Finnish for busy people

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

Name Nicknames
Aarne Arska, Ari
Aaro Arska
Aki Aksu
Akseli Aksu
Aleksanteri Santtu
Aleksi Allu, Altsu
Antero Anttu, Anssi
Antti Ana, Ande, Andy, Anska
Arto Artsi, Arska, Aatsi
Eemeli Emppu, Eemi, Eemu
Eero Ekku
Eino Eikka, Enska
Elias Elkku
Erkki Eki, Eke, Erkka
Hannu Hanski
Heikki Hessu, Heke, Heksa
Ilkka Ile, Ike
Jaakko Jaska, Jasu
Janne Jape
Jari Jarska
Jarkko Jape
Jarmo Jamppa
Joonas Jonsku, Jonttu
Juhani Jussi
Juho Jussi, Jusku, Jupe
Jyrki Jykä, Jyräys
Kai Kaitsu, Kake
Kalervo Kale
Kari Karska, Kartsa, Kale
Kauko Kake
Lauri Late, Lare, Larska
Leo Leksa, Lepa
Luukas Luka
Markku Make, Mara
Markus Make, Makke, Mara
Martti Mara
Matti Masa, Massi
Mauno Manu, Manski
Mauri Maukka, Manu
Olavi Ola
Oskari Osku
Paavo Pave
Patrik Pate, Patu
Pekka Peku, Pepe, Pietu
Pentti Pena
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
Reino Reiska, Rekku
Risto Ripa, Rike, Riku
Sakari Sakke, Saku
Samuli Samppa, Sami, Samu, Sampsa
Santeri Santtu
Seppo Sepe, Sepi
Simo Simppa
Tapio Tapsa
Tapani Tapsa
Terho Tepa
Teuvo Tepa
Timo Timppa
Tomi Tomppa
Viktor Vikke
Viljami Vili

Female names and nicknames

Name Nicknames
Agnes Netta
Anja Anjuska
Aleksandra Sandra
Anna Ansku, Annu, Annuska
Anu Annu, Annuli, Anukka, Ansku
Elina Ellu
Elise Elsu
Eleonoora Ella, Noora
Emilia Emmi, Milja, Emppu
Helena Hellu
Irmeli Irkku
Janikka Jansku
Johanna Jonna, Jonsku, Jossu
Jonna Jonsku, Jossu
Josefiina Jossu, Josku, Fiina
Kaisa Kaisuli, Kaisu, Kaisuliini, Kaisukka
Karoliina Karo
Katariina Katriina, Katri, Riina, Kati
Leena Lennu, Lellu
Liisa Lissu, Lilli
Lilja Lilli
Matilda Mallu, Malla, Masa, Tilda
Mari Marru
Marjatta Jatta
Matleena Matu, Matukka, Mattis
Pauliina Paula
Pirjo Pirre, Pipsa
Pirkko Pirre, Pipsa
Rebekka Repe, Pekka
Riitta Ritu
Ritva Ritu
Sinikka Sini
Susanna Sussu, Susku, Suski
Tanja Tanjuska
Tatjana Tinja
Terttu Tepa, Tertukka, Tepukka
Tiina Tintti, Tinja
Veronika Veera
Veera Veeruska

 

Read more about Finnish nicknames from other sources:

I hope you found this article on Finnish nicknames interesting!

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Federico

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.

Inge (admin)

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.

Federico

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’.