Where did this term originate from? According to Etymonline.com, it originates from O.E. eaca, which means to "increase". However, I can't see how the "n" got stuck in there too.

Does anyone have any relevant information?

4 Answers 4


Metanalysis strikes again.

The regular outcome of OE eaca would be ick, as in ickname. At some point an ickname became reanalyzed as a nickname, and that's how the word has reached us today.

  • 11
    +1. BTW, I've never met a nalysis before. Are they nice?
    – Robusto
    Apr 18, 2012 at 1:51
  • @Robusto, sparagus is nice but nadders are a bit dangerous
    – mgb
    Apr 18, 2012 at 2:06
  • Does 'icky' follow on the same lines and owe its origins to OE ick?
    – Kris
    Apr 18, 2012 at 5:30
  • OE eaca: an increase. What has increase to do with 'nickname'?
    – Kris
    Apr 18, 2012 at 5:40
  • 4
    It is an additional name, which increases the number of names you have?
    – kindall
    Apr 18, 2012 at 6:08

It's metanalysis from an ickname to a nickname.


Please advise if the following erred, but it helped me to naturalise or rationalise the etymology. Each indent signifies a response to an earlier post; I omit each post's usernames for readability.

[Source:] The best one I can think of off the top of my head goes back to before last names where a thing, so people would sometimes use "eke" (pronounced like "eek") names, meaning other name. Over time, people referring to "an eke name" was eventually morphed into "a nekename," which is where we get the word nickname.

In Chaucer's Middle English, "eke" is usually translated as "also", so it would've been an "also name". eg. in the Miller's Tale, we have:

The Miller was a stout carl, for the nones,.
Ful big he was of braun, and eek of bones;

Which translates, roughly:

The Miller was a tough bloke for this occasion
He was big in his brawn, and also in his bones


A more natural, and logical guess by backward extrapolation would be based on nick rather than ick/ eace:

nick: a short cut, a notch. Hence 'nickname', a short name.

Nick: the devil. Whence, apart from the actual name, an endearing term for that little devil, a 'nickname'.

  • If you read the full entry at etymonline then eaca makes sense. Apr 18, 2012 at 9:02
  • I had read that early on. And yes, it does. Did I say otherwise? What doesn't though is the down vote.
    – Kris
    Apr 18, 2012 at 9:08
  • 6
    I would hazard a guess that the downvote is because you're just making something up that is directly at odds with reliable source material; the question is "what is its true etymology", not "make-up-your-own etymology".
    – Hellion
    Apr 18, 2012 at 13:44
  • 3
    From the movie "Top Secret": "What's your name?" - "Nick." - "Nick? What does it mean?" - "Nothing. My dad thought of it while he was shaving." Apr 20, 2012 at 6:55
  • 1
    I just downvoted for the reason Hellion says. I find this answer misleading. If it is in fact meant to be an "alternate thought experiment", the place to make that clear is in the answer itself and not in the comments, by saying something like "the real etymology is explained above, but an English speaker with no knowledge of this might analyze it in the following way."
    – herisson
    Mar 22, 2015 at 3:31

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