is a way of weakening their terrible authority, probably. . . . My friends and I had teachers and coaches we called Flipper (real last name, Flappan), Stublet (not very tall), Stank (hygiene problems), Bat (short for Wombat; real name, Wambold), Dawg (short for Schoondog; real name, Schoonover), Papa Joe (longtime gym teacher), Easy Ed (beloved basketball coach), Myhoo (real last name, Mayhew), Woodchuck (real first name, Charles). There was a Latin teacher whose real last name was Wucker, an unfairly easy target; we called him Ed (his first name), Tony (what his wife called him), or Wuck."
    (David Owen, "Call Me Loyd." The New Yorker. Feb. 11 & 18, 2008)
  • The Range of Nicknames
    "[P]laces (The Big Apple--New York), sports teams (Gunners--Arsenal), newspapers (The Thunderer--The Times), and musical works (Eroica--Beethoven's third symphony) illustrate the range of entities that have been nicknamed."
    (David Crystal, Words, Words, Words. Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • Ekename: The Origin of the Word
    "A nickname is not, as one might at first suppose, a name that has been stolen or nicked from somewhere else; it is, literally, an 'additional name.' The current form of the word, with the element as nick-, is in fact a corruption of the earlier form eke-name (with the first element as eke-). . . .
    "An eke-name, then, is orginally an additional name: your real name is eked out by having another name added to it, and in time this ekename may become a substitute for the original. But how did ekename become nickname? . . . . When the words were written down in the Middle Ages by people who had never seen them in writing, the n evidently got detached from the an and attached to the eke, giving us a nekename; and when the vowel sound in eke is subsequently shortened through fast or lazy pronunciation, we end up with today's form, nickname."
    (Tom Burton, Long Words Bother Me. Sutton, 2004)
  • Prosonomasia
    "Prosonomasia defines a person or thing by some characteristic: the Conqueror (William I of England); the dismal science (political economy); the king of beasts (the lion); the Father of Lies (Satan): the great unwashed (the populace); the Iron Duke (Wellington); the Jolly Roger (pirate flag); the Knight of the Rueful Countenance (Don Quixote); and so on."
    (Willard R. Espy, The Garden of Eloquence: A Rhetorical Bestiary. Harper & Row, 1983)
  • George Carlin on the Lighter Side of Nicknames
    "I can't understand a grown man whose nickname is Fuzzy and who actually allows people to call him that. Do these guys really introduce themselves that way? 'Hi, I'm Fuzzy.' If some guy said that to me, I would say to him, 'Well, you don't look very fuzzy to me."
    (George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? Hyperion, 2004)
  • Nicknames in Monty Python's Flying Circus
    Interviewer: Last week the Royal Festival Hall saw the first performance of a new symphony by one of the world's leading modern composers, Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson. Mr Jackson.
    Jackson: Good evening.
    Interviewer: May I just sidetrack you for one moment. Mr. Jackson, this, what shall I call it, nickname of yours.
    Jackson: Oh yes.
    Interviewer: "Two sheds." How did you come by it?
    Jackson: Well, I don't use it myself. It's just a few of my friends call me "Two Sheds."
    Interviewer: I see, and do you in fact have two sheds?
    Jackson: No. No, I've only one shed. I've had one for some time, but a few years ago I said I was thinking of getting another one, and since then some people have called me "Two Sheds."
    Interviewer: In spite of the fact that you have only one.
    Jackson: Yes.
    Interviewer: I see, and are you thinking of purchasing a second shed?
    Jackson: No.
    Interviewer: To bring you in line with your epithet?
    Jackson: No.
    (Eric Idle and Terry Jones in episode one of Monty Python's Flying Circus, 1969)
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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples of Nicknames." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). Definition and Examples of Nicknames. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples of Nicknames." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).