I counted, 46 / 100 of the most popular dog names end with an ē sound, and 5/10 of the most popular cat names in the UK end with an ē sound. ( 32/100 cat names from a broader but less accurate source )

But only 14/100 of the most popular men's names and 17/100 of the most popular women's names end with an ē sound.

Small children tend to suffix items with the ē sound, such as in the words "mommy", "daddy", "bunny", and "kitty" if this helps at all. I think that perhaps this is the orgin of the ē sound because children are allowed to name pets far more often than they're allowed to name people, but that is just a hypothesis. I also read on wikipedia that these pet names are intended to act as a diminutive to make the pet seem smaller/cuter , so that's a start.

This has been driving me crazy for weeks, can somebody please explain why ~50% of pets are named with an ē sound while only ~15% of people are named with an ē sound?

  • 1
    Related: Origin of the “-y” or “-ie” diminutive suffix to denote intimacy/tenderness? The answers to that question give some different perspectives on the origin of this ending. Just to clarify, by "pet names" you mean names for actual pets, not names for people, right? The phrase "pet name" is also used to refer to an affectionate nickname for a person, so your title is ambiguous.
    – herisson
    Aug 17, 2016 at 4:38
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    @DivideByZero - I think that the intimacy/tenderness issues which are valid for humans are valid also for pets which, as a matter of fact, are part of family life.
    – user66974
    Aug 17, 2016 at 6:15
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    I think @Josh61 doesn't go far enough. Not only are pets part of family life, they're small, dependent parts like children. Children are often called by diminutive forms of their real name, as well as choosing such forms themselves (in fact they often insist on being called by the diminutive with the -ie ending).
    – Chris H
    Aug 17, 2016 at 6:36
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    Slightly off topic, but just to illustrate how common this is... There are probably prosodic reasons why multi-syllable names may be preferred in general but I find it's even more important for pets' names given how frequently they're used to "call after" them. When naming our cat, my wife hesitated about my preference for a single syllable name, to which my response was, "Yeah, but we're going to call him name+y anyway." And we do, of course. Notably when we just use the single syllable, very often it's preceded by a cutesy "Oh" or a faux Spanish "Es," rendering it two syllables again.
    – MDHunter
    Mar 18, 2017 at 18:19

3 Answers 3


According to Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/-y), the suffix -y can have this purpose:

used for familiar and pet names as a term of endearment.

Dictionary.com (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/-y?s=t) agrees:

to form endearing or familiar names or common nouns from personal names

Thus it is clear that -y can be added to words to make them more cute and adorable to the speaker. Pets are often named for this purpose, and nicknames are established in a similar mindset, but people names are often more serious: they can be named after someone, something, or only use the -y in nickname situations (nobody wants to remain Danny or Johnny forever; as adults they would prefer Dan and John to appear more professional. Maybe parents understand this, and that's why they give children more adult names).

For the origin of the phrase, click here: Origin of the "-y" or "-ie" diminutive suffix to denote intimacy/tenderness? (E.g. Bob→Bobby, dad→daddy, Doug→Dougie)

  • (nobody wants to remain Danny or Johnny forever; as adults they would prefer Dan and John to appear more professional. I have a 62-year-old British cousin who we still call Johnny in the family. He's an accountant, and has never once objected to "Johnny" because it's his name.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 18, 2020 at 11:12

Try and stick to short names with hard consonants, names like Alfie are quite popular and are easily understood by dogs. A shorter name can make it easier for you to shout quickly and grab your dog’s attention. At the end of the day, you need to feel comfortable shouting it across a field too.

Avoid names that are very close to commands (no, sit, stay, wait, come etc.), names such as Joe or Kit sound very close to ‘no’ and ‘sit’ and would cause confusion in your dog. Also, ones to avoid are ones that are close to family members names, for example, if someone in your family is called Frank don’t call your dog Hank as it’s very close and will, again, cause confusion.

Source: 1,000+ boy dog names

This suggests that the ē sound is much easier to understand for the dog and therefore easier to train the dog. And that there's a big disconnect between human names and pet names, if you consider being likened to a dog as being an insult then you don't want to accidentally insult a friend, family member or even a stranger.


In the Proceedings of The Royal Society B, "Dog-directed speech: why do we use it and do dogs pay attention to it?" (https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2016.2429) It is concluded that humans tend use "baby-talk" when addressing dogs and that "baby-talk" contains many endearments in vocabulary and tone. It further shows that

In conclusion, ... This study suggests that dogs may appear as mostly non-verbal companions to humans who consequently modify their speech features as they do when speaking to young infants. Such a speaking strategy seems to be employed in other contexts where the speaker feels, consciously or unconsciously, that the listener may not fully master language or has difficulty in speech intelligibility, such as during interactions with elderly people, or when speaking to a linguistic foreigner.

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