Nickname History

 

By now, you surely know what a nickname is, but have you ever wondered why we even call them nicknames? Is it because of a famous Nick? Is it an abbreviation?

The history of this term actually dates back as far as 1303. It was derived from the Old English phrase eaca, meaning - "an increase", and related to eacian, "to increase". By the fifteenth century the misdivision of the syllables of the phrase - "an ekename" led to its recreation as "a nekename". Though the spelling has changed, the pronunciation and meaning of the word have remained relatively the same ever since.

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Whew, sounds a bit complicated! But that didn't stand in the way of our ancestors when they gave nicknames to each other. Way back in the middle ages, a common way to make nicknames in English was to add -kin, -in, or -cock to the end. Thus, John became Jankin or Jenkin, which eventually became shortened to Jakin, which in turn became Jack. Many of these names today survive in surname form (i.e., Jenkins, Wilkins, Perkins, Johncox, etc.) though there are not many used as first names anymore. Rhyming names also have been popular nicknames. For example, Robert spawned not only Rob, but Hob and Dob as well, which in turn became Hobkin and Dobkin.

Isn't it quite exciting to discover that even your own surname might have been a nickname to somebody long ago in the past? Maybe this will serve you as an inspiration to research the origins of your own name and surname, too! Let us know of what you discover – and have fun!

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