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In Spain it is quite common to use the hypocoristic Paco to refer to the people with the name Francisco.

Why is that? Wikipedia states that:

In Spanish, people with the name Francisco sometimes are nicknamed "Paco": San Francisco de Asís was known as Pater Comunitatis (The Community father) when he founded the Franciscan order, "Paco" is a short form of "Pater Comunitatis".

But there is no reference to this fact and I wonder if this is another built-up story related to ¿Por qué Pepe es equivalente a José? with Pater Putativus.

Note, as seen in comments, that also Pacho (in Colombia) and Pancho (in Chile, among others) are used as hypocoristics to Francisco.

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    The Pater Comunitatis story is the same I heard before but it is even more curious when you think that around latin america we do not use Paco but Pacho – DGaleano Aug 2 '16 at 13:04
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    @VladimirNu I don't think so. I've met some Pachos in Colombia. Pancho is another hypocoristic, as well. So now we already have three: Paco, Pacho and Pancho : ) – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Aug 2 '16 at 13:32
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    Totally off-topic, but in Chile paco is a short name for cop, which is carabinero. – Vladimir Nul Aug 2 '16 at 13:33
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    @fedorqui I confirmed that. I have a venezuelan friend (Francisco, by the way) who just told me that there they use Pancho as well, but some friends from him (also from Venezuela) call him Pacho, he believes because they have family in Colombia and live close to the border. – Vladimir Nul Aug 2 '16 at 13:42
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    @VladimirNu I'm wrong. In Etimologías de Chile there are several theories about the origin of our Chilean pacos. – Rodrigo Aug 2 '16 at 13:51
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Amando de Miguel briefly states some theories in this article. I tend to favour the one pointing at the abbreviation of Phranciscus (the latinised version of Francisco de Asís's nickname) as Ph.co in signs and inscriptions. This explains Paco which, relaxing the /k/ sound, becomes Pacho and, mixing this with the original n in the full name, gives Pancho. Versions in other language, such as the Aragonese Francho or the Italian Franco, can be explained also through abbreviation, including or not the relaxation of the /k/ sound.

The blog post ¿Cómo se llega de Francisco a Paco? expands a bit on the explanation, adding an interesting parallel between the proposed Ph.co or Phco and the current Fco., which we use in names such as Francisco Javier (usually abbreviated nowadays as Fco. Javier in writing).

  • From the moment this question was asked I've thought that it was going to be something about the abbreviation of the name. I'm an amateur genealogist, and I've seen a lot of birth records of people named Francisco, abbreviated to Franc.o (with the o as an exponent). Those records were from the XVII century, and I supposed that a previous abbreviation should be the origin of Paco). – Charlie Aug 3 '16 at 14:07
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In brief: I think the evolution from Francisco to Paco, Pacho and Pancho obeys the same mechanisms observed in other hipocorystics, probably related to child pronunciation or imitation of this one for emotional reasons.

With Chilean examples, there are other hypocoristics where a F is changed by a P:

  • Alfonso - Poncho
  • Felipe - Pipe
  • Josefa - Chepa
  • Francisco - Pancho

And where the R sound is deleted or replaced:

  • Federico - Rico - Quico
  • Mercedes - Merche - Meche
  • Beatriz - Betri - Beti
  • Patricio - Patro - Pato
  • Victoria - Toria - Toya
  • Sergio - Chercho - Checho
  • Francisco - Fraco - Paco

And in which the word length is shortened to two syllables (this includes all the previous examples):

  • Florencio - Floro
  • Alejandro - Jano
  • Eduardo - Yayo
  • Vicente - Vicho
  • Rodrigo - Rorro
  • Francisco - Paco

And where the accent position in the word shortened is changed to the first syllable:

  • Catalina - Cata
  • José - Cote
  • Gabriel - Gabo
  • Victoria - Viqui
  • Mauricio - Mauro

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