Full Name or Nickname?

I gave my daughters names I never intended on using—except when they were in trouble. Though their official records may state that they’re Katharine and Margaret, my girls were always intended to be called Katie and Maggie. I know plenty of people who think it’s a bad idea to name your child something you don’t intend to call them—and those people chose short names for their kids, the kind that are nearly impossible to derive a nickname from.

But I liked the idea of a name that could be used in many different ways, that gives them the freedom to introduce themselves as they see fit as they grow. I expect that eventually, my Katie may decide to be Kate or Katharine, while Maggie seems like she’ll stick to Maggie, grown up or not. (Though they’ll always be Katie and Maggie to the people who watched them grow up.) And I couldn’t imagine giving them something so informal as Katie or Maggie as their “official” name. It felt like they needed something that felt formal for something as important as their names—and something that could work, no matter what they wanted to be when they grew up. I’m not sure you’d want a neurosurgeon named Katie working on you, but Katharine feels like someone you could trust with your brain.

I know that nicknames as official names has become a big trend in naming, as some people are skipping the formal name and going for the nickname: Charlie, Alex, Xander and Max for boys, or Ellie, Abby, Josie and yes, Kate for girls. They’re probably hoping they can head off some of the unfortunate nicknames at the pass—keeping their Charles from becoming Chuck, for instance. (But we all know that kids and their friends come up with their own nicknames for each other, parents’ opinions be damned.)

So, which way do you lean on this issue? Would you pick a name for your child that you don’t intend on using? And would you rather give your child the nickname or the full, formal name?

Picture: Xander by ATurner / Shutterstock



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  1. by Mykidsmom68

    On August 7, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    I did the same. Zackary is my son’s full name. We call him Zack or Zacky. My daughter’s full name is Katherine and we call her Kate or Katie.

    Our intention is that our children can choose any of those or a variation, up to them.

  2. by Heather

    On August 7, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    We named our son William Barrett. William is a family name from both sides of both families and we both loved the name Barrett. We will call our son Barrett yet many people call him Will and I am always having to correct them. Never the less I would not have changed our decision and Barrett can choose what he would like to be called when he gets older.

  3. by Michelle

    On August 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    It’s all about your child’s personality in my opinion. A good example turns out to be my children’s names even though I thought nothing about what nicknames they might have when we were choosing them. My oldest is named summer and we call her summer sunshine. My aunt called her that one day and it stuck. And my youngest is Skylar and we call her peanut because she is very tiny for her age. so its all about personality and what feels right. I could have never imagined calling these girls that before I got to know them. Some things are still better left to be a surprise!

  4. by Allison

    On August 8, 2012 at 1:00 am

    I grew up learning my full name, Allison, as far as writing my name on papers, introducing myself, etc., but those closest to me always called me Alli… I like “Allison,” but love the closeness that comes with a nickname… Only those who really knew me ventured to call me Alli, so it always brought a feeling of warmth & importance. So my husband and I decided to do the same with our daughter Abigail. At school, she’s Abigail… She’s learning to write her whole name and she answers to it… But we often call her Abi… I think there’s something pretty & traditional to be said about full names… And it’s nice to have a “built-in” nickname that makes her feel loved and at home. That’s my personal experience.

  5. by CS

    On August 8, 2012 at 10:03 am

    My full name is Christina, and I have always gone by Chrissy. I hated having to correct my teachers (and everyone else) regarding my nickname. To this day, I can still remember the dread that came with roll call on the first day of school. For that reason, I’m sort of anti-nickname. We have two boys – Adam and Ben. Ben is just Ben, not Benjamin. We knew we wanted to call him Ben so that’s his name. People still assume he’s Benjamin, though, and some relatives call him Benny, so I don’t know that we really got around the issue! :)

  6. by Kathy Romesburg

    On August 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I go by Kathy. My name is Katheron which only my
    Mother rarely in my adult life calls me. When I was a kid and in trouble she would use my full name. With my husbands name being Kevin we decided to make our kids have all “k” names and be 5 letters. Kaden and Kanin are harder to shorten but I still do sometimes. I have zero issues with shortening a name. In fact I prefer to shorten people’s names if I can. I like longer names and using nick names and I like and understand why people do.

  7. by Kathy Romesburg

    On August 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Forgot to mention my last name is 9 letters and it used to be 5. It’s a total mouth full if I use my real name Katheron with my married name now. Another reason I would see the need or want a shorter first name either shortened or just a short name.

  8. by Lane

    On August 8, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    We use nicknames for all three of our kids. Derivatives of their “long” names. What drives me insane is when you have someone named something and nicknamed something completely different (named Fred called Michael) and the parents get upset when you use the wrong name.

  9. by Leanne

    On August 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    I’m one of “those” people that doesn’t believe in naming a child something you don’t intend to call them. I chose my children’s names because I loved the sound of them. Not using them completely defeats the purpose, I may as well have drawn from a hat. Nicknames, within the family, are organic in nature and not predetermined. For instance, my daughter had trouble saying her older brother’s name and heard my husband refer to him as his little buddy one day. She took to it immediately as it was far easier for her to pronounce, so Buddy he became.

    As far as shortening their names, it’s something I expect their friends will do, and I’m fine with that. When it comes to family and other adults, I fully expect them to be called by their given names.