AskDefine | Define name

Dictionary Definition



1 a language unit by which a person or thing is known; "his name really is George Washington"; "those are two names for the same thing"
2 by the sanction or authority of; "halt in the name of the law"
3 a person's reputation; "he wanted to protect his good name"
4 a well-known or notable person; "they studied all the great names in the history of France"; "she is an important figure in modern music" [syn: figure, public figure]
5 family based on male descent; "he had no sons and there was no one to carry on his name" [syn: gens]
6 a defamatory or abusive word or phrase; "sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me" [syn: epithet]


1 assign a specified, proper name to; "They named their son David"; "The new school was named after the famous Civil Rights leader" [syn: call]
2 give the name or identifying characteristics of; refer to by name or some other identifying characteristic property; "Many senators were named in connection with the scandal"; "The almanac identifies the auspicious months" [syn: identify]
3 charge with a function; charge to be; "She was named Head of the Committee"; "She was made president of the club" [syn: nominate, make]
4 create and charge with a task or function; "nominate a committee" [syn: appoint, nominate, constitute]
5 mention and identify by name; "name your accomplices!"
6 identify as in botany or biology, for example [syn: identify, discover, key, key out, distinguish, describe]
7 make reference to; "His name was mentioned in connection with the invention" [syn: mention, advert, bring up, cite, refer]
8 give or make a list of; name individually; give the names of; "List the states west of the Mississippi" [syn: list]
9 determine or distinguish the nature of a problem or an illness through a diagnostic analysis [syn: diagnose]

User Contributed Dictionary



nama, from , from .
Germanic cognates: Old High German namo (Modern German Name), Old Saxon namo (Dutch naam), Old Frisian noma, Gothic sc=Goth, Old Norse nafn (Swedish namn).
Indo-European cognates: Latin nomen (French nom), Greek sc=polytonic, Persian sc=fa-Arab, Old Irish ainm (Cornish hanow), Sanskrit sc=Deva, Avestan rfscript Avestan |nama, Old Church Slavonic sc=Cyrl (Russian sc=Cyrl), Tocharian A ñom and Tocharian B ñem.


  • /neɪm/, /neIm/
  • Rhymes: -eɪm


  1. Any word or phrase which indicates a particular person, place, class, or thing.
    • 1904, L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz
      So good a man as this must surely have a name.
  2. Reputation.
  3. : A unique identifier, generally a string of characters.
  4. An investor in Lloyds of London bearing unlimited liability.
word or phrase indicating a particular person, place, class or thing


  1. To give a name to.
    1904: L. Frank Baum, The Land of Oz — I will name the fellow 'Jack Pumpkinhead!'
  2. To mention, specify.
    He named his demands.
    You name it!
  3. To identify as relevant or important
    naming the problem
  4. To publicly implicate.
    The painter was named as an accomplice.
  5. To designate for a role.
    My neighbor was named to the steering committee.

Derived terms


give a name to
mention, specify, choose
identify, define, specify
publicly implicate
designate for a role
  • Greek, Ancient: (onomatothetó)



  1. letter (a document)



  1. locative of namas
  2. vocative of namas



  • [ na˥˩mə ]


  1. so; that


  1. in that case; then

See also

Extensive Definition

A name (etymology: from OE nama; akin to OHG namo, Latin nomen, and Greek όνομα (onoma), ultimately from PIE: *nomn- ) is a label for a human or animal, thing, 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 personal name identifies a specific unique and identifiable individual person. The name of a specific entity is sometimes called a proper name (although that term has a philosophical meaning also) and is a proper noun. Other nouns are sometimes, more loosely, called names; an older term for them, now obsolete, is "general name".
The use of personal names is not unique to humans. Dolphins also use symbolic names, as has been shown by recent research. Individual dolphins have individual whistles, to which they will respond even when there is no other information to clarify which dolphin is being referred to.
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 to which it refers.
Besides their grammatical function, names can have additional or pure honorary and memorial values. For example, the posthumous name's primary function is commemorative.
Care must be taken in translation, for there are ways that one language may prefer one type of name over another. For example, there are "merchants' and sailors' terms" for their own convenience: the spellings Leghorn, Genoa, and Rome do not appear on Italian maps. Also, a feudal naming habit is used sometimes in other languages: the French often refer to Aristotle as "le Stagirite" from one spelling of his place of birth. Finally, claims to preference or authority can be refuted: the British did not refer to Louis-Napoleon as Napoleon III during his rule.

