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Who is Your “Namesis”?

June 10, 2019 laurawattenberg 39 Comments

Who is Your “Namesis”?

June 10, 2019 LauraWattenberg 39 Comments
Enraged man with "Lucas" name tage
Image: Aaron Amat/Adobe

Your name has enemies. Don’t blame yourself, it’s nothing that you did. In fact, your name itself is perfectly innocent. But somewhere out there, there’s another name holding a grudge.

I learned this from a Twitter conversation started by a Jonah who declared Jonas his name’s natural enemy. When he invited others to share their own name’s nemesis, or “namesis,” the floodgates were open. Name enemies, it seems, are everywhere.

Most often, the villains are near-doppelgangers. After you’ve mistakenly been called—or responded to—a particular name one or two hundred times, the die has been cast:

It’s not always about mistaken identity, though. For some names it’s a moral imperative: your own name is right, thus variants are corrupt and must be stamped out.

Perhaps most interesting are the names that don’t sound alike, but are constantly confused because they feel alike. Women named Rebecca, I now know, are routinely called Rachel. Then there are the people who suddenly find that their surname has become a popular first name. The variants are endless, but the core experience is universal. We all have our nameses. What’s yours?


Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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  • JGuliaP June 10, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    My maiden name is Park and my brother has a name ending in -er. I imagine he would say his namesis is Parker. Plenty of people have mistakenly called him that over the years.
    I love the idea of the namesis and will be thinking what they might be for the people I interact with.

    • k June 11, 2019 at 2:41 am

      As a Katie born in the ‘80s I loathe mistakenly being called Kathy by people older than me. It’s such a Boomer name.

  • Gina June 10, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    I’m a Virginia who is often mistaken for Victoria. I get it in Greek, too: Greek speakers keep calling me Evgenia.

  • luciernaga
    luciernaga June 10, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    I think popular nicknames that the person hates ought to count: my best friend Victoria’s namesis is Vicky; my mom (technically Elizabeth) goes by Lib but NEVER Libby.

  • Colette June 10, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    I am “Colette with 1 L”. Namesis no. 1 are all the Collettes out there. Namesis no. 2 is Colleen! I guess people just opted for the close but familiar instead of actually remembering my name. There are the random Claudette and Cosette references, but not as much.

  • Amity June 11, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    My name is Amity and my namesis is Amy. Way too many people guess names from the beginning and ending, completely ignoring the insides.

  • Martha June 11, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    Thankfully, Martha doesn’t really have a namesis. The closest is Marsha: I’ve had a few instances where my name was mis-heard as that.

    (Then there was the time at Burger King where the server wrote down Bertha instead of Martha. That one had me seriously contemplating going to the manager and complaining, because it seemed… deliberately offensive.)

    My sister Julia’s namesis is Julie. She is not now, nor was she ever, named Julie. But a certain type of person (somewhat generational, but not entirely so) insists on calling her Julie, despite being clearly and repeatedly told that the name is Julia. Three syllables, please.

  • Angela June 12, 2019 at 12:41 am

    I’m Angela and my nemesis is Angelica…so close, but so far! There was an Angelica in school with me whose last name was only one letter different from mine…she was always being sent to the principal’s office and I was summoned in her place a few times for things I didn’t do!

  • Andrea June 12, 2019 at 4:27 am

    My name is Andrea. I have constantly been called Angela. There were two girls in my class called Angela, which didn’t help, but people who didn’t know them still confused Andrea and Angela.

  • Jenna June 12, 2019 at 4:30 am

    Jenna… not Jenny, Jennie, Jennifer, Ginny, Ginnie…or Shannon. (Why must they be confused?)

  • Kimberlite
    Kimberlite June 12, 2019 at 5:30 am

    I knew two Claras with Claire nameses… namesises. Hmm, not sure how to pluralize.
    They both absolutely hated being addressed by the nn Claire-bear because it’s-Clara-not-Claire-thankyouverymuch.

  • Lydia June 12, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    This has gotten better as my name has grown in popularity, but growing up, my namesis was Linda. In school when we had a substitute reading the roll, I would answer “Here” for Linda, just to move things along.

  • Kater-ater
    Kater-ater June 13, 2019 at 1:37 am

    One of my earliest memories is a conversation with an adult who just met me:

    Them: “Oh, I bet your parents sometimes call you Katie.”
    Me: “No! My name is KATE NOT KATIE!”

