The Truth About Dr. McCoy's Nickname In Star Trek

"Star Trek's" Dr. Leonard McCoy was one of the first human medical professionals that the series introduced. He was the chief medical officer of the Starship Enterprise and the close friend of its commander, Captain James T. Kirk. Actor Deforest Kelley played the character in the original series, which ran from 1966 to 1969, shows IMDb, as well as the animated series, films, and a cameo in the pilot episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Dr. McCoy is also one-third of an iconic trio, the "Big Three" of the original series: himself, Kirk, and Spock. Together the friends each offer a different trait that made them the dynamic they were.

But most Trekkies also know Dr. McCoy by another name. Throughout the series' run, McCoy is called "Bones" — a name that Captain Kirk first calls him, says Trekkie fan site Memory Alpha. Other characters would also refer to him as such and it became a nickname that stuck with the character. It appears that on the show, he was simply called "Bones" without there being additional commentary on why this was his nickname.

Where did the nickname 'Bones' come from?

Captain Kirk calls Dr. McCoy "Bones" in episode 2 of the first season, titled "The Man Trap," says IMDb. But why? According to Comic Book Resources (CBR), Bones was the name for the character long before "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry came up with Dr. Leonard McCoy. In his show pitch, he only had the character listed as "Bones" with a completely different full name.

Roddenberry came up with the nickname. It was short for "sawbones." What inspired it? When surgical doctors had to perform amputations in the 19th century, the term came about because they had to saw through bones to do a successful amputation. So people would often refer to surgeons and other doctors as a "sawbones," which is also was Dr. McCoy was. On the show Captain Kirk simply calls his friend "Bones,” but no reason is ever given as to why.

In the 2009 "Star Trek" reboot film, an explanation was finally presented. In the movie, a newly-divorced McCoy says to Captain Kirk that his wife left him with nothing but bones, his metaphor for being completely stripped and left with absolutely nothing after the separation. But that almost didn't happen. As CBR reports, actor Karl Urban, who portrayed "Bones" in the film, improvised the whole thing, said the film's director, J.J. Abrams.