Naming Your Web Product

name_tag2.pngWhen I’m developing something new, I always have a terrible time coming up with a name I really like. I spend way too much time obsessing over it. Web products have the additional burden of having to have an available domain to use. I’ve written before how we obsess over these things, but that I don’t think that names are a first order effect on the success potential of a startup. Still, I can’t help it. There’s some intrinsic attraction to the creative power of naming something wholly new.

While at boston startup weekend, it reminded me that I’m not the only one who has this obsession when creating new products. I decided to share some of the tools I’ve found useful in coming up with names, as well as a bit of workflow.

Usually I’ll come up with a few concept words that I think are representative of the product or idea. A good first resource is just using a thesaurus like, to see if there are other related words to the first key words that might better embody the project idea (or maybe words that have a better sound).

Then I’ll usually use a few word / domain mashing sites to see if any combination of those words make suitable domain names that are available. I use Nameboy and Suggestly. These tools are useful because they automatically mash words together with other common domain words and simultaneously check domain availability.

The next step I usually do is to find rhyming words based on my keywords. Sometimes rhyming combinations can be compelling (think StubHub). Finding rhyming combinations that work is pretty tough, but it’s worth checking. I use a site called Rhymezone to check for rhyming patterns.

The last step I usually try is to take root, prefix, and suffix words that give the ‘feel’ for the product and use Wordoid to come up with “english-like” words that incorporate pieces of the words. Wordoid is, again, very useful because it checks the domain availability of the invented words as it generates them.

Another tool that I occasionally use, especially if I’m stuck, is Chris Pirillo’s Domain suggestion engine. The site takes a URL to any page and randomly mashes words from the page’s text together and checks the domain availability. It seems like it’s a bit of a side project and doesn’t always work, but it’s useful because it can act almost like random brainstorming. I’ve found it sometimes sparks me to think in ways I wasn’t thinking before. It can highlight words you might not have thought of, especially if you point the tool to a site that incorporates a lot of the concepts that are specific to your product.

This isn’t exactly a linear workflow. Each step usually sparks ideas that can be tried at the different points. Overall, it’s kind of like an internet assisted brainstorming session. Hopefully you’ll find these tools useful in naming your own web product. Don’t obsess too much though, there’s a lot of work to be done. :)

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  • tommorris

    Mike, I'd suggest Roget's over is good, but there's just more of Roget's. And if you are on a Mac, use the Thesaurus in, which isn't as good as Roget's but better than Also, for naming, Greek and Latin roots are fantastic depending on the audience. And all the usual techniques of wordplay: metonymy/synecdoche, metalepsis, crossword clues (especially cryptic ones) etc.

    I was coming up with names for a project today, and I tend to find that Google, Wikipedia, whois and Twitter (to check username availability) are most of what I need.

  • mikepk

    Thanks Tom, the more techniques / resources, the better! I'd be curious what projects your working on lately ;)

  • tommorris

    Technology-wise: very few. I'm playing around with Scala a lot. Teaching HTML, Ruby, Rails and Java. Organising BarCamps. Mostly trying to find the money to pay my way through a Ph.D.

    The project I was trying to name is a podcast. But I'm not sure about it yet.

    Glad to see you working on a new project though.

  • mikepk