Is there a single word or very short phrase to describe the act of contemptuously referring to someone by using a diminutive "nickname", with which that person is not normally associated?

For example, referring to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as Hank Longfellow? Or William Penn as Billy Penn?

  • 1
    Well you are belittling, patronizing, or infantilizing that person -- but there are plenty of ways to do those things besides using a nickname.
    – John Feltz
    Jan 6, 2017 at 21:10
  • If you can effect enough sarcasm or humor, "affectionately called" or "affectionately known as" are frequently used to share a less than favorable nickname that people use for a figure or thing.
    – Tom22
    Jan 7, 2017 at 4:39
  • I can't see how "Billy" or "Hank" is pejorative in the OP's examples. Jan 19, 2017 at 9:08

2 Answers 2


Epithet sort of works. It doesn't necessarily imply disparagement, but is often used in that sense:

a : a characterizing word or phrase accompanying or occurring in place of the name of a person or thing

b : a disparaging or abusive word or phrase

  • There is also the (old-fashioned and never common) verb form, epithetize. It's in the OED, with an example that fits the OP's situation, but the latest appropriate example I can find in Google Books is a snippet from the 1970s: ...whose presumed power over the numerous holders of the cabinet portfolio led the Colonial Reformers such as Charles Buller to epithetize him as Mr. Oversecretary or Mr. Mothercountry.Bengal: Past and Present Volume 93, p. 57
    – 1006a
    Jan 7, 2017 at 6:01
  • Although this doesn't imply the specifically diminutive nature of the OP's examples (Hank for Henry, Billy for William)...I doubt there's anything closer, though.
    – 1006a
    Jan 7, 2017 at 6:04

colloquially known as

... is a pretty common way of sharing a nickname that might not be fit for publication or all occasions.

... especially as the word "colloquially" is understood.

dictionary.com definition of colloquially

1, 2. Colloquial, conversational, informal refer to types of speech or to usages not on a formal level.

Colloquial is often mistakenly used with a connotation of disapproval, as if it meant “vulgar” or “bad” or “incorrect” usage, whereas it is merely a familiar style used in speaking and writing. Conversational refers to a style used in the oral exchange of ideas, opinions

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