Finnish Nicknames – Lempinimi Kutsumanimi
In this article, we take a look at popular Finnish nicknames. This article was inspired by my in-laws, who refer to Raimo as Rami and Josefiina as Jossu.
English has a similar change happening with the names Richard, Robert and William. From Wikipedia: “Rhyming names were popular in the Middle Ages, so Richard became Rick, Hick, or Dick, William became Will, Gill, or Bill, and Robert became Rob, Hob, Dob, Nob, or Bob.”
In Russia as well, people love using nicknames for longer names: Katerina becomes Katja, Svetlana becomes Sveta, Tatjana becomes Tanja and Aleksandra becomes Sasha.
The different types of names
There are several terms that would be useful to know in this context:
- Virallinen nimi: official name, which is on your passport.
- Kutsumanimi: nickname, the name someone uses in everyday situations.
- Lempinimi: nickname, same as kutsumanimi, but often just used with family and close friends.
“Hänen virallinen etunimensä on Mikael, mutta kutsumanimi on aina ollut Mikko.“
Some nicknames have become official names over time. The name Sini, for example, used to only be a nickname for women named Sinikka, but it gained popularity as an official name in the 1960s.
Types of nicknames
In Finland, most names have two syllables and end in a vowel (e.g. Maija, Sari, Riikka, Teemu, Pasi, Sami). Two-syllable names are the least likely to have a very popular alternative nickname.
It seems logical that long names would be shortened: Petteri becomes Pete, Juhani becomes Jussi and Viljami becomes Vili. However, some short names will regularly be made longer: Kai becomes Kaitsu, Veera becomes Veeruska.
Certain similar sounding nicknames are especially common: Kake, Late, Make and Pave are all two syllables long and end in an -e. Ellu, Jossu, Lissu, Mallu ja Sussu all are two-syllable nicknames with a double consonant in the middle and an -u at the end.
Nicknames can also have consonant clusters which are otherwise uncommon in the Finnish language. For example, Arska, Artsi, Terska, Hanski and Pertsa all have a triple consonant in their middle.
People’s attitude towards nicknames
Not everyone likes nicknames! Especially parents can be a bit prickly when it comes to what their children are called in daycare for example. When there’s multiple children with the same name in a group, their caretakers can choose to adopt nicknames for these kids. It’s also a topic that’s thoroughly thought about by many pregnant couples looking for a name for their child.
Some people hate nicknames such as Arska for Ari (En tykkää yhtään), while others accept nicknames completely (Näin se vaan on).
Please use the name people introduce themselves with to you! Automatically jumping to a nickname listed below isn’t generally appreciated.
Frequency of the nicknames
In the tables below, I have marked the nicknames which are especially common. For example, many men named Raimo are actually called Rami in their everyday life.The same is true for Tapani: it’s hard to find a Tapani who’s actually being called Tapani by their friends: Tapani becomes Tapsa.
These extremely common nicknames have been marked with bold. I’m also adding other nicknames. These are less common, but certainly not unusual for people with a certain name.
I have left out any nicknames that are specific to just one individual. Many celebrities, for example, have their own little nickname by which they are known, which can be descriptive (e.g. Kimi “Jäämies” Räikkönen) or seemingly random (e.g. Matti “Fredi” Siitonen).
Male names and nicknames
|Antti||Ana, Ande, Andy, Anska|
|Arto||Artsi, Arska, Aatsi|
|Eemeli||Emppu, Eemi, Eemu|
|Erkki||Eki, Eke, Erkka|
|Heikki||Hessu, Heke, Heksa|
|Juho||Jussi, Jusku, Jupe|
|Kari||Karska, Kartsa, Kale|
|Lauri||Late, Lare, Larska|
|Markus||Make, Makke, Mara|
|Pekka||Peku, Pepe, Pietu|
|Pertti||Pertsa, Pera, Pete, Petu, Pepe, Pena, Perttu|
|Petteri||Pikkis, Pete, Pietu|
|Raimo||Rami, Rampe, Ramppe, Rame, Raike, Raikke, Raipe, Raikka|
|Reijo||Repe, Reiska, Rekku|
|Risto||Ripa, Rike, Riku|
|Samuli||Samppa, Sami, Samu, Sampsa|
Female names and nicknames
|Anna||Ansku, Annu, Annuska|
|Anu||Annu, Annuli, Anukka, Ansku|
|Emilia||Emmi, Milja, Emppu|
|Johanna||Jonna, Jonsku, Jossu|
|Josefiina||Jossu, Josku, Fiina|
|Kaisa||Kaisuli, Kaisu, Kaisuliini, Kaisukka|
|Katariina||Katriina, Katri, Riina, Kati|
|Matilda||Mallu, Malla, Masa, Tilda|
|Matleena||Matu, Matukka, Mattis|
|Susanna||Sussu, Susku, Suski|
|Terttu||Tepa, Tertukka, Tepukka|
Read more about Finnish nicknames from other sources:
- Kieliluotsi: Nimi on iso juttu
- Nimikirja: Miehet and naiset
- Uusi Suomi: Lempinimi voikin olla haukkumanimi
- Vauva.fi: Rumimmat ja ärsyttävimmät lempinimet
- Kieliviesti: Teema nimet
I hope you found this article on Finnish nicknames interesting!
I discussed the issue of Finnish nicknames because none of my friends use one, and for a while they all used my full name when talking to me. Where I am from people do not use first names in formal situations but either surnames (“Mr Whatever”), or specific job titles (“Professor”). In familiar situations people use either proper nicknames (“Town major”, “Boiler”) or a shortened version of names. People using my own first name in full felt quite odd to me so I mentioned it to my friends, and the conversation went on to nicknames. My take home message was *never attempt to use a nickname on a Finn unless specifically told it is ok to do so (“please call me [nickname]”)*. Having lived in different countries the issue of how and when to use names and nicknames properly is a tricky one because people hardly ever explain it, but the rules can differ quite a lot.
Well, don’t you use the name people introduce themselves with? Universally? Take a person named William, who is always called Bill. He would probably just introduce himself as Bill.
That aside, thanks for pointing out names, nicknames and titles can be used very differently in different cultures. This article doesn’t dive into that topic at all, but it is definitely related and very important. The message your friends gave you is indeed also my experience.
I use the name people introduce themselves with, BUT I would not introduce myself with a nickname I expect friends to use (I have never done and I have not ever seen it done where I am from) — because a nickname is not my name. If people were to grow close enough to use a nickname for me, they would pick it up by being exposed to other friends who use a nickname for me. I guess this is all under ‘how people use names and nicknames is really culture specific’.