    And, though I manage to be marginally more diplomatic about it now, this is basically how I still feel.

    Also, as a full name Katherine, the first time I heard the name Katelyn I legit thought it was a fake, made-up invention based on Katherine.

  • Brigit June 13, 2019 at 11:45 am

    My real name is Patricia, pronounced by most people I grew up with as Patreecia, so my namesis in Catholic school was T(h)eresa. There were lots of both of us and people would mix us up.

    And Pat, since I’ve always been Trish but people insist on saying Pat when they see Patricia on a form or list.

    And Chris, because when you answer the phone as Trish half the world replies “Hi, Chris….”

  • Katie June 13, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    My name is Katie but for some reason have been called “Sarah” more times throughout my life than I count. No idea why.

    Also, because my full name is Katharine “with an A, like Hepburn”, all the other spellings are my namesis and bane of my existence! 😉

  • Fiona June 13, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    At first I thought I didn’t have one, as a Fiona; it’s pretty distinctive. Then I remembered. Fifi. Only one person in the world is allowed to call me Fifi and IT ISN’T YOU!

    Fi is fine, though. 😉

  • Amy3 June 13, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    As an Amy, I don’t really have a namesis. It’s not usually mistaken for anything else. However, I have been called Carrie by several people. Maybe I just look like a Carrie?

  • Emmeline
    Emmeline June 14, 2019 at 8:39 am

    I’m Emily, and my name is hardly ever confused with anything else. Nonetheless, my namesis is Emma. It’s the boring, insipid, spineless version of my own beautiful (though sadly way more popular than I’d like) name. Why would you ever choose Emma (also way too popular) when Emily is on the table?

  • Rebecca Webber June 14, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    I’m a Rebecca who has always gone by Becky, which has left me with several nameses:

    1. Becca — this was the most common nickname for Rebecca when I was growing up, so I’ve been called Becca a lot, and I hate it. In my mind, Becca is the mean girl.

    2. Debby and Peggy — people regularly mishear my name as one of these on the phone (probably my lack of annunciation, but still bizarre to me, as I don’t think of those as generationally-appropriate for someone born in the Gen X-millennial cusp).

    3. Of course, my real problem these days is Becky itself, from “Becky with the good hair” to “BBQ Becky,” your own name of the year for 2018. (Note: I feel strongly that it should be Beccas in the crosshairs of the clueless young white woman stereotype, and how about Debby or Peggy as the racist white woman?)

  • Kayeff
    Kayeff June 14, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    Cordelia’s namesis is definitely Cornelia.

    Mine is the standard version of my non-standardly-spelled name, but I don’t really think that it’s fair to villainize all people who spell my name like that since it’s an unusual spelling. Unless you’re my cousin, friend, have known me for years, or have my name written RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. Like, I signed my email to you and you respond with a misspelled salutation. That’s unacceptable.

    (Emily, I love your impassioned diatribe against Emma!)

  • wsusanna91
    wsusanna91 June 16, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I’m a Susanna who is usually Sue, but also routinely called “Susan” or “Suzanne” by co-workers and acquaintances. . Usually, I respond to either without a second thought.
    I went by my full name more often as a child, and was often mistaken for a Samantha or Savannah.
    As an elementary-schooler, I named my modern American Girl doll “Savannah” as a parallel of myself.

  • Zoe June 18, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    I’m a Zoe and my namesis would have to be Chloe. They rhyme, they’re both Greek in origin, and I suppose equally as popular? I was so shy as a child that my teacher called me Chloe for the entire year and I never corrected her. I would say “Zo” is another namesis but I’ve never met anyone who has that actual name or pronounces Zoe as such.

    • LauraWattenberg
      LauraWattenberg June 19, 2019 at 6:10 am

      I once listened to an audiobook with a female protagonist called “Zo,” which seemed a little odd for the character. A year or so later I saw a copy of the physical book and discovered the name was Zoe! Aaaaaaahh.

  • Evie
    Evie June 18, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    “Namesis” is brilliant 🙂 I sadly have a lot of them. Elaine and Alanna are probably the worst, but Alina is up there, too. Pretty much any *L*N* combination, where * can be any vowel. Though in recent years I have made peace with the “Ellen-uh” pronunciation of my name, and will respond to it without any ill feelings.

