04 April 2015

Diminutive Names

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you'd want to know about naming characters.**

The name you're given at birth isn't always the name you use throughout your life. A common practice is using a diminutive name. According to behindthename.com, "a diminutive of a given name is a short and/or affectionate form. Often they are only used by friends and relatives." Basically, if you use a shortened version of a name, then the result is a diminutive name. You probably hear them all the time. You might even have one!

A diminutive is really just a fancy word for a nickname, but one that is derived from the actual name itself. Sometimes a person's first name is just too long to use all the time. They or the people they know may prefer to use a different version of their name. Some common examples are Mike from Michael, Nick from Nicholas, or Jen from Jennifer.

So how does this factor in when you're naming your characters? Mostly it will just reflect real life. A person with a particularly long first name probably won't always be called by that name. It gives you more options for addressing your characters. It can be fun to mix up which names you use and who uses them, as long as you don't make it too confusing!

FUN TIP: Have your character use different versions of his/her name with different people. Maybe William is "Will" with his colleagues and "Billy" with his family.

Where you find the diminutive will be different from name to name. You can often take a nickname from the beginning or the end of the whole given name. Alexander could be Alex or Xander.
Some names can have seemingly endless possibilities for diminutives. Elizabeth could go by Liz, Lizzie, Eliza, or even Beth. Robert could be Rob, Bob, or Bobby. Some shortened names can work for both girls and boys: Sam could be Samuel or Samantha, Pat could be Patrick or Patricia. Some diminutives are made by just adding on a -y or -ie suffix to a name, like Johnny, Charlie, or Debbie.

WHAT I'VE DONE: Diminutive names are some of my favorites! I'm not even kidding when I say that I've put at least one in each of my major novel ideas. Which I will now list for you, of course (in chronological order of when I created them).
·         Camilla - - > Cami
·         Andrew - - > Drew
·         Alexander - - > Alex
·         Benjamin - - > Ben/Benny
·         Thomas - - > Tom
·         Cameron - - > Cam
·         Abigail - - > Abby
·         Gabriel - - > Gabe
For some characters, I’ve just used the diminutive name throughout the story, for others I’ve used both. Every character will be different and you just have to do what feels natural for them and for your story.

Have you ever used a diminutive name for a character (of course you have!)? Do you just use the shortened name or do you switch back and forth? 


  1. My sis and I had fun with diminutive names in our book series The Haward Mysteries, in fact, one story, Rite Name, is all about finding a name, - the two main characters, twins, are Romulus and Remus Haward, and when they are young, they are known as Romy and Remy, classic diminutive names. Romy, however, doesn't feel right with his name, which upsets his twin, since Remy likes their names being so similar.
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles
    Wittegen Press

  2. You had an Alex, which is just beyond awesome. Yeah, Alexander is just too long. My whole name is a mouthful.
    Ironically, I've not used a diminutive name in my stories. The names were all short to begin with.

  3. I have a diminutive, but I sure didn't know nick names were called that. ;)

  4. All my characters in Path of Angels use diminutive names. When their full name is used, it's usually because the moment is serious.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee's Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  5. Where I live, diminutive names are so common that when I named my children I had to think how their names would be shrunk down and used, making sure I like all the possible variants. My own name I've trimmed into Rae, which is short and sweet.

  6. Excellent tip. Anyway we can mimic real life, the better.

    (And about that tire iron on my blog post...they're super easy. You just put the the cupped end on the doo-hicky on the tire and spin. That said, knowing HOW to use one doesn't ever mean I WILL. I mean, seriously, it's greasy and dirty...a call to AAA for us is the common sense approach)

  7. I really love giving my characters nicknames, though I do get carried away sometimes, lol. Love that tip!

  8. Good point! I have a diminutive name (full name is Zenobia, most people call me Zee), but I have to admit I hadn't thought of giving characters nicknames. Definitely something to think about for my next book.

    Thanks, Sarah.

  9. Yes I've used diminutives - quite a few times. I think it makes for a natural flow in dialogue as it's what we'd do. For example the main character of my latest novel, Rayna is called Ray by her husband or her friend/colleague at the pub she works at. I'm always called Fran but people often get my full name wrong!

  10. This is a interesting topic. Characters should be realistic and a lot of people you encounter every day use diminutives forms of their name. My dad uses the diminutive of his middle name!

  11. Absolutely! It's one great way to characterize quickly.

  12. Different people have different nicknames for me. Not sure why, but I do like it.


  13. In my latest book (Scattered Seasons, which will come out on the 28th, yay!), the main character is named Gwendolyn. She generally goes by Gwen, but her old-fashioned aunt insists on using her full name--even when she's not mad at her.

  14. My name is Stephanie and I always assumed there was no fun way to liven that up. But when I was reading a page where people had posted how they felt about their name (designed for parents choosing baby names) I found a lot of people chose to change the spelling or go by names like Stevie. I can't believe I never even tried that!

  15. Although Debbie is often short for Deborah. lol Though I prefer Deb.

  16. A few people have called me Nessie instead of Vanessa. Happy Easter Monday!

  17. I think I've had characters shorten names in dialogue a time or two. I've done a Josh for Joshua as well. Using a diminutive is a nice tool for showing relationships.

    Tammy (from Tamara)

  18. I love shortening names.
    My son is DJ and I still shorten it to D!
    You would probably be S after a while.

  19. Here's where I can really screw with your mind.
    I wasn't given a name at birth.
    The Name Giver doesn't come until you're much older.
    Sorry I didn't get to your blog earlier in the A to Z Challenge. I could have given you a whole post based just on my people and my personal experience.
    Hmm... maybe that'll be my theme next year. LOL. Never know.