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How Do I Shed My Childhood Nickname?

My name is Kaitlin, but I've always been called Katie. I feel that 'Katie' is a suitable name for a child and even a teenager, but I am almost 21 and can't seem to shake the little girl nickname. Do you have any suggestions on how to stop being 'Katie' and other possible nicknames to use? - Kaitlin, Not Katie

Twenty is a perfect age to reconsider your childhood nickname. It's a time when you look to the future and think about who you want to become. Since you're in nickname-shedding mode, it's natural to think formal. Yet it's often easier to shorten a name than to lengthen -- to go from Katie to Kate rather than to Kaitlin. (Kate is an ageless classic, too, a la Kate Hepburn.) Picture yourself in different settings, a year from now and twenty years from now. Try putting titles like "Grandma" in front of the different names. Which one feels like the future you?

When you've settled on a choice, the first person to work on converting is yourself. You've been Katie for two decades, and you have to learn think of yourself as something else. Give your new identity a workout. Practice your new signature and type your new name on some documents. Introduce yourself to your mirror and get used to the effect.

Once you're feeling comfortable in your new name identity, you can start taking it out into the world. Work on new acquaintances first. Whenever you're in a new setting, make sure to introduce yourself, consistently, with your new name. It will be a gradual process, but in a few years you should find yourself living your adult life under your adult name.

That just leaves the trickiest part: dealing with the people who've known you for years. If you're determined to retrain friends and family, be persistent but cheerful. Lean on the positive -- that you'd love to start using your full name -- rather than getting bogged down in arguments about "What's wrong with Katie?"

But if some people just won't (or can't) stop using your old nickname, try to cut them some slack. A name you've grown up with comes with deep emotional connections. Those relatives and friends who see you as Katie are irreplaceable parts of your life. Many years from now, after decades as a Kaitlin, you may even find that your old nickname has become a special symbol of lifelong bonds.


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March 1, 2010 5:06 PM
By Kayt (not verified)

Oooh, I know this one. I went from Katie to Kate/Kayt (long story) in middle school. My parents still call me Katie occasionally, but I just firmly and politely correct people who call me Katie. "Only people who changed my diapers can call me that now" gets busted out if they don't get the message.

March 1, 2010 6:16 PM
By RF (not verified)

Another nickname suggestion: Kay. It's not used a lot now but I think it sounds fresh on a twenty-something and classy enough to age well.

March 2, 2010 12:51 PM
By Gabrielle (not verified)

My name is Gabrielle but I've always gone by Gabby. I'm nineteen now and I'd like to go by a more grown-up nickname or my full name. How do I do this? Katie to Kate or even Kaitlin seems like such an easier transition.

March 2, 2010 1:20 PM
By Bethany (not verified)

This is really not a problem; it just takes consistency on your part. I always hated "Beth" (my school-age name), so when I went to college, I just introduced myself as "Bethany" and when people tried (as many always have) to shorten it to "Beth" I'd just nicely correct them. Eventually even my parents came around, just by osmosis--I did not correct them (I figured their history gave them the right to use a nickname if they wished), but I did let them know I didn't like Beth. It happened quite naturally over time--after all, they GAVE you that name, so why WOULDN'T they want to call you that?
It is just a matter of building a new habit, which does take time, but happens naturally if you stay patient and consistent about it. I expect that will happen for you, too, if you just decide that you are Kaitlin (or Gabrielle, in the comments) and remind people of that (just as you would nicely remind somebody you just met who maybe had forgotten your name, or tried to call you an obvious-but-incorrect nickname). Especially if all you want is to be called by your full first name, most people totally get that.
Now another girl in college with me was named Mary Hays (first and middle name), and she DID have a difficult time getting people to use BOTH of those names rather than just her first name--but even she succeeded, again by just being cheerily persistent! Very soon anyone who knew her at all knew she was definitely NOT "just Mary!" Just be nice about it, and claim your name! It is yours, after all, you have a perfect right to it!

March 2, 2010 1:29 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I too am a Kaitlin, and have been called Katie by many relatives, but never has a full-time replacement for Kaitlin. Katie used to be my preferred, and Kate never really fit, but as I grew older I chose Kai for myself.

I like it because it's different, and more adult than Katie. Maybe it will suit you too :)

March 2, 2010 3:22 PM
By Alison (not verified)

I went by Alison in elementary school, then by Ali in middle school and high school. When I went to college, I introduced myself as Alison. Now, only my family, friends I'm still in touch with from high school, and a few new friends (like my roommates) call me Ali. Also, once I started going by Alison to everyone new, the people who do call me Ali switch between Ali and Alison now.

