Is it possible to make Gmail use the "Nickname" field as the first choice for autocompleting a contact when writing an email? And, if possible, also for ordering them in contacts?

I don't know what was intended with the "Nickname" entry, but while I put people's full name in the "Name" field (obviously), I use "Nickname" for what I usually call them. So for example, I might have "Michael" in the "Name" field, but "Mike" in the "Nickname" Field.

This also relates to friends of mine whose real names are in different languages with different characters and whatnot, but I think the point is made.

Can "Nickname" take priority, and if it is not found, then default to the "Name" field?

6 Answers 6


It doesn't seem (according to how Google has it) nickname has much use outside of the Contacts page. It's just an extra bit of fluff to the contact information currently. There have been many cases of users complaining of change from within the name field itself to a separate entity called nickname.

Your best option (while not great by any means) currently would be to add the nickname to the end of the name in Contacts.

e.g. John Doe (sandman) or John Doe "sandman" or John 'sandman' Doe

Of course you risk the user seeing this but if it's their known nickname I think it would not bother them.

You can also consider suggesting it as a feature



As a workaround, you can create a new contract group in contacts with the group name being the person's nickname, and then just add that one person to the contract group.

Advantage of this approach: Gmail does do autocomplete on contact group names, and the contact group name itself does not end up getting displayed in the "To" field.

To do this:

  1. From the Gmail PC interface, in the top-left corner, from the "Gmail" drop-down menu, select "Contacts".
  2. Check the checkbox of the contact for whom you'd like to add a nickname.
  3. From the "Contacts" dropdown that appears near the top of the screen (looks like 3 circles side-by-side over a horizontal line), click "Create new."
  4. Enter the nickname you'd like to assign the person, then click OK.

For me, it took around 60 seconds for the new group (nickname) to sync over from Contacts to Gmail after I had created it, so that I could use it to compose a new mail message.


There's a much better solution than either Jon Schneider's or phwd's answers that involves adding an internal "second name" to the contact.

I have a number of contacts that have names using non-ASCII characters, that I prefer to look up using their ASCII equivalents but have the non-ASCII show in the To: field (for instance, I want to type "Katya" to find "Квтя" so I don't need to change keyboard layouts just to look up a contact). You can make Gmail do this currently by using the "Merge Duplicate Contacts" feature, and though I've seen zero documentation on it I've been doing it for a couple years now without issue:

First, create a duplicate contact, but with the nickname as the actual name. Then, use the "Merge Duplicate Contacts" feature to merge them, setting the actual name of the merged contact to the one you'd like to see in the To: field. This leaves you with a contact with a hidden "second name", that can be used for autocompleting and in searches.

A downside of this method is that the second name field, as far as I can tell, is truly hidden and unchangeable — you'll have to delete the contact and create a new one to get rid of it. But luckily, most people don't change their names very frequently, so this hasn't been an issue for me. I also typically set the "nickname" field to the hidden name's value during the merge, as a record what the hidden name is.

  • 3
    Unfortunately this didn't work for me -- have you checked it recently? Also, if it does work, it's worth pointing out that there are two different merge actions in Google Contacts, neither of which is currently called "Merge Duplicate Contacts". There's one to automatically "Find & merge duplicates", but it doesn't identify the contacts as duplicates from the name/nickname match. You need to select the two contacts, and then the "Merge contacts" item is ungrayed and you can merge them.
    – joriki
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 5:17

You may have already found this on your own and it's possible that it's only a recent addition to Gmail and contact.
There's now a Label option in Contacts.
I've just confirmed that you can assign an arbitrary label to a person and in short order use that label to address email to them or search for prior correspondence. The emails addressed to them show their name, not the label. Cheers.

  • The "Label" field seems to be a set of categories, such as "work" or "home". It would seem to break the functionality by using it to apply individual names.
    – Questioner
    Commented Aug 17, 2020 at 15:27
  • Are you sure? I just created about 10 unique labels (either two-digit numerical values or three character alpha+numeric values) and, while it took up to about a day for the last half to appear (with their linked email addresses) in Gmail, I can see them all now.
    – Adam
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 17:05

Behold: Google Contacts now has a field called Save as which does exactly what you want it to do!

  • Sounds good, but I don't see this feature anywhere. How do I access it?
    – Questioner
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 5:12
  • Only quickly checked in the browser on desktop: Edit contact -> Show more (bottom left) -> and then it's in the "Name" section - Suffix - First Name - Middle Name - Last Name - Nickname - Save as Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 8:35
  • 1
    Found it. In my interface, it was labelled "File as" not "Save as" but in any case, that seems to be the feature you're talking about. However, while this does seem to affect how a contact appears in the Contacts interface, so far as I can tell it does not change how you can enter recipients in the "To" field in Gmail. I don't get autocomplete suggestions based on contacts with new "File as" entries. So I don't think this is the functionality I was hoping for.
    – Questioner
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 7:58

Another possible solution is to use normal First/Last Name with the nickname and then by clicking show more, edit the Phonetic First/Last Name with the actual name. Downside is only the nickname works, typing out the actual name doesn't but it is recorded.

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