Short Names for Boys: Tiny and Mighty

by You Can't Call It "It"! on August 5, 2010

mighty-mouse

Nipping at the heels of Max and Gus are a bevy of three letter power houses.  Parents wishing to pack a punch without taking up much space on the page will want to consult this list of potential cool.  Old goodies Dan, Tim, and Tom need not apply.  We’re moving forward here, folks.

Abe- Short form of the Hebrew Abraham, “father of many.”

Ace- Skilled person, one unit.  With a bit of a soap opera feel when used on its own, this also works well as a nickname for anything.   You could also turn that stereotype on its head, which would be truly aces.

Ari- Triple threat:  Armenian for “brave”, Hebrew for “lion”, Norse for “eagle.”

Asa- Hebrew, “healer.”

Avi- Hebrew, “my father.”

Baz- Arabic, “falcon.”  Also a nickname for  Balthazar, Basil, and Sebastian.

Cal- Short for Calvin or Callum, with potential to be used on its own.

Che- Guevara lovers note:  this name comes from the Mapudungun language as a suffix meaning “people.”  However, it is also an Argentinian exclamatory phrase roughly translated as “hey you”, and rather like the F word in Mexico.  Guevara’s given name was Ernesto.

Coe- Surname, “hollow” or “hill”

Dag- Norse for “day”

Dai- Both the Welsh short form of David and a Japanese name “large”, “great”

Dax- Popular with the Dutch.

Dom- Diminutive of Dominic, Latin- “of the lord.”

Dov- Hebrew for “bear.”  I love that for English speakers this recalls a bird, but it actually means kind of the opposite.

Eli- Hebrew, “ascension.”

Eno- Brian Eno fans might pick up on this one, and have.

Geo- Greek, “earth.”  Can be short for George.

Gus- Short for August, Augustin, Augustus, Angus, Gustav(e), or even Constantine– I move that Gus is the new Max.  But what’s the new Gus?

Guy- You say “gye” and I say “gee.”  May be derived from Wido, Germanic for “wood.”  Worthy of a second look.

Huw- Yes, this is the Welsh form of Hugh, “bright mind, spirit.”  The English version may be less of a headache.

Ian- Scottish form of John, “God is gracious.”

Ike- Diminutive of Isaac, Hebrew for “he laughs.”  Famous Ike’s include Eisenhower, Turner, and the hurricane.

Ira- Hebrew for “watchful.”

Ivo- Ivo of Kermartin is the patron saint of Brittany.  From the Germanic and means “yew.”

Jed- Short form of the Hebrew Jedidah, “beloved of Y_hweh.”  Shedding his country image.

Kai- Hawaian for “sea.”  ”Keeper of the keys” in Welsh.

Kip- Short form of Christopher, and used on its own.

Leo- Leonardo or Leonard pave the way for Leonidas, Leonides, or Leopold.  Or “just” Leo.

Lev- Russian for “lion”, Hebrew or “heart.”

Lex- Better as a nickname for Alexander, and recalls Lex Luthor.  This author is preferring Lev and Lux today.

Luc- France’s answer to Luke, and similarly pronounced.

Lux- Latin, “light”

Luz- Spanish, “light”, often used for girls, Maria de la Luz, etc.

Mac- Could be short for Cormac, any McName, or one of the Maxes

Max- Latin, “the greatest”; stands on its own just fine, but could also be used for Maxim, Maximilian, Maxime, Maxwell

Moe- Japanese for “sprout.”  Bet you didn’t expect that.

Neo- Tswana (South Africa), means “gift.”  German prefix for new.

Noe- Variant of Noah, Hebrew for “rest”

Obi- Igbo, “heart”

Pax- Latin for “peace”, Angelina Jolie’s choice for her son from Vietnam.

Paz- Spanish for “peace”

Pim- Dutch diminutive of Willem.  Could work for your wee William, too.

Poe- English surname, most famously of the poet Edgar Allan Poe

Raj- Sanskrit, “prince” or “king”

Ram- Hebrew, “exalted” and Sanskrit “pleasant.”  Still, I see the animal first.

Rex- Latin for “king”, gaining steam in Britain and a great sub for Max if you’re in Brooklyn.

Rio- Spanish and Portuguese for “river.”  According to Behind the Name, this also has multiple meanings in Japanese:  莉 (ri) “jasmine” or 里 (ri) “village” combined with 央 (o) “center”, 緒 (o) “thread” or 桜 (ou) “cherry blossom”

Sid- Short for the English Sidney, “wide island”

Taj- Sanskrit, “crown”

Teo- Diminutive of Teodor, Mateo, and other names containing “teo”, which is derived from the Greek for “god.”