It's really normal to want to shed the old nickname. I couldn't wait! It was not too difficult. I occasionally correct people ("I go by Alison") when people shorten Alison automatically or when they pick up the nickname from somebody "old." :)

March 2, 2010 4:25 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

i personally think that katie is more sophisticated and grown up than kaitlin, and kate even more so. kaitlin feels like the youngest, to me.

March 2, 2010 5:52 PM
By Caitlyn (not verified)

I always hated the shortenings of my name, but I did go by KitKat for a while. My one piece of advice is to pick a name first - I know one woman who went from Ruth to Hannah and back again before deciding she wanted to be called Ruth-Hannah, and another friend who went through just about every name you can get from Rebecca (including the Hebrew versions) before settling on Bekah - and now neither of them gets consistently called anything, because we have such trouble remembering that latest change.

March 2, 2010 9:02 PM
By Anne V (not verified)

Um, duh -- you go to college and change your name ...

March 3, 2010 1:43 PM
By Jen (not verified)

I had the opposite problem - growing up my mother wouldn't let me be called by a nickname - it was always "If I wanted you to be called Jen or Jenny, I would have named you Jen or Jenny." As I got older, I realized that if I wanted to control the nickname I got (I didn't care if I was called Jen, but don't like Jenny at all), I would have to pick a preference. I started saying that I was OK with Jen if someone asked me about nicknames, and now I have a group of family and friends from elementary school who know me as Jennifer, while newer friends/coworkers call me Jen.

March 3, 2010 3:56 PM
By NJ (not verified)

I'm Nicola Jane, and have always been a Nicola not a Nic/Nicky/Nikki etc - my mum and dad sometimes call me Nicky Jane, and my husband calls me Nic, noone else can use anything but Nicola. I was lucky enough to get the whole way through school and college without Nic being used, but for some reason my mother in law continually calls me Nic, and that's one person I don't feel I can correct!

Personally I think Kate and Kay are amazingly sophisticated and it wouldn't be hard to start the trend.

March 3, 2010 4:16 PM
By B. (not verified)

I have the opposite problem -- no nickname! I'm a Britt. Just Britt. It was my mother's maiden name and it is my full name. Wherever I go, after introducing myself as Britt, I always get called Brittany. I politely correct them and say, "it's just Britt."

I suppose it goes both ways. If your name sounds like a nickname, people will inevitably but incorrectly lengthen it to something more rcognized or formal. If you have a formal name, people will inevitably shorten it to the nickname with which they're comfortable.. :)

March 3, 2010 10:36 PM
By Gabrielle's Mom (not verified)

To the person who wrote about the name Gabrielle. My daughter's name is Gabrielle and she is going to be 2 yrs. old soon. From birth, I have told everyone they can only call her Gabrielle, not Gabby, for the very reason you and so many others have stated about nicknames sounding childish. As for what to have people call you, I love the full name Gabrielle, but if my daughter were to have a nickname it would be Elle. It is very feminine and classic sounding. Good luck!

March 4, 2010 2:54 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My mother went from Cathy to Cate when she got divorced. The moment she decided to go by Cate she simply stopped answering to anything else- she literally stopped hearing people when they call her name. That's probably the most effective way to do it, I think.

March 5, 2010 6:55 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I changed my name entirely when I changed my religion two and a half years ago. At first, everyone complained, but they got over it, and now people who meet me have no idea that I used to have a different name.

Names have power. My opinion is that your name should reflect you, not the people who know you, and you should decide what you want people to call you and then stick to your guns about it.

March 5, 2010 3:20 PM
By NAMES (not verified)

My full name is Jill and people always try to call me Jillian..

In middle school and high school I created Jilly Beanz as my nickname because I LOVE jelly beans! (a girl name Julie tried to steal it by calling herself Julie beans - it ended up not working). Teachers even called me Jilly! I shed the Jilly Beanz right around graduation and am just Jill. My old frinds will still call me Jilly Beanz or Beanz, it doesn't bother me, I think it is kind of reminescent of the past.

March 6, 2010 2:15 PM
By Allie (not verified)

My husband's name is Daniel, but everyone he knew from before college calls him Danny, including everyone in his family. I met him after, so I call him Dan. Just the way it goes.

