I came to this website when I was looking for a particular word - but did not use a thesaurus because I could not think of a good synonym.

Instead I searched for

Word for changing or shortening or abbreviating a given name

After amending the original search to try to get what I am seeking & so far what is here is the nearest but I KNOW there is a word for exactly that which I seek.

THIS is getting to be a long entry and unlikely to attract any, let alone many readers.

I am writing in England and am 66 years old - the word 'fanny' in my era is slang for the most intimate part of a woman's body, yet means other things in other versions of English, and is indeed used as a woman's nickname in England on some occasions. So what I am after is something about renaming akin to a nickname - I had hoped it will come back to me but it has not yet!

All this was prompted by the sight of a product supplied in a can - I am not sure where from - that contains what I know as tuna fish but is called 'Fanny' and therefore if it were seen in a British provision store might produce a smirk or embarrassed giggles because some, such as me, would consider it rude - I have said too much.

My wife could not help, she compared it to 'Betty' as an alternative to Elizabeth - but I do not think that is quite the same - as Betty - to me seems - a definite abbreviation of Elizabeth.

I may have posted this in the wrong place - I am happy for it to be repositioned perhaps with a more accurate subject line - BUT I just want to recall that blessed word and improve my grammar!

I imagine my sentence might be -

In the family she is known as Fanny because that is how we have XXXXXXXXXXX her formal name of Ermintrude/Glorianna/(or whatever)

  • "Although her formal name is [X], we have nicknamed her [Y]." I realize others mentioned "nickname", but this is how I would rephrase your sentence to use it as a verb. (By the way, as an American, I wouldnt touch a can of Spotted Dick with a ten-foot pole!) Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 18:10
  • It is poor spotted dick that comes in a can - it is best home made & I remember from school dinner days in the 1950s a& 60s Not something we have in my family as we have all eaten too many pies & puddings in the past - but a relatively cheap & easy item to make for several hundred at a time basicallya flour mix with dried fruit added & then custard poured over - the sort of thing that was manaegable in the UK in the post war years when filling children was more a priority than the quality of nutrition.. I am frightened of this stack place - I go off topic & often attract reprimands. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 9:54

5 Answers 5


hypocorism: (also known as a pet name or calling name), is a shorter or diminutive form of a word or given name, for example, when used in more intimate situations as a nickname or term of endearment.

James --> Jimmy
Charles --> Charlie

  • Thank you to Jimmy - I am sorry I did not see his answer before today. Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 8:36

You are probably looking for a word diminutive which is a noun:

A diminutive word is a "cute" version of a regular word, "Maggie" is the diminutive of "Margaret." per vocabulary.com

So your "have XXXXXXXXXXX her formal name" = "have formed a diminutive of her formal name."


You named it yourself, nickname is the term you're looking for.


(n.) a familiar form of a proper name, as Jim for James and Peg for Margaret Random House

(v.) to give a nickname to American Heritage® Dictionary

  • Not to begrudge you the upvotes but the OP does mention "nickname" in his question: So what I am after is something about renaming akin to a nickname
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 18:32
  • @Mari-LouA I overlooked that fact actually. I've just updated my answer accordingly.
    – Elian
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 20:11

Wikipedia suggests the following verbs: abbreviate, modify, contract, and shorten. Alternatively, the verb truncate could be used, which means to chop the head or the tail of something.

Abbreviation or modification

A nickname can be a shortened or modified variation on a person's real name.

  • Contractions of longer names: Margaret to Greta.

  • Initials using the first letters of a person's first and last name.

  • Dropping letters: With many nicknames, one or more letters, usually R, are dropped: Fanny from Frances, Walt from Walter.

  • Phonetic spelling : Sometimes a nickname is created through the phonetic spelling of a name: Len from Leonard

But perhaps the OP is thinking of the expression pet name, which isn't the name you give to a pet but to a dear friend, or a member of the family. It usually has no bearing with the owner's given or first name (once called Christian name).

Oxford Dictionaries tells us is:

pet name
A name that is used instead of someone’s usual first name to express fondness or familiarity

  • And ‘Pinky’ is a name (more of a pet name, really) that both men and women choose or are given.
  • Thanks to all - I have either invented something I thought I knew that never existed or still not found how to ask for the term that I seek - I am sorry to have caused work for contributors and hope there is benefit for some readers in what is been undertaken in an attempt to assist me. I deserve only down votes and no up votes for my effort - memory is an asset and yet at time a curse - especially for a dyspraxic person like me who can be certain something is 'in there somewhere' but just cannot grasp it - because it happens so frequently - I am truly sorry. Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 12:15
  • @Andrew_S_Hatton hey, no problem. I'm sorry I didn't reply earlier, must have missed your comment. If one or some of the answers helped you that's great.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 18:27
  • Thanks for the encouragement Mari-Lou A (I have yet to learn how to tag other contributors) Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 8:29
  • @Andrew_S_Hatton you need to preface a username with @ if that person is not the author of an answer or question. Hope this helps.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 8:35
  • Thanks - I must have my StackExchange settings adjusted incorrectly as I did not get an email notice I had received a response or been tagged Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 9:32

The hypocoristic form of a name is, as mentioned above, a diminutive form of a name (James becomes Jim or Jimmie, Elizabeth becomes Liz, Beth, or Bettie, Robert becomes Bob or Rob or Bobbie...) but can also refer to a pet name (which may not derive directly from the given name). A sobriquet is a nickname or pet name and requires no direct lineage to the given name (I have a friend named Howard but everyone calls him Skip). I know this is a LATE post but... just throwing it out there.

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