A Lesson On Nicknames

Latinos love nicknames. They are second nature to us, a quick assessment of a person or situation y de repente a nickname is formed. They roll out almost as soon contact is made, whether it’s a friendly connection or not. My apas favorite show, El Chavo del Ocho, every character is nicknamed and they aren’t necessarily cute or appealing nicknames. La Bruja del 71 the “Witch in Apt. 71” earned her nickname because she was a scary old maid.

Nicknames are muy especial but they can sound goofy. A nickname is birthed from an emotion that comes from within. I allow myself to give way to this with sweet little babies. That feeling will roll around in my head, simmering, de repente, I’ve given that little baby a nickname, and most times it comes out for all the world to hear. 

I remember  my ama with her grandchildren. In her arms as she stared at the baby the nicknames were forming. It started in her eyes, her heart bursting with love. Murmurings and noises mixed with words came from deep within her and out of her mouth. I was six (feeling very grown up) when my first nephew arrived. Once in a while she would pull us in and love on us and talk in “that ” way to my little brother and me. It was mushy gibberish and though I really really enjoyed it, I couldn’t let her go on too long, after all I was a big girl now. Even at that age, I too felt the need to call my sobrinito those sweet names. I loved my amas baby talk, “Hay que Cosafina. Que Chulo esta el” If I translate it, I’ll kill it. 

Phrases that make no sense, and yet, they make total sense. My sister Patty and I came up with our own cuddling words for the baby or our perrito Chapo, it didn’t matter. We got as close as we were allowed to get, then we changed our tone to “baby gurgles” and said sweet little murmurings like “Kernitos” it was silly gibberish, to the “non baby gurglers” speaker. Kernitos meant sweet, desirable, squeezable, cuddly little thing. It was the official name me and Patty used for all the cuddly babies that we adored. Comprendes? 

Many of the people I know have nicknames. Some of them try really hard to shake them off, erase them off the face of the planet but after a while they become part of a person’s DNA, ni modo, those “sweet nothings” have stuck, sometimes you’ll hear a grown man addressed as “Papas” Hijole!


Nicknames come in different sizes and sounds. A nickname will roll off a tongue easily, musically, with words flowing together like “Chiki Chiki Boom Boom” That was the nickname my SIL used for her sweet baby. Thankfully he graduated to a more acceptable nickname, although sometimes she likes to remind him of that nickname. 

Nicknames that Point to Physical traits:

Asi es, when a trait stands out, we call it, if it’s safe to do 🤨 Mi familia:

  • Flaco, that’s one of the names I call my Benjamin. Porque? Well because he’s thin, and I’m not.
  • Flaca is what I call my friend Lucy, she’s always kept her slim figure after three kids. She never had to work at weight loss. I shake my head at the unfairness of it all!
  • Guero is what my sister in law calls my son Thomas Walter because he has light skin compared to me and my brothers. 
  • Chaparro is what my apa called my brother Fernando because he was the little guy of the first 3 sons. It means short in stature.
  • Chapo was our dog. A short loyal little mutt. This nickname was a short version of Chaparro.
  • Pelos: that was my apas nickname as a kid. Porque? He had a wild mane of hair.

Shortened names 

  • Cita my niece by marriage, was probably once called Sierracita.
  • Meño, Cita’s husband, is Emmanuel. He used to be Chiki Chiki Boom Boom!
  • Cassi is short for Cassandra… 
  • Mari is Maricella. She started off as Mari Munga (Moonga). I saw my first granddaughter looking like she had a mean mug on a sweet face. It just rolled out. Thankfully that didn’t last..
  • Lala is not the yogurt, but mi hija Daniella with an extra La.
  • Yaya is also Daniella. My nietecito Jeremiah calls her “tia Yaya” 
  • Vey is short for Nevaeh, my second granddaughter.
  • Jejo is my grandson Jeremiah Joseph
  • Mas is my nephew Tomas.
  • Turi is also my nephew, Arturito
  • Mundo is my tio Reymundo.
  • Lupe is my big sister, she was Maria Guadalupe.

Classic Mexican Nicknames In My Familia:

  • Chuy was my mothers nickname for Maria de Jesus. It was also my tio Jesus, my apas brother. 
  • Cuca was my tia Refugia
  • Chuyito was my cousin Jesus
  •  Chepina is my tia Josefina. This is the female version of Jose who is sometimes called Chepe. 

The Nickname That Would Not Be Left Behind:

Sometimes nicknames are born because a small child pronounced it with a twist.

My ama loved telling the story of my youngest brother’s nickname.

I used to be the baby of the family, until I wasn’t.  There I was,1 year and 13 days into my babyhood, when my ama came home with another baby!  I had to face the hard reality of being bumped off the “baby throne.” Me imagino, that I wasn’t taking it too well sine my ama had to convince me that he,the new infant was the baby now, such a hard blow. She would tell me “Mira el chichì”  (Chichì is a nickname for a baby.) She said Chichì and I repeated “Chicha.” One day when our oldest brother Angèl heard  it, he laughed and liked it so much that he christened the baby Chicha. That’s what he gets for bumping me into big sisterhood way too soon. We all called him Chicha. The tios, tias and primos, the neighborhood kids and the little league coaches. It’s well over 50 years and my sweet little brother, Hector Manuel can’t shake off that apodo

En Conclusíon:

Not everyone gets a nickname, sori. My nickname is Rosie, but in highschool it was also Shorty, the physical trait nickname. Gracias a Dios that I wasn’t Cejas, because I can have bushy eyebrows, or Gordita, I’ve got enough complejos! More hang ups about my weight are unnecessary. 

How about you? Did you get a nickname? 


3 thoughts on “A Lesson On Nicknames

  1. Elma💕

    All my kids had nicknames up until they were about 4?
    Aaron- Borrego
    Adrian- Chiquilin
    Alexa- Patita
    Aria- Mamachiwish
    I’m Chavela (comes from my middle name Isabel) 🤭😂


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