Meanwhile, my childhood friend's name is Elizabeth. Her family was militant about her not having a nickname, and when she was growing up, that's what we all called her. By high school. people just didn't have the patience to pronounce all four syllables, and insisted on shortening her name to Liz. (She once told me she would have preferred Beth, but since she REALLY preferred Elizabeth, she was stuck, since people would automatically shorten it to Liz.) Now her husband calls her Liz, but my husband calls her Elizabeth. Our mutual friends call her Elizabeth in front of me, but Liz otherwise.

March 9, 2010 1:53 PM
By Maureen (not verified)

I shed the nickname "Mo" for Maureen about the time I turned 18. For me, it was simple repetition. Every time someone called me Mo, I would say, "Oh! I've decided to go by my full name, Maureen." Like it was the first time. Because I always said it like it was a new thing (even years later with my parents) everyone was really supportive of it. Whatever you want to be called, just ask people nicely to call you by the name you want enough times and they'll listen.

March 9, 2010 2:46 PM
By cabybake (not verified)

I'm a Kimberly, but have never been called it. I was always Kim or Kimmy. To be honest, I think of myself as Kimmy, but gladly answer to Kim. I was actually annoyed when everyone stopped calling me Kimmy, but I've gotten over it. I feel like the people I love best in the world should call me Kimmy. I insist upon it with my nieces and nephews.

March 9, 2010 8:52 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My nickname is Katie and I'm 32 years old and I too went through a desire to change my nickname at around 20 years of age. It was a complete failure, because all my family and long time friends call my Katie and frankly they've known me long enough to have the right to call me what they are bonded to. It also didn't stick because I realized I was wanting to change my nickname to seem more mature, but my nickname didn't make me more or less mature. How I carry myself does. Granted at work or any business situation I sign with my full name Katherine. But Katie I am. I'm now a wife and mother named Katie and someday I'll be Grandma Katie and that sounds just fine to me. That said the name people call you should make you happy and feel like you. So if Katie doesn't do it for you Good Luck with the name change.

March 10, 2010 9:28 PM
By Kristin (not verified)

Advice for Gabby:

I know a Gabriellah who uses Gabby. When she gets older she'll become Gab or Be

March 14, 2010 8:20 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I've always wished my name lent itself to nicknames, but there's really not much you can do with "Ivona". It's not visually a long name, but it does have 3 syllables,all different, which has always made it feel a bit awkward and plodding to me. I don't like "Ivy" (mainly because my name is pronounced with an "ee" sound at the start, not an "eye". Neither do I like Vonna or Vonnie. I do like that it's unique, though, so don't want to go with my middle name of Maria.

We gave our kids names which could easily be either formal or informal Stephen/Stef (or Steve, even though we pronounce the ph with the f sound), Cassandra/Cassie and Gregory/Greg.

March 15, 2010 10:36 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

To Ivona -- I love your name! It's so beautiful. :)

If you wanted to nickname it, though, did you ever think of "Iva" (ee-vah)? With the "ee" sound, that seems like it might work better than "Ivy".

For my own part -- My name used to be "Alexandra", which I love, but I hate all the nicknames of it. "Allie" "Al" "Alex" "Lexi", etc etc etc... I just couldn't stand any of them, and no one ever wanted to bother pronouncing the entire name. :/ So I changed my name socially to something entirely different in high school, when I changed schools, and made it legal after I turned 18.

It took a while, but now even my mom will use my new name. :) My main strategy was just leaving the situation alone for the people I already knew, and being consistent with new introductions.

The hardest thing, I think, was training myself OUT of answering to the old name.

March 16, 2010 4:26 PM
By Brella (not verified)

i lack a name to be nicked! I'm named Brella, which is lengthened to Gabriella. my sister is named Lo, whichg becomes Lola.

March 23, 2010 11:50 AM
By Sue (not verified)

I am Suzannah and Sue - my family called me Suzie when I was little, but I grew out of it around 3rd grade. My cousins and grandparents used Suzie for a long time, though, and I remember running into one cousin on campus when we were both in college - he greeted me with "Hi Suzie!" and then suddenly had an epiphany - "do you actually go by that anymore? or do you like Sue better?" After that I corrected them and they were all great about it - my grandmother is the only one who ever uses Suzie anymore, but I figure she's allowed!

Cousins aside, I like Suzannah, singing and all, but people get it wrong (Suzanne/Susan) so often that I usually just introduce myself as Sue.

