8 Ways to Create a Catchy Business Name (with a single word)

We'll review the eight methods you can use to create a catchy one-word name for your business.

These are the naming strategies often used by start-ups or technology companies looking for a unique business name based on a single word.

At the end of this article, we'll go over a simple brainstorming process to help you generate some viable names for your business using these methods.

Company Name Generators

Putting these eight methods into action will require time and brainstorming effort to create a name for your business.

However, if you're just looking to do things in a more automatic way, here are a couple of business name generators that you might want to try out. The results will be a mixed bag, but perhaps you'll see something you like.

Now that's out of the way, let's get down to the nitty-gritty of naming your business.

Use a Single Word for Your Company Name

Presuming you don't have an extensive legal team and money to burn, you won't be using an existing word from the dictionary like Alphabet, Zoom, or Apple.

You'll have to take a more innovative approach and use one of the eight most common naming methods.

The Eight Methods for Creating a One-Word Company Name

Here are the eight most common methods to create a catchy one-word business name.

  1. A letter in a word is removed: for example, tumbler becomes Tumblr
  2. A letter in a word is repeated, usually the last letter: for instance, fiver becomes Fiverr
  3. A letter in a word is substituted: for example, trees becomes Treez.
  4. A word is shortened: for example, canvas becomes Canva.
  5. A word is extended to create a new word: for example, shop becomes Shopify
  6. A new word is created by letter substitution: for example, pillow becomes Zillow.
  7. A word is misspelled: for example, easel becomes Easil.
  8. A made-up word is created: for example, Koodo.

Download the Business Naming Chart

Since this is a very loooong article, you might want to download the, much more compact, Company Naming Methods Chart with Brainstorming Process [PDF] or just the Company Naming Methods Chart [PNG] for future reference. Feel free to share them wherever you want.

Method 1: Creating a Business Name Using Abbreviation

This first method is an established advertising technique that has become popular with some modern companies. An older example of this technique is "Liquid Plumr"; where some letters have been removed from the word plumber.

There are many ways to abbreviate, but a common practice is to find a word that ends in "er" and relates in some to the nature of your company. You then omit the "e" to create your company name.

Here are some examples: Tumblr, Sprinklr, and Snappr.

Let's look at Snappr to show how this method works.

Snappr is a tech company revolving around photography. A common expression is "to snap a photo. A photo is also called a snapshot, so the word "snap" directly relates to photography.

In this case, the word "snapper" does not relate directly to photography, but the root word "snap" does, so this works well enough.

Method 2: Creating a Business Name using Letter Duplication

In this method, you find a word related to the activity of your business, and you change the spelling of the word by doubling up one of the letters in the name, usually the last letter.

Here are some examples: Fiverr, Joyy, and Simpple.

Let's look at Fiverr in more detail. Fiverr is a marketplace where you can hire people for as low as five dollars. Thus, conceptually, the word fiver (colloquially meaning five dollars) is an excellent descriptor for their business. They duplicated the "R" at the end of the word fiver, and poof; they had their business name.

Your business may not have as specific a concept word as "fiver." You may have more general category words to play with, but those work very well also.

Brainstorming words related to your business activities is step one in the brainstorming process. I get into specifics about running a brainstorming session at the bottom of this article.

Method 3: Creating a Business Name using Letter Substitution

To use this method, take a word and substitute a letter for a different letter.

Some examples of this simple letter substitution technique are Desygner, Lyft, and Treez.

This substitution is usually done in a way that preserves the sound of the word. A great example of this is "Lyft," where substituting a "Y" for an "I" keeps the word understandable as being derived from the word "Lift."

Method 4: Creating a Business Name by Shortening a Word

This method is closely related to the abbreviation method but different because it doesn't try to preserve the pronunciation of the original word.

This strategy instead tries to create a new word from an existing word.

It's a deceptively simple technique that is hard to pull off in real life. Take a word from the dictionary and drop a letter from the beginning or end of the word.

Here are three examples: Canva, Arro, and Appen,

Canva is derived from the word "Canvas". Since Canva is a software used to create images, canvas was a great word choice for this company.

Appen is also a fantastic example of this approach.

