Brand naming is tough, but it's even harder if you don't know the lingo. With this handy reference, you'll avoid embarrassing naming faux pas (euphony is not a slur you hurl at posers, acronyms are most definitely not the same as initialisms, and suggestive names does NOT mean brand names that aren't safe for work) and be able to use exact linguistic terms to communicate your ideas to your branding partner.


The shortened form of a written word or phrase (compare Acronym, Initialism, and Nickname). Inc. magazine is an excellent example of an abbreviation that outdoes its full form by conveying an insider image.

Notable Names

A word formed from the initial letter or letters of a series of words in a phrase, as in GEICO and IKEA (compare Abbreviation and Initialism). The acronym form of a long name often falls into common use unintentionally. For example, most people don’t recall that scuba and radar were once acronyms (“self-contained underwater breathing apparatus” and "radio detection and ranging").

Notable Names

[noun] In English, a noun denoting the agent or doer of an action, typically formed by adding the suffix -er to the verb in question. The advantages of a name of this sort are clarity and energy. Ford Explorer, for example, makes a clear statement about the aspirations of its driver.
The repetition of the same consonant sounds (consonance) or vowel sounds (assonance) in words or syllables.
An implicit reference to a cultural idea (e.g., Honda Odyssey refers to Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey). For allusion to be successful the reference must be understood by the target audiences.
A name consisting of some combination of letters and numbers. There are a ton of alphanumeric names in the world, particularly in the transportation and tech spaces—Boeing 747, Lexus ES 300—and they can work well if you have dozens of products you want to categorize by quality, size, or some other hierarchy.

Notable Names

The blending of two or more existing name, as in Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) or Goldwyn Pictures, an amalgamation of Samuel Goldfish and Edgar and Archibald Selwyn, which later became part of Metro Goldwyn Mayer (see also Blend and Portmanteau).
A name whose use is chronologically incongruous. The appeal of Orville Redenbacher’s gourmet popping corn, for example, is inextricably tied to its 19th-century name even though the brand debuted in 1970. Roman Meal (bread) is another case of this technique.
The process of creating or modifying a particular name on the basis of an existing name or pattern in the language. For example, the Mrs. Tea teamaker is analogous to the Mr. Coffee coffeemaker. Analogy is often the basis of a logical naming architecture.
A name derived from a word written backward. Oprah Winfrey’s production company Harpo isn’t related to the famous Marx brother.
The insertion of a vowel or vowels to break up a troublesome consonant cluster. This happens frequently when English words are borrowed by foreign languages with specific consonant-vowel rules of pronunciation. An example is the candy name M&Ms, which exists in Japanese as emuandoemu.
A trademarked brand name that is now used generically (e.g., kleenex, aspirin). (See also Genericide and Verbify.)
A name meaning the opposite of another. For instance, the nickname of 7-Up—The Uncola—depends upon its antonym; the product is defined in terms of what it is not.
The omission of the initial part of a common phrase, as in “Morning” instead of “Good morning.”
A name or descriptive epithet or nickname. The Uncola is an appellation of 7-Up.
An apt name: a name that fits a person’s nature or occupation. The names of poet William Wordsworth, tennis champ Margaret Court, and White House spokesperson Larry Speakes are all examples.
A name that bears no logical relationship to the company, product, service, or attribute it describes. For example, the Native American chief Cadillac had no reason to believe he would live on in the form of an automobile. Arbitrary names can also be made-up words having no intrinsic meaning like Exxon, Kodak, and Avaya.
A name that is antiquated in style or meaning (compare Anachronism). For example, Clabber Girl recalls the earlier time in which the baking powder brand was born.
A set of names connected in form, meaning, or both (compare Semantic Field). The commercialization of the internet, for example, has given rise to a host of names that contain the components net or cyber (compare Clutter).
A noun that directly precedes the noun it modifies, without the necessity of a linking verb (so basically a noun acting like an adjective). For example, the word London in the name London Fog is an attributive noun.