March 29, 2010 11:52 PM
By Elisabeth (not verified)

Kaitlin -- take heart! You're at a prime time to change your name. I've done it myself, and it was surprisingly effortless. I was christened Lisa, but I had always wished my parents had gone with Elizabeth, which had been their original plan (I was a very tiny baby, so they decided I needed a shorter, cuter name). At around age 20, I decided I'd switch to Elisabeth (using the "s" spelling as a tribute to the original Lisa) and after a year or so of introducing myself as Elisabeth, I legally changed my name.

So here's why I think the name change was so straightforward for me (and hopefully this story will help you with your own name change). Firstly, my parents were on board with calling me Elisabeth, and so were my closest friends. They made a lot of slips at first, but got the hang of it after a couple of months. Secondly, I was at college, so I was meeting new people all the time. I could have introduced myself as Esmeralda and no one would have been the wiser. By the time I started my first real job, at age 23, I had lost contact with all but my closest high school friends and most of the people with whom I socialized -- university friends or work friends -- had never known me as anything but Elisabeth. Now, as I approach 40, I have been Elisabeth for so long that when an elderly auntie addresses me as Lisa (which still occasionally happens), it takes a second before I realize she's talking to me.

There is another interesting anecdote to add to my story. When I changed my name, two of my mother's friends were inspired to follow suit. Whereas I was young, and merely switching from nickname to a full name (just as you may choose to go from Katie to Kaitlin), these two women, who had apparently hated their given names for 50+ years, changed theirs names to something COMPLETELY different: Janet became Francesca, and Cherry (gee, can't imagine why she hated her name) became Miriam. Their name changes were an endless source of amusement to my mother and a number of their mutual friends, but everyone was a good sport about it and within a few years, everyone was calling them Francesca and Miriam with hardly a slip. My point is, even though it took longer for people to get over a name that had been reinforced for more than fifty years, it was still possible. Francesca and Miriam must now be approaching 70, and I daresay they have not regretted their name changes.

April 10, 2010 3:30 PM
By Nicole (not verified)

My older sister had the same problem (though her first name is Kathleen). She's 10 years older than me (she's 25 now), and when she hit about 21, she started using Kate a lot more often. She used it a little in high school (I know that because of her AIM screen name!), too, but now the only people who use Katie are those of us in the family, since we're so used to it.
So, I think Kate would be a great idea. Or Kaitlin, since it's also really pretty! I agree, though. Just think of you in the future. Imagine people addressing you as the different suggestions and ideas you like at different points in you life, like if you're the boss of a company, a mom, a grandmother, things like that. I'm sure one will stick! :)

April 14, 2010 7:32 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

This is why I don't like all! My parents named me and my 3 brothers with 4 letter names that could not be shortened. Even my 15 year old niece, Mikayla, has always been called by her full name and ONLY her little cousins' get away with calling her KayKay.

home draped

April 23, 2010 10:59 AM
By Alicia (not verified)

I have a friend who's daughter has the opposite problem. The daughter is 13 and named Katelyn. She asked her Mom if she could be called Kate. Her Mom told her no, she wants her to use her full name. The girl was asking me about it and I didn't know what to tell her. I don't think her Mother is wrong in wanting her to use her right name, do you? Maybe when the girl gets to be 18 and out on her own, then she can choose to use the name Kate.

May 10, 2010 12:37 PM
By Elissa (not verified)

As an Elissa, my parents wanted my name pronounced Ee-liss-uh. The hard "E" sound is too hard for most Americans, and they called me Uhlissuh, Eliza, Melissa, uh-lees-ee-uh, etc.

In preschool, I was so fed up with the mispronunciations that I decreed to my parents that I wanted to be called Lisa (there was a girl I really liked in class with that name.) I was so confident in this choice, that they went along with it, and my transition was seamless. However, the Elissa/Lisa confusion between friends and family, school papers, etc. got a bit much and I craved consistency. When I was around 20 (that magic age!), I went back to Elissa, but it was a bit uncomfortable and unfamiliar to me, and people still couldn't pronounce it. I didn't feel like it was me.

I started working at a restaurant with a lot of Spanish Speakers, and they all called me "Uh-lees-uh" which I loved. It was like the perfect "bridge" between Elissa and Lisa! I have since found on baby name sites and books that Uh-lees-uh is actually the correct pronunciation of Elissa any way! Imagine that!

June 29, 2010 2:40 PM
By Gabrielle (not verified)

I'm Gabrielle, and have had nicknames such as Gab, Gaby, Gabs, and even the odd Gabrielle or Gabriel from people who want to wind me up.

