Billy is a short form of the forename William. There are two main types of such shortenings: they are convenient for writing, e.g. in lists; or they are essentially spoken pet-names, and thus informal. (See Conventional abbreviations for forenames.)
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- Note that any informal form may be spelled in different ways. Notably, any spelling listed that ends in '-ie' may be written with the ending '-y', and vice versa.
Famous Billys include:
- King Billy - the way that William III is known to various partisan groups, such as Unionists and the Orange Order, in Northern Ireland.
- King Billy is also the familiar name, in Hull, of the statue of William III near Holy Trinity Church in the Old Town. This is said to have been bought cheaply, as the statue was a losing entry in a competition for a commemorative statue held in Bristol, which erected the winner.
- 'Puffing Billy' is the oldest steam railway locomotive in the world, having been the first ever built - in 1813-4 to move coal from Wylam colliery in Northumberland to the docks. It has survived (with several re-buildings and modifications in its working life (up to 1862) to be preserved and displayed at the Science Museum in London.
- Puffing Billy became a general name for any steam railway engine, and also (during the nineteenth century) to a by-name for any industrious or energetic person whose breath came short.
- Billy Budd is the hero of an unfinished novella by Herman Melville published posthumously in 1924. Benjamin Britten made an opera of the story, with a libretto by E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier. Billy Budd is an innocent sailor who is persecuted by Claggart, the evil Master-at-Arms on board, and accused of mutiny. Inarticulate (he stammers), he unintentionally kills Claggart, and is hanged for it. There are many allegorical echoes in the story, one of good and evil.
- Billy Bunter ('The Fat Owl of the Remove') is a caricature of a fat schoolboy, the central character in a series of stories set in the fictional Greyfriars School. They were written by 'Frank Richards', the pseudonym of Charles Hamilton (1875-196). Bunter is a by-word for idleness, lying, gluttony, and many of the misdemeanours of schoolboy life. He is frequently beaten for this, crying 'Yarooh!' to show his pain.
- Billy the Kid (1859-81) a notorious outlaw in the 'Wild West'. He was also known as William H. Bonney, Henry McCarty and Henry Antrim.
You may also want to consult a page about uses of the word billy that are not uses of the name - although some may be etymologically connected.