May 29, 2013

Case File #013.05.29: NICKNAME

In the late thirteenth century, the Middle English word eke meant “additional,” and eke name—often condensed into ekename—referred to an additional (and usually informal) moniker used in place of a person's given name. But people hearing the phrase an ekename frequently mistook it to be a nekename, and by the mid-fifteenth century, ekename had been completely supplanted by nekename, which in turn became nickname before passing on to modern English. The verb sense of nickname—that is, “to give a nickname to somebody or something”— developed in the late 1530s, and the sense in which nickname refers to a shortened version of a proper name (such as Mike for Michael) came into use circa 1605.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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