Appen is based on the word "happen," as in "they make things happen for your business." But the word "App" is also implied in the name, so we know right away that this is some sort of technology business. It's a solid name.

Method 5: Creating a Business Name by Extending a Word

Here, we take a common word and extend it by adding a suffix at the end of the word.

One common way to extend a word is to add the letters "IFY ."Here are some company names that use this tactic: Shopify, Spotify, Insurify, Expensify

In the case of Shopify, they extended the word "Shop" and created the new word "Shopify."

Their core business relates to enabling online shopping, so using the word "shop" as the base of their company name makes a lot of sense.

Another common extension is "LY". Here are some companies that used this naming strategy: Grammarly, Fastly, Leafly

It's a reasonably simple strategy to employ, but, in my opinion, these particular suffixes are overused at this point in time.

However, if your company occupies an uncommon niche as Grammerly does, I think this method can be effective in branding a very specialized area. This kind of name makes it possible for potential clients to quickly understand the exact nature of the company's business.

On the other hand, using "ify" or "ly" at the end of your brand name will generally have a generic feel and is, in most cases, best avoided. It can make the name feel stale and uninspired.

Word extension is still an incredible tactic for name generation, but you might want to try different ways to extend the word you wish to use.

The examples above use the "ify" and "ly" extensions to mimic existing ways we extend some words in the English language.

You can also extend words in ways that utilize more whimsical extensions. They tend to leverage suffixes reminiscent of suffixes used in the romance languages. Typically, these extensions end in a vowel.

Three examples fit this criteria: Edgio, Lookiero, and Coursera.

Word extension can be a great technique when the right root word is chosen. We don't have to know anything about "Coursera" to understand that the company's business revolves around education.

This method is very effective at communicating the purpose of your company to potential clients in a quick and straightforward manner.

Method 6: Inventing a New Word Using Letter Substitution

With this method, you hack an existing word to create a new word. It uses simple letter substitution to create an entirely new word, such as Zomato, Zillow, and Udemy.

Zomato is derived from the word "tomato" or "potato". Zomato is a food-based company, and so that association works well.

Zillow is derived from pillow. Pillow implies the pillow on your bed; since Zillow is a real estate company, that association also works.

Udemy is an exceptionally clever example. It uses "demy" from the word academy to imply schooling and adds the "U" to indicate self-schooling as its core concept.

Like most of these methods, the starting point is having a list of words that relate to your company's activities. You need to brainstorm those to start the naming process.

In the case of Zillow, the word used was more tangentially related than, say, the words structure or building, which are very direct.

The word they used is a bit more conceptually indirect, but it has strong emotional associations.

Pillow implies comfort and is a "warmer" word than, for example, the word "structure."

Something to remember: a word's emotional associations can be significant depending on the nature of your business.

Method 7: Misspelling a Word to make a Company's Name

This approach is my least favorite of the eight methods, but it can be done well. This approach is based on a simple misspelling of a word related to your industry.

However, if you're running a business where you rely on leveraging organic search for client acquisition, there is a risk that potential customers will never make it to your company.

If they don't remember how to misspell the word the way you want them to misspell it, then they'll be exposed to search listings that have nothing to do with your company.

This is especially true initially when your brand has little to no traction. If clients spell your name "right," they may get a "did you mean…" search results page unrelated to your company.

Examples of this misspelling method are Easil, Kinetik, and Babbel.

Easil is based on the word Easel. Easil's business revolves around enabling customers to leverage graphic design templates for marketing, so the word they chose is on point.

Easel could also be viewed as a name that leverages the letter substitution method, but I would argue that it's closer to a misspelling.

Substituting an "E" for an "I" is more the hallmark of a common misspelling than letter substitution.

The letter substitution method would make a more obviously "wrong" substitution like "Y" for "I" or "Z" for "S" to achieve its aims.

Kinetik simply replaces the c in "kinetic" for a "k." However, this misspelling does have some merit. Starting and ending with a K gives it some strength in terms of memorability.

Babbel is, of course, based on the word "babble," but they get extra points for also invoking the tower of "Babel." This connotation works very well for a company centered around language learning.

