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A German-speaking friend of mine referred to another person, Madeline, by the nickname "Maddie." Except that she used the term "cozy name."

Google translate gives me "Spitzname," or more likely "sobriquet," for nickname. Are these good translations? I also get "gemütlich" for cozy, but I don't think there is anything like "gemütlichname."

Is there a better German usage for "nickname," or as my friend put it, "cozy name?"

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"Gemütlichname" sounds like "Dr. Merkwürdigliebe". (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Strangelove) –  Toscho Sep 23 '13 at 16:59
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5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The others are right:

What you're looking for is Spitzname.

It's worth differentiating the other suggestions, though:

  • Kosename -- This is a "term of endearment" (and you're right: this is very likely the original of the botched "cozy name". The "Kose-" part is related to "liebkosen" and evokes the mental image of being (physically) affectionate to this person.)
  • Neckname, Scherzname, Spottname -- These are terms for negative or teasing nicknames, to a larger or lesser degree. However, since this is also covered by "Spitzname", and the're very uncommon, I wouldn't recommend using them (even though Duden lists them).
  • Sobriquet -- This is not a German word - don't trust Google translate :)
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The term Sobriquet will not be understood by most native German speakers.

There's a simple rule that you can follow to figure out which word you can use in German:

Use Kosename for family or partner, i.e. people that are very close to you:

Ich gebe meiner Frau Kosenamen.

Use Nickname when talking about one's online name:

Wie ist dein Nickname?

And Spitzname in any other situation.

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Dict.cc lists these as possible translations:

  • Spitzname
  • Kosename
  • Neckname
  • Scherzname
  • Spottname

The German Wikipedia has Spitzname as the equivalent of nickname.

In my opinion, Spitzname is the best translation for nickname.

Kosename is mostly used for a person for which the speaker feels affection.


BTW: I have never heard cozy name before.

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"Kosename is mostly used for a person for which the speaker feels affection." That's what I needed to know. But it does sound like "cozy name." I think that this was her (mis)"translation" of Kosename. –  Tom Au Sep 23 '13 at 14:45
    
I think that nickname is used in a slightly more general sense then Spitzname, and that a Spitzname is often taunting or at least humorous. I think (but am not sure of it, because that would require better knowledge of English than I have) that this does not have to be the case for a nickname. Also, it is very much possible that the usage of Spitzname is changing. –  Carsten Schultz Sep 23 '13 at 15:55
    
@TomAu, thanks to Wikipedia you can tell her that she meant a term of endearment ;) –  Carsten Schultz Sep 23 '13 at 15:56
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@CarstenSchultz "Spitzname" need not be humorous. My own nick at stackexchange is a "Spitzname" I got during high school. It's not humorous at all. –  Toscho Sep 23 '13 at 17:01
    
Then maybe @Toscho is not a Spitzname ;) As I said, the meaning may be shifting, but the original meaning is narrower, see the entries in all three dictionaries at woerterbuchnetz.de or even the 1986 edition of Wahrig. –  Carsten Schultz Sep 23 '13 at 18:38
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I am from Germany:

  • Spitzname

That's exactly what you are looking for. Maddie is a Spitzname for Madeline. You only call the person by their Spitzname when you are a good friend of the person. A Spitzname can be without any relation to the name. For example Madelines Spitzname can as well be whateveryouwant.

Opa for example is a Kosename for Großvater. Like papa for father.

  • Neckname
  • Scherzname
  • Spottname

I never used any of these and I never heard someone using them.

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My I offer Rufname as another alternative to Spitzname. I've heard it used in the context and it makes sense given the duality defined by Duden

  1. Vorname einer Person, mit dem sie angeredet wird (im Unterschied zu weiteren Vornamen)
  2. (besonders Funkwesen) Kennung

However, Spitzname would certainly be the one used in most cases for the context you gave.

Rufname literally translates to "calling name" (or "name someone is called by") and I have heard it used to refer to the nickname rather than simply the first name. In fact I have heard it in both cases. However, there are a lot of regionalisms in German, so this may be a local thing. Just wanted to give it for completeness.

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