Company and Product Naming


So, you're interested in finding a name for your company or product, and you are wondering what you should look for in a name. The following are a few guidelines when looking to have a logo designed.

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General Categories


Company and product naming is the discipline of deciding what each will be called. Types of names for English language products and companies generally fall into one of four categories: descriptive, suggestive, arbitrary and fanciful. There are more categories that can be used to specify the type of naming, but the four listed are the basic types.

Descriptive names ascribe a characteristic, feature, ingredient, appearance or geographic location. Examples of descriptive names include Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Florida Orange Juice, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Transitions Lenses. The downside of Descriptive names is that they can be overly long. Also, these names can become generic and turned into a category name instead of a brand, exemplified by Kleenex, Rollerblade, and Dry Ice.

Suggestive names suggest or hint at a key features or certain benefits. They are allusive and are often formed by metaphors, allusions or similes. Suggestive naming is common in business-to-consumer categories such as food and household goods. Bounty paper towels, Hershey’s Kisses candy, Always feminine products, Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain bars, and the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser cleaning product are all examples of suggestive names that are meant to imply a variety of positive associations to consumers. Both descriptive and suggestive names are composed of words that either work alone or in combination to form a literal or abstract name.

Arbitrary names do not describe anything in particular or literally suggest a specific meaning. They are likewise not adapted from features or benefits like Descriptive and Suggestive names are. They are literally arbitrary. Arbitrary names can be made up of either coined or natural words. Apple, for example, was created because Steve Jobs worked on an apple farm and also believed apples to be the perfect fruit.

Fanciful or "coined" names, also referred to as neologisms (new word or expression), are often perceived as a recent phenomenon and as "completely made up," although neither of these assumptions is true. They have been popular in the United States for more than a century, evidenced by established brands like Crayola, Coca-Cola, Jell-O, and Kool Aid. These names are so readily understood that, to many people, they simply do not sound coined. Names that are usually judged to be the most effective are "meaningfully coined"; that is, they are built on descriptive or suggestive words that have meaning for the target market. Examples are Lunchables (“lunch” + “ability”) and Motorola’s RAZR (a stylized re-spelling of “razor,” which alludes to the cell phone’s thin profile).


Naming Techniques

Linguistically, names are developed by combining morphemes (smallest meaningful morphological unit of a language), phonemes (unit of sound in a language that distinguish one word from another), and syntax (grammatical arrangement of words) to create a desired representation.

Morphemes differ from words in that many morphemes may not be able to stand alone. The Sprint name is composed of a single word and a single morpheme. Conversely, a brand like Acuvue is composed of two morphemes, each with a distinct meaning. While "vue" may be able to stand as its own word, "acu" is seen as a prefix or a bound morpheme that must connect to a free morpheme like "vue." These are technically called portmanteau words.

In the English language,depending on the speaker’s accent, there are about 44 phonemes. Names that are phonetically easy to pronounce and that are well balanced with vowels and consonants have an advantage over those that are not. Likewise, names that begin with or stress plosive consonant sounds B, hard C, D, G, K, P or T are often used because of their attention-getting quality. Some phoneme sounds in English, for example L, V, F and W are thought of as feminine, while others such as X, M and Z are viewed as masculine.

Syntax is a key to consumers’ perceptions of a product name. Banana Republic would not carry the same meaning were it changed to "Republic Banana." Syntax also has significant implications for the naming of global products. In most languagues, with the exception of English, the adjective comes after the noun. It would not be "blue car" and is English, it would be "car blue".

Some specific product naming techniques are shown in the graph below.


Alliteration Coca-Cola
Oxymoron Krispy Kreme
Combination Walkman
Tautology Crown Royal
Theronym Mustang
Mimetics Google
Eponym Trump Tower
Descriptive Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Synecdoche Staples
Poetic USA Today
Metonymy Starbucks
Allusion London Fog
Haplology Land O'Lakes
Clipping FedEx
Morphological Borrowing Nikon
Ommision RazR
Acronym Adaptation BMW
Backronym KFC
Founder Naming Ferrari
Arbitrary Apple
Reduplication Spic and Span


Alliteration - refers to the repetition of a particular sound in the first syllable of the first word of a series of words and/or phrases.

Oxymoron - is a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms. (old news, living dead, virtual reality)

Tautology - using different words to say the same thing even if the repetition does not provide clarity. (ex. free gift, faster speed, safe haven)

Theronym - a name — especially a product name — that has been derived from the name of an animal.

Mimetics - are words that mimic a sound. Mimetics and onomatopoeias are synonyms.

Eponym - is the name of a person, whether real or fictitious, after which a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item is named.

Synecdoche - A figure of speech is which a part is used to represent the whole or the whole for a part. ("glasses" for spectacles, "plastic" for a credit card)

Metonym - is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept. In the example, Starbucks was named after Pequod's First Mate in Moby Dick. (Washington for the US government)

Allusion - is a figure of speech that makes a reference to, or representation of, a place, event, literary work, myth, or work of art, either directly or by implication.

Haplology - is defined as the elimination of a syllable when two consecutive identical or similar syllables occur. (mono nomial to monomial, probably to probly)

Clipping - In linguistics, clipping is the word formation process which consists in the reduction of a word to one of its parts.

Morphological Borrowing - the transfer of grammatical morphemes (inflection, derivation, and function words) from one language to another through language contact.

Backronym or Bacronym - is a phrase constructed purposely such that an acronym can be formed to a specific word, a reverse acronym.

Reduplication - in linguistics is a morphological process in which the root or stem of a word (or part of it) is repeated exactly or with a slight change.


Beware of Language Barriers

Many companies have stumbled across the importance of considering language differences.

Ford Caliente, meaning "hot" in Spanish, is also slang in many countries for "streetwalker."

Irish Mist introduced its drink brand in Germany without knowing that "mist" is German slang for excrement.

A Spanish potato chip brand called "Bum" did not sell well in the United States due to the negative connotations it carried.

When French speakers pronounce the Toyota MR-2 product name, it sounds like "merdeux", a profane word equivalent to the English "shitty."

Reebok named a women’s sneaker Incubus. In medieval folklore, an incubus was a demon who ravished women in their sleep.

Nissan sought to sell a sports car in the United States in the early 1970s called "Fair Lady." It later sold better as the 240Z.

The Honda Fitta was renamed Jazz after discovering that fitta is Norwegian and Swedish slang for the female genitals.

The Mitsubishi Pajero was named 'Montero' (mountaineer, highlander) in Spain because pajero means 'wanker' in colloquial Spanish.

The Buick LaCrosse was originally sold as Buick Allure in Canada because the French translation of LaCrosse means 'self love' (or 'swindle') in Quebecois slang.

There is a drink in Japan called Calpis but when pronounced sounds exactly like cow piss. The product is marketed in North America under the Calpico brand.

The soccer (Futbol) team Guadalajara Chivas has a logo on the front of their jerseys called "BIMBO". Bimbo is a company that makes cookies and other snack foods in Mexico. In the U.S. "BIMBO" is a term that describes a woman who is physically attractive but is perceived to have a low intelligence or poor education. The term can also be used to describe a woman who acts in a sexually promiscuous manner.



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