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I Spy a Nickname - All About Pi

by Angela Chng February 20, 2019 2 min read

Have you ever had a nickname? Or have you ever known someone with a nickname? Below are a few names with popular nicknames associated with them. Some of these nicknames may be familiar to you.

Alexander – Alex
Samuel – Sam
Elizabeth—Liz, Betty, Bette, Beth, Liza, Lizzie...
Rebecca – Becky

Among other reasons, we give people nicknames to shorten long names, to help with speaking or writing a name, or to make a difficult or unusual name easier to say or remember. Take a look at this long list of numbers.


These numbers represent only the FIRST 1,000 numbers of π. π is an irregular number, which means its numbers go on and on forever and will not repeat in any sort of pattern. If anything needed a nickname, it is π!

In the early 1700s people did just that. This very long number was given a Greek nickname by some mathematicians and other scientists who began using the Greek letter pi to refer to this constant ratio. A few decades later, π was introduced as it is the symbol for the Greek word for “perimeter”.

Why Greek? The Greeks were some of the first experts in the study of geometry (a type of math that studies the size, shape, and position of figures like circles) so many geometry terms in English come from Greek. The nickname given by some mathematicians and other scientists at the time began using the Greek letter pi to refer to this constant ratio.

Interestingly, Legos got their unusual name in much the same fashion as π. Legos were first made in Denmark and thus given a Danish nickname. Lego is actually an abbreviation of the two Danish words “leg godt”, meaning “play well”.


This is the third in our series of Pi Day activities and resources created by STEMstitute.  Be sure to check out Finding Pi Around the House, Make a Pi Necklace, and Pie for Pi Day!

Angela Chng
Angela Chng

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