I understand that the apostrophe character ' is used to indicate missing characters, e.g. it's => It is. It is commonplace to use contractions in surnames, such as O'Reilly (of), or D'Artagnan (De), but I don't recall ever seeing contractions used in first names.

Is it correct to use 'Becca for Rebecca, or 'Tori for Victoria? Or is it just that people are lazy and tend not to use apostrophes as the first character of a word?

  • 1
    Are you specifically asking about writing names down? Jan 24, 2020 at 14:09
  • 2
    I don't recall ever seeing contractions used in first names. Not familiar, then, with St John as a first name ? Jan 24, 2020 at 14:11
  • 2
    What you're talking about are "nicknames". These are shortened versions that friends use.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 24, 2020 at 14:32
  • As noted, to not consider nicknames to be contractions. But you could try Daniel -> Dan'l (e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Dan%27l_Boone )
    – GEdgar
    Jan 24, 2020 at 14:55
  • St John as a first name is indeed new to me, thanks! :-) Jan 24, 2020 at 16:40

2 Answers 2


We do not really have contractions in names. O'Reilly may have its roots in meaning "of the Reilly clan" but Mr. O'Reilly's last name is O'Reilly, not Reilly. Similarly, you should not be shortening people's first names unless you know that's what they want to be called. So if Rebecca introduces herself as Rebecca, you should call her that. If she introduces herself as Becca and doesn't use her fullname, then you may call her that.

  • 4
    ...and if she introduces herself as Becca don't write her name as 'Becca. Jan 24, 2020 at 15:16
  • Yes, it's the written form I'm concerned with:-) Obviously you might verbally meet Becca and not know whether she writes it as 'Becca or not! As far as I can see, the situation is the same as refrigerator and telephone; technically those should be written as 'fridge and 'phone, but nobody does so. Jan 24, 2020 at 16:35

Apostrophes are typically not used in nicknames, because many nicknames do not have an obvious position for the apostrophe. Because many do not, it would be unusual to add it for the ones that make sense, instead of just writing the name as though it's the complete name. Here are some examples of nicknames that wouldn't make sense with an apostrophe:

Rebecca -> Becky
Richard -> Dick
Robert -> Bobby
Katrina -> Kate

It's also the case sometimes that someone's full name is the shortened name. For instance, it's impossible to know if someone that introduces themselves as "Bob" was given a longer name at birth, or if that's the complete name. Best to just use the name as it's introduced to you.

  • 1
    Giving children birth names that can also be to nicknames is not a new thing. In 1977 I registered my daughter's birth with Betty as her middle name, and the registrar said "Do you mean Elizabeth?" I said "No, Betty" and that's what is written on her birth certificate. Jan 24, 2020 at 15:07
  • @MichaelHarvey Absolutely. I didn't mean to imply that it was new. Cheers. Jan 24, 2020 at 15:16
  • I don't think shortened forenames have ever been written with apostrophes. They are just seen as nicknames, and, as Ian says, many traditional nicknames like Dick and Kate were not actually part of the full name. (Kate is usually from Katherine, as in my case.) Another type of abbreviated name, Wm., Chas. and the like, was used in writing when all documents had to be hand-written. Jan 24, 2020 at 17:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.