Last week we talked a bit about unexpected nicknames for Jonathan, and it piqued my interest enough that I wanted to go down a rabbit hole filled with unexpected nicknames.
Hundreds of years ago, we didn’t have as many names to choose from as we do now, and names were often used multiple times in families, so nicknames were used to distinguish one from the other.
Today, we use nicknames to express our personalities, or to establish a difference between our professional selves and the person we are around friends and family.
Why Use A Nickname?
Families might have a dozen Roberts, or Edwards, or Elizabeths, or Margarets. To distinguish them from each other, we started coming up with different short forms. Many of these classic names have multiple nicknames to choose from. Robert might be shortened to Rob, whose first letter might then be changed to give us Bob.
This was an incredibly popular way to come up with nicknames in the Middle Ages, and many of these shortened forms are still commonly in use today.
Will became Bill; Ed became Ted and Ned; Mary became Molly which became Polly; and Margaret was shortened to Meg, which became Peg. But that wasn’t the only way to develop nicknames.
History of Margaret
Let’s take a closer look at Margaret, for example. Margaret is derived from the Greek word for ‘pearl’ (we’ll come back to this later), and has been widely used throughout the Christian world since the Middle Ages. It’s a name that has been borne by many queens throughout Europe, as well as England’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
Margaret was ranked in the top five of all names given to baby girls in the US up until the 1930s, per the Social Security Administration name database, when it gradually began to decline.
Margaret hasn’t maintained the same level of popularity as names such as Katherine and Elizabeth, who have similar long histories, although it hasn’t fallen off the charts, either.
Falling out of the top 100 names in the 1980s, it reached a low of 188 in 2009, but with the recent upswing of vintage names being used again, Margaret has begun to make a comeback.
There is a lot to like about this name. As a full name, Margaret feels sturdy and professional. For everyday use, there are literally dozens of nicknames to choose from, some of them obvious, others a little bit more off the beaten path.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these nicknames for Margaret that will work in the twenty-first century.
When thinking of a nickname for Margaret, these are the options that spring to mind immediately.
Maggie and Meg are two of the most common nicknames used, along with variants sometimes might be used by the same person – Maggie who might get called Mags by her friends, or Meg who went by Meggie as a child.
Maggie actually makes the SSA Top 1000 on its own, hovering somewhere in the 200-range for the past thirty years. These nicknames are classics that have stood the test of time.
The Old Fashioned
Some of Margaret’s nicknames, however, have fallen somewhat out of fashion. Most of these choices aren’t as obvious as those found in the last category and are more likely heard on women of your mother or grandmother’s generation.
Nicknames such as Madge, Margie, Rita, Peg, and Mamie are more commonly associated with older women than babies, and they aren’t quite vintage enough to be part of the newer crop of vintage nicknames that are once again coming in to style.
Choose one of these nicknames if you’re looking to make a bold statement.
Next to the classics that have never gone out of style, this is the type of vintage nickname from your great-grandmother’s generation that is coming back in style again.
Short forms like Mae and Maisie are fashionable again (think of actress Maisie Williams, of Game of Thrones). Margot is a common French short form that sounds fresh to our ears.
And if we look to the ending of the name, rather than the beginning, we can also get Greta as a nickname for Margaret.
If you want to be a little more adventurous, though, we can look to Margaret’s origins. I said earlier that the name is derived from the Greek word for Pearl, making Pearl a feasible nickname, too.
Or we can look to the French for more inspiration – the French form of Margaret, Marguerite, is also the word for ‘daisy’ in French. It might seem like a stretch, but it’s been in use as a nickname for Margaret for a while (you could also arrive at Daisy as one of those replace-the-first-letter style nicknames by playing around with Maisie), so if it appeals to you, go for it!
Choosing a well loved classic name like Margaret is a great route to go when naming your child. They have a resume-friendly first name, and tons of nickname options to suit every personality.
You don’t need to worry about choosing the wrong name, because if you end up with a teenager who suddenly wants to change her name (I definitely went through this phase), she has a whole list of options to choose from.