I'm still only 15 so don't mind having a nickname, although most people call me Gab.

I think that when I'm older, I'd like to stay as Gab to the people I'm close to, but for more formal settings such as university and work, I'd prefer to be Gabrielle.

My grandmother's name is Janet and many people try to call her that, but she simply says something along the lines of "Oh, I just go by Jan!" And most people catch on quickly.

I think it's just a matter of what you intoduce yourself as.

December 3, 2010 7:30 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Really late (got linked here) but for other folks checking in late- 20 really is a perfect time to change your nickname.
I was a Becky from childhood to my teens but I hated how young I felt it sounded.

When I confessed that to my then-boyfriend, he started calling me Rebecca and admitted that he had two cousin Beckys so it felt more comfortable to him to call me by my full name anyway. After a couple of weeks he asked if he could shorten it to Becca. I changed the spelling to Bekah and agreed. After that I spent about 2 years introducing myself to people as Bekah and having my boyfriend call me Bekah socially before it really started to stick. So be aware that it may take time- especially if you still have a lot of long term friends, but one or two enthusiastic adopters of the new nickname can really help smooth the way.

My parents/sister still call me Becky or Rebecca, and some of my high school friends (I've kept quite a few) sometimes still slip a Becky in even though they've known me for a decade as Bekah.... but it's all meant well. All of my in-laws know me as Bekah and my coworkers/recent friends obviously have no problem remembering my new nickname and I am much, much happier with my new name.

March 12, 2011 9:52 AM
By Allison (not verified)

I'm not sure if anyone is still reading this post, but I've always wanted to change my name. My real name is Marissa, which no one can pronounce. It gets changed to Melissa, Clarissa, Mary, Maura, Maurine, etc. Constantly correcting them is very annoying. I want to change my name to ALlison. I love the name have used it on friends and coworkers, and love all the nicknames. My fiancé has even started using my new name. Now just have to change it legally smile!

June 8, 2011 11:44 AM
By Collie (cole-ee) (not verified)

i'm a caitlin as well. a very popular name in my hometown while growing up, i started going by a nn of my middle-name, which was my gramma's. she used the nn of her own name growing up as well.

April 28, 2013 10:24 AM
By Mirjam (not verified)

My legal name is Michaela but I've never liked it at all! Firstly, it's a Christian name ("who is like god?" in meaning) and I'm not even Christian. Secondly, it's just Michaela + A and wtf, I'm not a man + A, thank you very much. And thirdly, I never ever know how to introduce myself. Mishka, Misha, Mia, Ela, Mich, Mikey, Mimi, there are so many versions and I hate each of them :D Except of Mimi, that is also a nickname from Miriam/Mirjam which are two names I really like, meaning "star of the sea". I'm now in the process of getting my balls to ACTUALLY legally changing Michaela to Mirjam - it feels so much more like me! :) Well, and also introducing will be much easier...just "hello, I'm Mirjam, nice to meet you", instead of always agonizing which of my ugly nicknames to use.

August 24, 2013 5:39 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Use Kat it's short && sweet && sounds more grown than katie or kate ot kaitlin yuck. Not to mention that is such a common name it's boring && old.

January 19, 2014 9:23 AM
By Miyuki (not verified)

I know what you all mean. My given name is Miyuki (Me-you-key). When I was younger, (pre-school aged) my friends would either call me "Mee" or "Yuki" or just "Ee-You". And I absolutely abhorred it. I went to my ma that one day in about mid-first grade and insisted that I be called something American, like Abby or Mary. We finally settled on Abby. After years of being called Abby, I was then 22 years of age, and decided that I wanted my born name again. It has cultural intent, afterall. My ma was okay with it but had trouble making the transition, as everyone else did. It was difficult, but given time, (I'm now 25) And a lot of effort in changing my name. I am Miyuki and I am proud of that. So if you want to change your name, just give it time, and you will be Kaitlin!

April 22, 2014 9:04 PM
By Tiffani (not verified)

I have always hated my name, as often times people accidentally call me Stephanie(Which happens to be my oldest sister's name). I also hate the nicknames that go along with Tiffani or Nicole (my middle name). I want to legally change my name once I'm 18 (right before college) but I'm not sure what to. I want a name with a nickname I like, but a name that also sounds good with all my siblings names too. It's quite a complex puzzle. I'll come up with a name I can permanently live with eventually, though.

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