I found out today that the term for pet names used in an affectionate or an endearing way is hypocorism, I searched online but I couldn't find a term for nicknames used in a derisive sense, such as a term for a teacher that pupils hate. In a sense it would be an antonym for hypocorism, maybe I'm overlooking something obvious.

Looking at the etymology, hypocorism comes the Greek verb for speaking in a childish manner, which itself is a compound of 'underneath' and 'to caress'. It doesn't appear to provide an easy antonym.


2 Answers 2


You might consider the word epithet.

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


  • That's interesting, I never knew that epithets were used in a negative sense, and always used a qualifier with it to indicate the sense, either positive or negative. It does look like over time epithet has become more negative than neutral. Thanks for the answer. Apr 23, 2017 at 18:37
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    @user3336523 I don't think an epithet is the same thing as a hypocorism or nickname. An epithet, according to ODO, is an adjective or phrase expressing a quality or attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing mentioned - e.g. old men are often unfairly awarded the epithet "dirty".)
    – WS2
    Apr 23, 2017 at 20:41
  • If this word works for the OP , I'd suggest they take out the parts of your question emphasizing affectionate or endearing...as epithet does not convey that.
    – Tom22
    Apr 23, 2017 at 20:57
  • @Tom22 they did actually specify that they were looking for an antonym. Apr 23, 2017 at 20:59
  • yes.. I see now on more careful reading of the body of the question(as opposed to the title) that she was looking for the opposite of affectionate, not an affectionate name used derisively. I thought it might have been more like calling a woman coworker or clerk "honey" in a patronizing way. You are right epithet has no affection to it and she was not looking for affection. (it doesn't have repulsion to it exactly - which would be more an antonym to affection but I can't do better) cheers.
    – Tom22
    Apr 23, 2017 at 21:07

The term nickname often implies derision - though not always. Here are recent examples from the OED, all of which are mildly derisive.

1958 A. Sillitoe Saturday Night & Sunday Morning vi. 91 He had called her Gyp because of her long black hair, a nickname that enraged her.

1984 M. Scammell Solzhenitsyn (1985) iii. 77 In early adolescence, when he suddenly grew much taller than the others, he earned the nickname of ‘Ostrich’.

2001 Vanity Fair (N.Y.) May 219/2 In negotiations, Grossman exuded a menacing charm; around Greenwich Village, his nickname was ‘the floating Buddha’.

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