Women’s Nicknames

While doing some recent research I came across the name Nettie. Nettie is not a particularly unusual nickname, but I could not come up with the original given name for that nickname.

People have used shortened versions of their names for a long time. It is usually fairly easy to figure out the given name from which a nickname is derived, but some nicknames do not seem to have any connection to the given name. Some of the not-so-obvious nicknames such as Polly for Mary, Peggy for Margaret, Patsy/Patty for Martha, and Sarah for Sally, are more confusing. Where did they come from?

Church records record the original given name, the formal Christian name given to the person at their baptism. An individual may have used a nickname or an abbreviated version of their given name later in life and you want to make sure you are looking at the same person in various records.

My paternal grandmother, Gertrude (Brewster) Miller, was called Gertie, and sometimes Gert.

Gertrude E. Brewster (1912 photo)

At any rate, I could not come up with the given name for the nickname Nettie. There are actually a couple. Nettie could have been christened Annette or Jeannette, or even Henrietta.

Below is a list of a few women’s nicknames and their original root name. This list may help you determine who someone really is if they used one of these nicknames.

Bess/Bessie/Beth/Betsey/Betty: Elizabeth
Callie/Carrie: Caroline
Cindy: Lucinda
Clara: Clarissa
Dolly/Dot: Dorothy
Ellen/Elly/Elsie: Eleanor
Elsie: Helen
Elise/Eliza/Elke/Ellen/Else: Elizabeth
Erna: Ernestine
Etta: Henrietta
Eva: Evelyn
Fanny: Frances, Franziska
Flora/Flossie: Florence
Fronie: Sophronia
Gerty/Gert: Gertrude
Grete: Margarete
Hanna: Johanna
Hatty: Harriet
Helma: Wilhelmine
Henny/Hetty: Henriette
Hilde: Hildegard, Brunhilde, Mathilde
Ika: Veronika
Ina/Ines: Agnes
Isa/Isbella: Elisabeth
Kate/Kay/Kitty: Catherine, Katherine
Lena: Angelina, Caroline, Helen, Madeleine, Magdalene
Letty: Letitia
Lottie: Charlotte
Liz/Lizzie: Elizabeth
Lucy: Lucinda
Madge/Maggie: Margaret, Margery
Mattie: Martha
Meg: Margaret
Mena: Almena
Millie: Amelia, Emelia, Mildred
Mina/Minnie: Wilhelmina
Myra: Elmira
Mollie: Martha, Mary
Nancy/Nan: Anna, Ann
Nell: Helen
Nellie: Eleanor, Ellen, Helen
Nettie: Henrietta
Nora: Eleanor, Lenora
Patsy/Patty: Martha
Peggy: Margaret
Polly: Mary
Retta: Loretta
Rika/Riki/Ricki: Frederike, Friederike, Fredericke
Rita: Marguerite
Sally: Sarah
Sandra: Alexandra
Sophie: Sophia, Sophronia
Tess: Theresa, Teresa
Tilly: Matilda
Toni: Antonia
Torie: Victoria
Trudy: Gertrude
Viney/Vinnie: Lavina
Wilma: Wilhelmine
Winnie: Winifred, Edwina

Elizabeth has the most nickname variations and the name Elizabeth is used a lot in the Schumm family. My mom’s middle name was Elizabeth and her grandmother was Elizabeth, nicknamed Lizzie.

Lastly, here is an old German name that is probably never used any more, but a name that is found in my family genealogy, Kunigunde, which has the nicknames of Gunda and Gundi.


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    • tony in ross county on February 23, 2024 at 7:43 am
    • Reply

    Excellent Karen! For Victoria, I have heard Torri, Torrence and Tor-Tor.
    thank you.

    1. Good examples. Tor-Tor is one I have never heard of. Thanks for writing!

    • Linda on February 23, 2024 at 6:49 pm
    • Reply


    I keep coming across the woman’s name of ” Submit” Any idea on origin” Thanks

    1. That name was new to me, too, but looking at records, I noticed the name was used more in colonial times and early 1800s. Names like this can be called “Puritan virtue names” and include names like Silence (a name in my husband’s family tree), Submit, Assurance, Comfort, Desire, Diligence, Faith, Grace, Joy, Obedience, Prudence, Tribulation, Wrestling, etc. There is an interesting long list of these names here: http://www.namenerds.com/uucn/listofweek/puritan.html . Good question! Thanks for writing.

    • Pat Naveau on February 24, 2024 at 8:25 am
    • Reply

    Thanks for your chart, Karen.
    I have been researching an ancestor who is referred to as Henreitte/Henrietta in most records. One census record lists a Lasetta with her spouse’s name in the same location. I am not certain if it was a mistaken enumeration of her name or if it could possibly be a different person. Researching females can be difficult, and the use of nicknames in records can make it even more so!

    1. You are correct, researching females is challenging and their nicknames can be a problem. I am not sure if Lasetta would be a nickname for Henrietta, since there is no L in Henrietta. Lisette is used for Elizabeth, but that is a different spelling. And we know the census is notorious for inaccurate spellings. Who knows what nickname someone might called another person. Always a challenge! Thanks for writing.

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