  • Emily June 19, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Another Emily here! My “namesis” is probably Elizabeth, though for awhile I worked with an Erin and we were routinely mixed up.
    My boyfriend is Ethan, which is relatively uncommon for my age group, despite its popularity now. He has been referred to as Evan, Ian, and Nathan (it took my grandparents about two years to get to “Ethan”).

  • Kayeff
    Kayeff June 20, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    Laura, do you have one? Where I am, it would be Lauren, but I’m not sure if you pronounce those as similarly where you live. (Here they’re both LORE-, but given other Lauras I’ve met from your parts, there’s a good chance that you call yourself LAHR-uh.)

    • LauraWattenberg
      LauraWattenberg June 21, 2019 at 3:46 am

      Yep, people hear Lauren a LOT — but not as often as my husband Martin gets “Mark.” He tries to enunciate the “Mar-tin” really clearly, but sometimes people even respond “Mark” when they’ve only seen his name in emails!

      • Emmeline June 27, 2019 at 8:26 am

        The email thing is always astonishing to me. I once sent an email and got a response of “Hola EMILIO.” Changing my name and sex!

  • lucubratrix July 3, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    I’m a Jennifer, which is a pretty namesis-proof name, as far as they go, because it’s by far the default version and there really aren’t any sound-alikes. However, I think the closest name is might actually be Stephanie: 80s timestamped, prominent f sound, three syllables… and the name of the person I married. Kids have a heck of a time remembering which one of us which.

  • Grace July 18, 2019 at 5:44 am

    My name is Grace and I get called Chris, Gray and…Greg. Usually by people to whom I’ve given my name over the phone. Come on…do I SOUND like a Greg?

  • Marie January 30, 2020 at 5:53 am

    I realize that I’m late to the conversation but as a Marie, I feel like Marias are my allies but Marys are my enemies. My name also gets occasionally misheard as Emily or Bree.

  • Meagan H. March 12, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    I feel like I might BE the namesis. Not too many MeAgan’s. If I had to pick though…I would throw in my lot with the “Megan’s” of the world and be anti-“Meghan”. Also…pronouncing my name “MEE-gan”?! No. Just wrong. Meagan like Ronald Reagan.

  • erickajean
    erickajean April 9, 2020 at 2:15 am

    I am an Ericka and I have two nameses:

    1) Jessica. Why do so many people make this mistake? I guess because our names were popular at the same time in the 80s and the vowels are the same. But still!!!!

    2) A guy once called me Erin in bed and I WILL NEVER FORGET

  • Ira Sass November 12, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    My name is Eli. I tend to get called “Ellie” a lot so for a while that was my namesis, but now I don’t mind if it’s coming from Spanish or Hebrew speakers because that’s how Eli would be pronounced in those languages.

    I also get “Elliot” a lot but I don’t mind, I feel like Elliots are my name allies.

    Weirdest mis-hearings: “Clyde” (??, but okay it has the same vowel sound), and “Jonas” (I was at a drive-thru and talking through a mask, but still, ??????).

  • Robin March 18, 2021 at 2:31 am

    As a Robin, my natural namesis is Robyn. But one time I passed out giving blood and awoke to the nurse saying, “Regina, Regina, are you okay?” Which really added to my confusion.

    Weirdly, I’ve also been called Brooke more than once. A friend eventually offered an explanation: “They’re both nature names. The robin splashes in the brook.”

  • Bdayz December 31, 2021 at 4:43 am

    As a Betti (yes, you heard me, BettI) I will instantly loathe any Elizabeth, let alone a BettY. I feel platonically attracted to Kathryns. Yep, Karthryns. We’ve both got old names with new spellings.

    • Bdayz December 31, 2021 at 4:47 am

      ***I spelled “Kathryn” wrong. Oops! If your name really is KaRthryn, with a random R, hi!

  • Virginia June 26, 2022 at 1:58 am

    I’m surprised no one else has mentioned how challenging noun names can be — I frequently experienced people thinking Destiny/Harmony/Felicity/Serenity were all the same (I mean, they got the last letter right). However, I did feel like throwing “Chastity” into that list crossed a line.

  • RW-in-DC
    RW-in-DC July 2, 2022 at 11:23 am

    Could the namesis issue also be how the name shows up in fiction? E.g., Clarence Day (author of “Life with Father” and “Life with Mother”) writes of seeing his name as the villain in many books of his youth; he was actually Clarence Day (Jr.) so he knew who to blame for his name. However, what about the parents that name their son “Cain” without a family history? 😉

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