A name is a label for a thing, person, place, product (as in a brand name), and even an idea or concept, normally used to distinguish one from another. Names can identify a class or category of things, or a single thing, either uniquely, or within a given context. A name for a specific individual or plurality or ethnic group, (See List of peoples) is sometimes called a proper name, and is a proper noun. Other nouns are sometimes, more loosely, called names; an older term for them, now obsolete, is general name.


Use of names

Naming is the process of assigning a particular word or phrase to a particular object or property. This can be quite deliberate or a natural process that occurs in the flow of life as some phenomenon comes to the attention of the users of a language. Many new words or phrases come into existence during translation as attempts are made to express concepts from one language in another.

Either as a part of the naming process, or later as usage is observed and studied by lexicographers, the word can be defined by a description of the pattern it refers to.

Besides their grammatical function, names can have additional or pure honorary and memorial values. For example, the posthumous name's primary function is commemorative.

Kinds of names

  • a common name is a name for a plant or animal in a locale's native language, often describing the item's appearance. For example, "buttercup" might describe several unrelated plants with small yellow flowers in different parts of the world. There are millions of possible objects that can be described in science, too many to create common names for every one. Common names are also poorly suited to the precise usage needed by scientists, since by their nature common names evolve through linguistic processes. As a response, a number of systems of systematic names have been created. An example of a systematic naming scheme is Linnaean taxonomy, which uses Latin names for plants and animals.
  • a personal name is a proper name attached to a person, such as a given name or a family name. It is universal for a person to have a name.
  • an identifier is another word for a name used in technical jargon.

Philosophical accounts of names

Proper names function in the same way as common nouns do in many natural languages. Philosophers have thus often treated the two as similar in meaning. In the late nineteenth century, Frege argued that certain puzzling features of both names and nouns could be resolved if we recognized two aspects to the meaning of a name (and, by extension, other nouns): a sense, which is equivalent to some sort of description, and a referent, the thing of things that meet that description. So the sense of dog might be "domestic canine mammal", and the referent would be all the dogs in this world. Proper names would then be special cases of nouns with only one referent: the sense of Aristotle might be, "the author of de Caelo", while its referent would be the one person, Aristotle himself. (See Sense and Reference.)

Bertrand Russell rejected Frege's position, and claimed instead that true names must never be equivalent to a description. However, he conceded that most of the apparent "names" in English really were equivalent to descriptions, specifically to definite descriptions. (These are descriptions which contain the claim that they apply to only one object: see Theory of descriptions.) If there were any real names they probably were more like "this" and "that". This position is perhaps more fairly glossed as the view that there are two different functions nouns can serve: (1) describing (and perhaps indirectly referring); and (2) referring (directly, without description); and that all or almost all English names really do the former. This position came to be known as Descriptivism with respect to singular terms, and was prominent through much of twentieth-century analytic philosophy.

In 1970 Saul Kripke gave a series of lectures arguing against Descriptivism, and holding, among other things, that names are rigid designators--expressions that refer to their objects independently of any properties those objects have. Of course, we must often use descriptions to pick out our references--to explain to others which object we are talking about, by reference to some property we both agree it bears; but it does not follow that any of these properties constitute the meaning of the name.

Kripke's work led to the development of various versions of the Causal theory of reference, which in various forms claims that our words mean what they do not because of descriptions we associate with them, but because of the causal history of our acquisition of that name in our vocabulary.

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

In the Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says (speaking about Romeo, because of the tension between their families),

   'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
   Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
   What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
   Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
   Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
   What's in a name? that which we call a rose
   By any other name would smell as sweet;

Of course, she is saying that names mean little, only substance really matters. If we called a rose anything else, would it not still smell as good? Here, Shakespeare is saying that names are not important.

Whitman's Mannahatta

In Walt Whitman's poem, Mannahatta, in the first three lines of the poem, Whitman conveys a large amount of information about names.

   I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,	 
   Whereupon, lo! upsprang the aboriginal name!	 
   Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly, musical, self-sufficient;

Here, he is saying that the name Mannahatta (or, Manhattan) is the perfect name for such a city, because it is so descriptive of its true essence. This contrasts with Shakespeare's idea that names are not important; Whitman believes that they are just as important as the thing itself.

Technical names for names

A human name is an anthroponym; a toponym is a place name; hydronym is a name of a body of water; an ethnonym is name of an ethnic group. For more, see a list of -onym words. There are also false names, such as monikers, pseudonyms, and pen names, the latter usually used only in writing.

Naming convention

A naming convention is an attempt to systematize names in a field so they unambiguously convey similar information in a similar manner.

Several major naming conventions include:

Naming conventions are useful in many aspects of everyday life, enabling the casual user to understand larger structures.

Street names within a city may follow a naming convention. In Manhattan, street names are numbers and East-West streets are "Streets" whereas North-South streets are "Avenues". In Ontario, numbered concession roads are East-West whereas "lines" are North-South routes. In San Francisco some East-West streets are alphabetically ordered. In Brampton, Ontario, different sections of town all have streets starting with the same letter and the alphabetical order reflects chronology.

Large corporate, university, or goverment campuses may follow a naming convention for rooms within the buildings to help orient tenants and visitors.

Parents may follow a naming convention when selecting names for their children. Some have chosen alphabetical names by birth order. In some Asian cultures, it is common for the middle name to be common for immediate siblings. In many cultures it is common for the son to be named after the father[1] ( In other cultures, the name may include the place of residence[2] ( Roman naming convention denotes social rank[3] (

Domain names may have a naming convention. Each domain name owner is free to set their own conventions[4] (

Products may follow a naming convention. Automobiles typically have a binomial name, a "make" (manufacturer) and a "model", in addition to a model year. Computers often have increasing numbers in their names to signify the next generation.

Courses at schools typically follow a naming convention: an abbreviation for the subject area and then a number ordered by increasing level of difficulty.

Many numbers (e.g. bank accounts, government IDs, credit cards, etc) are not random but have an internal structure and convention. Virtually all organizations that assign names or numbers will follow some convention in generating these identifiers. Airline flight numbers, Space shuttle flight numbers, even phone numbers all have an internal convention.

See also

External links

eo:Nomo es:Nombre fr:Nom ja:名前 nl:Naam ru:Имя simple:Name sl:ime fi:Nimi sv:Namn zh:人名


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools