Name My Character: Diminutive Edition
October 8, 2022 1:07 PM   Subscribe

I have a female character that needs a name and accompanying diminutive with some parameters.

She needs a formal name that pretty much everyone calls her by (think Elizabeth). However, there is another character that will be shortening her name. So she needs a loose diminutive.

The parameters are:

1. The diminutive can't really be a stand-alone name (i.e. Sue for Susan or Will for William). Two examples I have already are Whit (for Whitney) and Rox (for Roxy/Roxanne).

2. The diminutive form needs to use the beginning of her name. I'm really just looking for a shortening of her name using the first few letters. So, no "Babs" for Barbara or "Peg" for Margaret.

3. The diminutive form needs to be one syllable.

4. The diminutive needs to not sound dumb and I know this is very subjective. It needs to be more of a natural shortening of the name. "Dor" for Dorothy just doesn't do it for me.

5. I'd like it to be a little original or not obvious - "Jen" for Jennifer is obvious. "Rox" for Roxy/Roxanne is not as obvious, I feel.

This has been plaguing me for weeks and I'm having issues coming up with exactly what I'm looking for. In the end, I could go for the Whit or the Rox, but I'd love to see what else is out there. I know this is sort of a hand-wavy vague question, but my brain is just having such a hard time coming up with what I'm looking for.

Hit me with your ideas!
posted by Sassyfras to Writing & Language (45 answers total)
“Mer” for Meredith? Pronounced like mare.
posted by punchtothehead at 1:09 PM on October 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cyn for Cynthia?
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:17 PM on October 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Jewels for Julia?
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:18 PM on October 8, 2022

posted by quacks like a duck at 1:28 PM on October 8, 2022

Cam - Camilla
Scar - Scarlett
Lay - Layla
Eye - Isla or Iris (which has the added cleverness of the iris being part of the eye...)
Roo - Ruby
Sav - Savannah
Roe - Rose
Ray - Reagan
Ez - Esme
Jazz - Jasmine
Liv - Olivia

All from browsing the first 200 names on this list and seeing what felt good. There are 1000 names in all so you might find more! Now I look at them, mine are all heavy on v, y, z, I don't know why, your tastes may vary, but you could have a browse.
posted by penguin pie at 1:33 PM on October 8, 2022

El or Ellie/Eleanor
Gabs/Gabriella or Gabrielle
Jo/Jolana or Jordana or Jolene or Joanne
posted by shadygrove at 1:36 PM on October 8, 2022

(And you could be more phonetic if you need to keep the spellings of the full name eg. Ro for Rose, Es for Esme etc).
posted by penguin pie at 1:36 PM on October 8, 2022

El for Eliza/Elizabeth
Aim or Ames for Amelia/Amethyst/Amy

And then there's always just using the first letter or sound of a name, like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer where the character Faith just calls Buffy "B" (could also be written as "Bee"). L or El for any name beginning with L or El, K or Kay for any name beginning with K, M or Em for any name beginning with M, etc... I once knew a girl who went by Jay but her name was Giancarla.
posted by erst at 1:41 PM on October 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Lil for Lillian
posted by brujita at 1:42 PM on October 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Cass for Cassandra.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:43 PM on October 8, 2022

Frank for Frankie, George for Georgie, Theo for Theodora, Alex from Alexandra, Bea from Beatrice. See also.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:43 PM on October 8, 2022

Lin/Lyn for Linda/Lynette
posted by belladonna at 1:44 PM on October 8, 2022

Best answer: Ant for Antoinette, Antonia
Ath for Athena
Fell for Felicia, Felicity
Hel for Helen, Helena, Helene (perhaps too obvious)
Just for Justine
Pet for Petra, Petronella
Sel for Celeste, Celine, Selena, Selina
Tab for Tabitha
Tan for Tania, Tansy, Tanya.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:54 PM on October 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Kath/Cath for Katherine/Catherine
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:22 PM on October 8, 2022

Pen for Penelope
posted by tavegyl at 2:24 PM on October 8, 2022

Li / Lil / Lilly
Ro / Ros / Rosalind
Ke / Kel / Kelly
Bel / Belinda
Bea / Beatrice
posted by Thella at 2:34 PM on October 8, 2022

One of my grandmother's sisters had Captolla (spelling ?!?!) for a middle name.

Captolla / Cap?
posted by Stuka at 2:39 PM on October 8, 2022

I think Mel (for Melissa or Melanie or Melinda) has the kind of jaunty but easy sound you seem to be going for.
posted by little striped mule at 2:40 PM on October 8, 2022

Charlotte/ Shar
Caroline/ Care
Sophia/ Sofe
Madeline/ Mad
Georgiana/ Jor
posted by phunniemee at 3:03 PM on October 8, 2022

Bay for Bailey
Day for Daisy or Dana
Hay for Haley
Cal for Callista or Calliope
Des for Desdemona, Desiree or Destiny (pronounced Dez or Dess depending on the original name)
Lor for Lori, Laura, Lorraine, etc.
Ki (or Kee or Key) for Kiana
Ken for Kendra
Sim for Simone
Tee for Tia
Zo for Zoe
posted by Redstart at 3:21 PM on October 8, 2022

Ab for Abigail
Jo for Josephine
Bree/Bri for Brianna
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:29 PM on October 8, 2022

Brit for Brittany?
posted by MadamM at 3:34 PM on October 8, 2022

Fran from Francesca.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:45 PM on October 8, 2022

Vic for Victoria
posted by eponym at 4:08 PM on October 8, 2022

Best answer: Court / Courtney
Chel, Chels / Chelsea
Shan / Shannon
Stace / Stacey
Trace / Tracey
Tam / Tamara
Haze / Hazel
Shel / Shelby
Gen / Geneva, Genevieve
Viv / Vivian
Marce / Marcella
Suze / Suzette (Suzanne, Suzanna)

a) Using first few letters, with pronunciation-hint endings: Trish / Tricia; Roe / Rowan; Day / Daisy
b) Diminutives that are traditionally male stand-alones: Bran / Brandy, Brandi, Branwen; Don / Donna; Val / Valerie; Van / Vanessa; Nic / Nicole, Nicolette; Phil / Philomena, Phillipa
Combo of a and b: Ray / Rachel
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:12 PM on October 8, 2022 [5 favorites]

Mar or Marg for Margaret
Cam for Camille
Tam for Tamara
Shel for Shelley
Ju for Judith
Ru for Ruth
Fel for Felicia
Bev for Beverley
Ro for Roberta
Lo for Loretta
posted by vunder at 4:16 PM on October 8, 2022

In The Four Gated City Doris Lessing makes kind of a big deal about the way some stereotypical Brits insist on calling a Jewish woman named Sarah who has married into their circle 'Sally', which was evidently the standard diminutive for 'Sarah' in their mileu.

Lessing uses it as marker for a quality of indelibility in British anti-Semitism, but if you had a character named Sarah who wasn’t Jewish, I'd see it as an amusing allusion to that practice if people called her 'Sal'.
posted by jamjam at 5:40 PM on October 8, 2022

Catherine (Katerina) and Kat? Not formally a diminutive, and possibly obvious, but I know a real person who goes by those names.
posted by eotvos at 5:46 PM on October 8, 2022

Using an initial is a quick "one size fits all" method of keeping track of people. Very "your corporate email account is now" with little input from the subject involved.

The big question-- phonetic spelling or just the capital letter?
Aye or A? Zee or Zed? L, M and N or El, Em and En?

Acknowledging this is a sloppy and somewhat dismissive method of shortening a name -- "I know you have an identity but I just can't be bothered right now. Be glad you are not one of the many Em, Ems, Emmy and Emtos (Emily #2) in my life. How annoying -- for me."
posted by TrishaU at 5:56 PM on October 8, 2022

Mar from Marilyn (my spouse’s name).
posted by lhauser at 6:11 PM on October 8, 2022

A for Amy
Bea for Beatrice
Cee for Cecelia
Dee for Delores
posted by explosion at 6:51 PM on October 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

posted by warriorqueen at 8:07 PM on October 8, 2022

Ave for Avery
Cor for Coralina/Cordelia/Courtney
Dee for Diahndra
Dev for Devika
Ev for Evelyn
Gray for Graciela
Jos for Jocelyn
Lav for Lavinia
Lee for Liara
Lu for Lucinda/Luciana
Mac for Maxine/Mackenzie
Mal for Mallory
Mic for Micaela
Mil for Milena
Min for Minerva
Nav for Navarra
Pal for Paloma
Pris for Priscilla
Reb for Rebecca
Ro for Romina/Rosalyn
Sab for Sabrina
Sav for Savannah
Sil for Sylvia
Tal for Tallulah
Tat for Tatiana
Val for Valerie/Valentina
Virge for Virginia
Win for Wynona
posted by eyeball at 8:39 PM on October 8, 2022

posted by Lotto at 3:29 AM on October 9, 2022

Lee for Leah is one that I hate having used on me, but maybe your character will be into it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:56 AM on October 9, 2022

Is this character American? How old is she? When is the story set? Names trend in and out of fashion, so choosing a name associated with the character's generation helps place her in the setting. Naming a character Whitney suggests to readers that she was born between 1985 and 1995; naming a character Dorothy suggests she was born in the first half of the 20th century.

The top 1000 list above is great if you're setting your story decades into the future. For a contemporary or historical U.S. setting, you can browse Social Security baby name data for the top names in a given birth year and the trend for any given name. Or you can download megabytes of historical naming data and generate a spreadsheet of baby name statistics to sort by era and popularity. Then you can browse the candidates for a name that fits your character's personality and ethnicity.

I can't tell you what nickname this particular character would answer to, just what possibilities are out there. You can always use a placeholder to start writing her dialogue with the character who addresses her informally, then pick from your shortlist whatever best fits their voices and the rhythm of the scene.
posted by backwoods at 9:25 AM on October 9, 2022 [1 favorite]


You could also do Bridge/Bridget.
posted by spiderbeforesunset at 9:54 AM on October 9, 2022

Best answer: Tiff - Tiffany
Kel - Kelsey
Tay - Taylor
Bee - Bianca
Case - Casey
posted by Redstart at 12:11 PM on October 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hel/Helen
posted by daisystomper at 1:23 PM on October 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Kat or Kay or Kate for Kathryn (or Katherine or Catherine)
posted by kathrynm at 1:27 PM on October 9, 2022

Zel for Zelda
Dee for Denise
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 1:30 PM on October 9, 2022

Response by poster: I’m really digging the Cyn/Cynthia and Hel/Helen since my character was raised in a strict religious household and it can be a source of amusement when the character calls her this.

Also love Court/Courtney and Case/Casey in that they are natural sounding shortening of the name without them typically being a name on their own.
posted by Sassyfras at 2:07 PM on October 9, 2022

I think the whole name should be oddly long which would force someone into the short name.

Vivianette - Viv
Esmeralda - Ez
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:22 PM on October 9, 2022

character was raised in a strict religious household
Nev / Nevaeh
Tab / Tabitha
Bern / Bernadette, Bernice
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:59 PM on October 9, 2022

Harm / Harmony
Chair / Charity

Riffing on the religious amusements
posted by meinvt at 8:04 PM on October 9, 2022

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