There are different types of nicknames, sometimes depending on how a nickname will be used. Hypocoristic refers to a nickname of love and affection, which comes from the Greek hypokorizesthai, meaning ‘to call by endearing names’. Love, pet, babe, darling, dear, all spring immediately to mind.

moniker also means a nickname or personal name and may have comes from ‘monk’ (as monks take new names with their vows). Another synonym is sobriquet, from French and means ‘a tap under the chin’.

A pseudonym or pen name, from the Greek pseudo ‘false’+  nym ‘name’, is used by some writers. Charles Dickens was known as Boz, Samuel Clemens called himself Mark Twain and the Brontë sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne were called, respectively, Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.

Historical figures were often given names, such as The Black Prince, said to be named after his black shield, or maybe his brutal reputation. King Æthelred was known as Æthelred the Unready, a mistranslation of the Old English word unræd ‘Redeless’ (meaning either ‘badly advised’ or ‘without advice’ because he wouldn’t listen to the Witan, his royal council.) It was a twist on his name Æthelred meaning ‘noble-counselled’.

Ivan the Terrible was orphaned at a young age, when his mother was poisoned. An intelligent boy, he was apparently neglected and scorned by members of the nobility who looked after him. The court intrigue and constant danger he was exposed to moulded his suspicious nature. He was prone to outbreaks of uncontrollable rage and conducted a reign of terror, performing a raft of unspeakable acts. So he was well-named – fairly terrible.

Do you have any nicknames you like to use?