I’ve always been fascinated by how language has evolved over time — especially when it comes to the names parents give their babies. While looking back at all classic names for little girls in the 1950s, I couldn’t help but be struck by the amount of unique nicknames that were also attached them. For example, have you ever wondered how we got the nickname Peggy from Margaret?
It turns out that Peggy isn’t even the most baffling nickname for Margaret; another common diminutive is Daisy. You might be shaking your head and refusing to believe me at this point, but there’s actually an easy explanation, I promise! Margaret stems from the French name Marguerite, which also happens to be the name of a type of daisy. (See? It makes total sense!) After learning that, I decided to dig even deeper about curious monikers by looking them up on the helpful website Behind the Name.
Take a look below to find out more about Margaret and other names with common yet surprising nicknames.
1. Peggy from Margaret
Unlike Daisy and Peggy, it’s definitely easier to see why the nickname Maggie comes from Margaret — and it’s also the answer to unlocking Peggy’s origin as a nickname. Over the years, Maggie morphed into Meggie and Meg, likely because of accents changing the vowel sound. That continued to transform into the Peggy and Peg we know today, based simply on a trend of creating nicknames that rhyme. It’s the same reason we have Bill from William.
2. Jack from John
There are a couple of theories for this popular nickname switch. Some believe Jack came from an old Scottish form of the name John being referred to as “Jock.” On the other hand, it could be based on the Norman culture (which was vibrant in France in the 1000s) and their use of -kin at the end of names. They apparently translated then name John to Jen, which then became Jenkin or Jakin, before finally landing on Jack. It’s also worth nothing that Jack and John are also two of the most common names for otherwise anonymous men (think “Jack of All Trades” and “John Doe”), so they’re easily interchanged.
3. Sally from Sarah
If you’ve ever heard someone using Molly as a nickname for a woman named Mary — and found yourself confused — it’s the same theory behind Sally being a nickname for Sarah. As you can probably tell, like the rhyming trend, people used to love replacing the R-sound in certain names with an L-sound to create a whole new nickname.
4. Hank from Henry
The Dutch are likely responsible for this common crossover of names. Their name Hendrick is similar to Henry and is often shortened to Henk. It seems that, over time, English speakers decided to tweak the vowel sound and do the same with Hank.
5. Chuck from Charles
Apparently in the Middle English, the name Charles was actually spelled Chukken. Anyone who has attempted to read an original version of The Canterbury Tales knows how difficult it is to parse through spelling back then, but it does make for a fairly easy explanation of Chuck being a nickname for Charles.
I bet you know a few people with these nicknames who aren’t even aware of how they got them! The next time you run into a Chuck, Jack, or Peg, ask them if they were ever confused by their names — and then give them the answers they’ve been wondering about for years.