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How to come up with a business name

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Passion. Energy. Courage. That’s what it takes to start a new business. You have a great idea for a business, you’ve started drafting a plan and you have a potential client base in mind. You’re (almost) ready to go for it.

The only thing missing? A great name.

A good business name should embody the feeling of your brand. It should be memorable. It should remind your employees why you’re doing what you’re doing.

You could pay a naming agency thousands of pounds to find a name that’s new, on-trend, industry-relevant, memorable and untrademarked. But you’re just starting out and you have other priorities. Instead of paying someone to name your business, try getting inspired on your own (it’s free!).

In this article, we’ll give you eighteen tips for coming up with a great business name.

  • Use acronyms
  • Create mash-ups
  • Get inspiration from mythology and literature
  • Use foreign words
  • Use your own name
  • Take a look at a map
  • Mix things up
  • Partner with another company
  • Leverage nicknames
  • Use a symbol
  • Make it descriptive
  • Use latin
  • Look at your product from another angle
  • Abbreviate
  • Tweak the spelling
  • Tell your story
  • Talk about what you believe in
  • Pick a word from the dictionary

1. Use acronyms

A lot of major companies use acronyms instead of their full names – they’re easier to remember. Take AOL (America Online) or the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), for example. So, if your business is named ‘Pearce Marketing Agency’, consider going by PMA.

2. Create mash-ups

Think about two or three words that are meaningful for you and your business. Can they be combined in some way – either in pieces, or entirely? Some examples include TripAdvisor, Evernote (from “forever” and “note”) and Netflix (“internet” and “flicks”). A name like “SaladGo” quickly demonstrates that you’re running an eatery that specialises in salads-to-go… all in just three syllables.

3. Draw inspiration from mythology and literature

Nike is one of the most iconic brands… and in Greek mythology, she’s the goddess of victory. Other well-known companies like Oracle, Hermés and Mars have mythological names too. Do some research and see if there’s a mythological figure that’s relevant to your company.

If you run a wine shop, is there something you can do with ‘Bacchus’ to name your brand? Channel Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, if you’re thinking of a name for your beauty brand.

4. Use foreign words

Incorporating non-native languages can make your business seem exotic… and memorable for potential customers. Maybe it’s a hair salon with a French name or a tea shop with a Japanese one.

5. Use your own name

It’s your business… why not incorporate your own name? Many well-known brands use the creator’s name – like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, or Boeing (named after founder William Boeing).

6. Take a look at a map

Get inspired by the globe – have you ever heard of ‘Amazon’, the Internet retail giant? It happens to be named after the largest river in the world.

7. Mix things up

Try blending numbers five and six – can you combine part of your name with part of a city? Take IKEA, for example: this name comes from the founder’s name, Ingvar Kamprad, and his hometown, Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.

8. Partner with another company

Whether you’re partnering with another entrepreneur or merging with another company, blend pieces from both names to create a new one. When Twentieth Century Pictures and Fox Film Corporation merged, they simply became 20th Century Fox.

9. Leverage nicknames.

Have you gone by ‘Ali’ your whole life? Use this as your company’s name for a personal touch. Or, use your child’s name or nickname for a sentimental (and impactful) brand name. After all, Mercedes was named after the founder’s daughter.

10. Use a symbol.

Another way to come up with a business name is to draw inspiration from a symbol or essential element of your work. A name like Naturol communicates the business and is easy to remember. (Small business win-win!)

11. Make it descriptive.

When you think about your business, what are the words that describe it best? Write down all of your options and visualise how these words could fit into your new logo or banner. Consider 7-Eleven: the name instantly tells you what’s special about their business (they’re open from 7AM-11PM every day).

12. Use latin.

Maybe you thought Latin class in school was a waste of time… but what if you could use what you learnt to craft a name for your business? This language is a great source for business names, like Volvo (“I roll”) and Acer (“sharp,” “able”). Choose a word in Latin that represents your business, like Regius.

13. Look at your product from another angle.

Take a step back from your product and see if it reminds you of anything else… like a phone that looks like a Blackberry. Maybe you’re starting a cosmetics company and you notice that your makeup palettes look like flowers. Why not use that in the brand name?

14. Abbreviate.

A great business name shouldn’t be too long. If there’s a word or phrase that means a lot to you, think about using part of it for your brand name. Take Cisco, which was inspired by its founding location, San Francisco.

15. Tweak the spelling.

Remove or add a letter, or completely change the spelling of a well-known word to make your business name more attention-grabbing. Take Flickr and Tumblr, for example – these brands dropped the “e” at the end to create concise, eye-catching names. Or, choose a word that’s essential for your company and invent a new way to spell it, like Reebok did – the athletic brand was inspired by the word “rhebok,” an African antelope.

16. Tell your story.

Does your business have a great story behind it? Why not tell it with your business name? Names like Virgin (the founders’ way of saying they were completely new to the business) were born this way.

17. Talk about what you believe in.

Use your business name as a way to remind yourself (and your employees and customers) about what you believe in. A name like “Nomad” instantly conjures thoughts of travel and adventure.

18. Pick a word from the dictionary.

If none of these ideas have inspired you yet, take a page from Twitter’s book and choose a random word from the dictionary.

What comes next?

Once you’ve chosen the perfect business name, it’s time to take action. First of all, you should make sure it’s available – you don’t want your business to have the same name as a competitor. If your name is totally unique, secure a matching domain name, set up an Instagram handle and even think about applying for a trademark.

And for the fun part – once your business has a name, you can start promoting it with some basic marketing materials. Display your business name on postcards, business cards and so much more. Keep your logo and font consistent to create a customer experience that’s on-brand from start-to-finish.