How to Count Spelling Variations for Names
How many ways can you spell the name Megan / Meghann / Meagan / Meggin? How many spelling variations exist for Christopher / Kristofer? How many possible ways are there to write the name Katelyn / Caitlin / Catelynn?
Some names in English can, in theory, have more than 20 valid spelling variations. Yet counting all of the spelling variations is easier than it seems. All you need to do is break up the name into its separate sound components and figure out the number of variants for each component. Knowing how to spell all the versions of a name is useful when picking out baby names or naming characters in works of fiction. This how-to guide will show how to count the number of spellings of a name using "Catharine" as an example.
Choose a name and write down a few of the most common spelling variations you already know. For example, Catharine may be spelled as Katherin or Kathrynn. This will give you an idea of where the differences can occur.
Break up the name in to the sound components that can be spelled differently. For example, with the name Catharine, we have
C ATHAR INE,
so we need to count the number of ways to spell each of these three components.
Count the number of possibilities for each component, and then multiply them all together to find the total number of spelling variants.
For the first component, we can use either "C" or "K," so there are 2 possibilities here.
For the second component, we can use either "athar," "ather," or "athr." Thus, there are 3 possibilities.
For the last component, the most common spellings are "ine," "in," "yn," and "ynn." So that makes 4 possibilities.
Since 2x3x4 = 24, there are 24 ways to spell the name Catharine. Here they are, organized into a nice, neat table:
For a name such as "Eric," there are up to 3x2x3x5 = 90 possible versions:
However, many of these spellings are rather bizarre. For instance, "Aereck," "Arriq," and "Errych" are not likely to appear on any birth certificates. In reality, the number of acceptable spellings is much less than 90.
© Had2Know 2010