1

nickname

noun nick·name \ ˈnik-ˌnām \
|Updated on: 21 Aug 2018

Definition of nickname

1 : a usually descriptive name given instead of or in addition to the one belonging to a person, place, or thing
2 : a familiar form of a proper name (as of a person or a city)

Examples of nickname in a Sentence

  1. His mother gave him the nickname “Winky” when he was a baby.

  2. Earvin “Magic” Johnson got his nickname from the way he handled a basketball.

Recent Examples of nickname from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nickname.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

History of nickname

It might look like nickname is a compound noun formed by adding nick and name together, but the actual history of this word is a bit more complicated. It was formed by metanalysis, or the changing of the division of words based upon how they sound together. In this case, the Middle English word eke, meaning “also” or “in addition,” was joined with name to form ekename—literally, “also-name,” used for a secondary or unofficial name in the late Middle Ages. Over time, an ekename became a nickname presumably because eke had become less familiar as a word. Needless to say, nick in this case doesn’t mean “also” or anything else, it just represents a comfortable and familiar alternative to the word’s original spelling.

Origin and Etymology of nickname

Middle English nekename additional name, alteration (resulting from misdivision of an ekename) of ekename, from eke eke, also + name name


2

nickname

verb

Definition of nickname

2 : to give a nickname to

nicknamer

noun

Recent Examples of nickname from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nickname.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of nickname

1536

in the meaning defined at sense 1

See Words from the same year
NEW! Time Traveler

NICKNAME Defined for English Language Learners

nickname

Definition of nickname for English Language Learners

  • : a name (such as “Moose” or “Lady Bird”) that is different from your real name but is what your family, friends, etc., call you when they are talking to you or about you


nickname

Definition of nickname for English Language Learners

  • : to give (someone) a name that is not that person's real name : to give a nickname to (someone)


NICKNAME Defined for Kids

1

nickname

noun nick·name \ ˈnik-ˌnām \

Definition of nickname for Students

1 : a usually descriptive name used in addition to a person's given name
  • My brother had the nickname “Nosy.”
2 : a familiar form of a proper name
  • “Bill” and “Willie” are nicknames for “William.”

History for nickname

In the Middle Ages there was an English word ekename that meant “an extra name.” It was made of a word eke that meant “extra part” added to the word name. It started with a vowel, so an was used with this word instead of a. When an ekename was said fast, it sounded a bit like a nekename. As a result, some people thought the word started with n and began to pronounce it nekename. They did not know they were taking n away from an, adding it to ekename, and so making a new word. From this new word came the word nickname that we use now.


2

nickname

verb

Definition of nickname for Students

nicknamed; nicknaming
: to give a usually descriptive name to that is additional to a given name


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up nickname? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

resembling the blue of the sky

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet-pasta-spelling-help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!