Method 8: Creating a Made-Up Word for your Brand Name.

This method revolves around creating a new made-up word. Here are three examples: Roku, Chegg, and Koodo.

Sometimes, there can be reasons behind the word. Chegg, for instance, was created by crossing the words chicken and egg.

This method can also use part of a word as inspiration; for example, Endava evokes the word "endeavor."

Many times, the word is created mainly for its pleasing assonance. Optimally, it should have a memorable sound to it. Using a very short fake word like "Roku" will also enhance its memorability.

This is tricky to pull off, but when well done, you will have a truly unique name.

Here's a short list of more companies using made-up words: Taboola, Veeco, Docebo, Asseco, Nagarro, Ambarella, Vacasa, and Tanla.

Ending in a vowel, especially "A" or "O," is very common in this namespace.

It takes quite a lot of brainstorming and word hacking to come up with a name using this technique, but it can be well worth the effort.

How to Brainstorm a Catchy Business Name

All right, if you've made it this far and you have a grasp on the basic methods you can use, it's time to organize a brainstorming session. A session should be less than 3 hours. Any longer tends to be unproductive.

If you're brainstorming with a group, I recommend keeping the group small (two to five members) and holding the session in person.

A whiteboard or something similar to write potential names on is necessary. Buy an extra large pad of paper and some markers if a whiteboard is unavailable. Appoint one person to facilitate and write the names on the whiteboard.

The following methodology is best suited to solopreneurs or small start-up businesses.

If you need to engage in this activity as part of a large corporation, you must designate stakeholders and create a clear approval process beforehand.

This is an essential step because, in a large corporate environment, it can be like naming a baby. It's challenging to reach consensus on a baby's name if that baby has hundreds of parents.

The 7 Steps for a Brainstorming Session

Here's a simple process you can use to create potential names for your business.

1. Create a list. Create a list of words related to your industry and business. Aim for a minimum of 40 words. Do this a few days before the brainstorming session happens. If you need to expand the keyword list, go to relatedwords.org to generate more words.

2. Prioritize the list. From your initial list, create a smaller list of twenty to thirty words that you like. Some criteria to consider are relevance, assonance, and length.

3. Apply methods. Go through each of the eight methods one by one and apply these methods to the words on your priority list.

4. Create a benchmark. If you don't come up with a great name after one session, choose the best name from this first session as your benchmark. This gives the following sessions a clear standard to beat. This process helps the group become more unified by encouraging cooperation in choosing a first-day winner. It also helps validate whether or not you have chosen the right members for the group.

5. Validate availability. Do a preliminary online search to see if a company already uses the name. This process does not replace professional legal validation but is instead an easy way to narrow down the choices you might bring forward for potential registration.

6. Do nothing. If you have a name, that's great. Take a few days off to think about it before going forward. A few days of reflection will help you to weigh your name choice properly. If you don't have a viable name, you should still take a few days off. Running back-to-back daily brainstorming sessions generally leads to poor results. Always take time off between sessions to recharge.

7. Repeat the process. You'll unlikely come up with a name after one session, so you'll probably have to run through the steps again. Even if you created a name you like in the first session, running a second session is worthwhile to see if the name can be beaten.

Two Extra Tips for Brainstorming Names

Here are a couple of tips that will help you in this process.

You will probably need to generate more words for the first step of the process if you're running more than one brainstorming session.

For example, if you're running a real estate business, you probably have words like home, land, and house on your initial word list.

Take each of those words and run them through relatedwords.org to create more word choices. Using the word "home" will generate additional words like dwelling, abode, base, domicile, place, etc. It's a very easy way to bolster your initial keyword list.

Secondly, when it comes to method eight, creating a made-up word, start by basing it on words in your business-related list of words.

Take a word, scramble it around, and add a vowel if necessary. For instance, the word "home" can quickly become something like "Mohee."

Final Thoughts on Naming Your Business

There are other methods, like Word Appropriation and Word Marriage, that you can use to create a business name, but these eight methods should be more than enough to help you create a unique name for your business.

One final word of advice: have patience. It's not unusual for the process to take a long series of brainstorming sessions to reach success.

I hope you have the best of luck on your business journey!

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