Tor- Modern Scandinavian form of Thor, “thunder”

Ugo- Italian form of Hugh, “mind, spirit”

Uli- Diminutive of the German Ulrich, “prosperity and power”

Val- From the Latin valens, “strong, healthy”

Wes- Short for Wesley or Weston, but works well on its own.

Wyn- Welsh, from Gwyn- “white, fair”

Xan- A Galician cognate of John, and a oft-forgotten nickname for Alexander

Zeb- Short form of Zebadiah or Zebedee, this could work by itself on a hip babe.

Zev- Hebrew for “wolf”

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 eBirdie August 5, 2010 at 11:30 am

I love these. Leo and Teo are probably my favorites. Tor is pretty great too.

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2 Angela August 5, 2010 at 11:39 am

Our son’s name is Gaius, and some people call him Gus for short. Didn’t see it coming, but I like it.

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3 appellationmountain August 5, 2010 at 11:41 am

All I get from Rio is Duran Duran, but I love Asa, Ian, Coe & Zev!

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4 Stefanie August 5, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I actually love the Duran Duran reference myself, being a child of the 80s. Also, there was a (male) character on Jem! (speaking of 80s) named Rio and a female one names Asa (or Aja? I don’t know how it was spelled).

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5 Whitney Gigandet August 8, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Duran Duran’s “Rio” is my mother’s all-time favorite song, and I always thought naming a girl that would be a neat way to honor her without using her name :)

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6 British American August 5, 2010 at 11:51 am

Dax- Popular with the Dutch. And Star Trek fans. :)

We have friends with a baby Dexter who goes by Dex.

Oh and I know of a Baz (in the UK) who uses it as a nickname for Barry.

I like Zeb, Leo and Gus.

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7 Elvira August 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Mind Ira and the possible association to the IRA. Loving Ari.

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8 L. August 5, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I like Pim, Kai, Lev, Zev, Leo, Abe, Jed, Dom, Wes, and Rex. I like Kip but my favorite nickname for Christopher is Kit. I have never heard of Ugo and I live in Mexico. However, Hugo is common here (mostly for a middle after Victor).

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9 youcantcallitit August 5, 2010 at 9:05 pm

You’re right L. Ugo is strictly Italian, Hugo is the Spanish, my mistake. Thank you!

And Kit? A superb addition to the list.

If you have any interest at all in writing a post on Mexican trends in baby names, we’re all ears. Or eyes. Anyway, would love to talk to you further about it if you have the time. youcantcallitit@gmail.com

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10 Mary August 5, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I’m not usually a fan of short names, but this list surprised me! I love…

Ari
Asa
Avi
(would love to find long names that “match” the short names above).

Guy – my younger brother is called Guy! it’s a very uncommon name in Australia, but easy to say (we pronounce it ‘gye’.

Ira (although, this sounds like a girls name to me).

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11 Christina Fonseca August 5, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Great post as always, Elisabeth! I’m not usually a fan of nicknames or short names, but rather enjoyed this list.

My two faves are Jed and Zeb.

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12 Awkward Turtle August 6, 2010 at 9:03 am

Jan pronounced “yun” is Afrikaans/South African man’s name.

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13 Shorts August 6, 2010 at 9:57 am

You know, what was hard for me, uh coming up with names for our children.

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14 Helen August 6, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Was also going to say that Baz is used as a nn for Barry in Australia. You might want to note that “Barry” itself is rhyming slang for “shocker”. (Barry Crocker – having a shocker)
Sorry to say too, Dag is a pejorative in Australia, sometimes affectionately as in “Come here, ya dag”. But nothing really hides that in this country where decades of prosperity “rode on the sheep’s back” the word “dag” originates from the matted wool around a sheep’s anus.

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15 caroline August 8, 2010 at 1:16 pm

My favorite boys name is Tom. But I would use it as a nn so not sure if that counts.

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16 BritCanuck August 8, 2010 at 4:08 pm

I’m surprised by my reaction to Taj. I really really like it. And at a push Raj too. Otherwise, Kit is pretty ace.

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17 Francesca August 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Love this list! Looking for short boy names for a very vowel-y last name. But, um, Paz is a girl’s name, quite popular in Spanish-speaking countries. Cruz would be considered a feminine name too, not that it stopped Posh and Becks, but it does show how much Spanish they learnt while in Madrid.

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