Philosophical accounts of names

Romeo and Juliet

In the play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet famously says: '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; It has been argued that Shakespeare reveals the boundaries of the term name by proposing that a rose would smell sweet regardless of what we call it; therefore suggesting that a name attached to a person should not change them.


Proper names function 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 two aspects of the meanings of names and nouns could be recognized, sense and reference:
  • A sense, which is equivalent to some sort of description (a dog is a 'domestic canine animal')
  • A referent, the thing or things that meet that description (all dogs in the world)
Proper names are in this sense, special cases of nouns with only one referent, the person themselves.


Bertrand Russell believed that true names must never be equivalent to a description, but conceded that most of the apparent "names" in English really were equivalent to descriptions, specifically to definite descriptions. In this position, there are two different functions nouns can serve:
  • Describing (and perhaps indirectly referring)
  • Referring (directly, without description)
Russell's position is that that most or 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 objects independently of any properties those objects have. However, often descriptions are used to pick out references, to explain to others which objects are being discussed by reference to an agreed-upon property. According to this theory, it does not follow that any of the agreed-upon 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 associated descriptions, but because of the causal history of the acquisition of that name in a vocabulary.

In mythology

In multiple world mythologies and folklore, knowing the name of a thing is considered to have power over a thing (to varying degrees).
In Arthurian mythology, part of the code of honor and chivalry practiced by knights is that a knight who loses a duel must reveal his name to the victor. It is considered a breach of honor or decorum to reveal one's name before combat. A frequent topos is that a defeated knight will, after revealing his name, ask the victor what his name is: if the victor turns out to actually be a much more strong and famous knight (i.e. one of Arthur's knights) the loser actually saves face, because he was beaten by a knight obviously held to already be stronger than him, and thus there is no shame in defeat. However, if a strong and powerful knight is defeated, and the victor turns out to be a relatively unknown and not particularly strong knight, it is a grave humiliation. As a result of this pattern, it is considered extremely odd within the rules of Arthurian society when a knight refuses to take off his helmet or reveal his identity, even after he has won a duel. Sometimes this results from the victorious knight simply not knowing his own name, as was the case with Lancelot and Percival during their early careers; this inability to reveal their own name even in victory led many to incorrectly assume they were trying to intentionally insult the vanquished. A major exception to this rule is Sir Gawain: Gawain considers himself to be the greatest of his uncle Arthur's knights, and he feels that his honor is so great that he does not need to hide from revealing it. Thus at the opening of any duel Gawain will simply openly announce "I am Gawain", as it will not diminish his honor to reveal it.

In religious thought

see Names of God
In the ancient world, particularly in the ancient near-east (Israel / Palestine, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia) names were thought to be extremely powerful and to act, in some ways, as a separate manifestation of a person or deity. This viewpoint is responsible both for the reluctance to use the proper name of God in Hebrew writing or speech, as well as the common understanding in ancient magic that magical rituals had to be carried out "in [someone's] name". By invoking a god or spirit by name, one was thought to be able to summon that spirit's power for some kind of miracle or magic (see Luke 9:49, in which the disciples claim to have seen a man driving out demons using the name of Jesus.) This understanding passed into later religious tradition, for example the stipulation in Catholic exorcism that the demon cannot be expelled until the exorcist has forced it to give up its name, at which point the name may be used in a stern command which will drive the demon away.


Names are attributed added significance in traditional Jewish sources. In the Jewish religion most children receive their names from relatives who have passed away.

Biblical names

In the Old Testament, the names of individuals are meaningful; for example, Adam is named after the "earth" (Adam) from which he was created. (Genesis 2)
A change of name indicates a change of status. For example, the patriarch "Abram" is renamed "Abraham" before he is blessed with children. His wife, "Sarai" is similarly renamed "Sarah." (Genesis 17)
Throughout the Bible, characters are given names at birth that reflect something of significance or describe the course of their lives. For example: Solomon meant peace, and the king with that name was the first whose reign was without warfare. Likewise, Joseph named his firstborn son Manasseh (Hebrew: "causing to forget") as a gesture of forgiveness to his brothers for selling him into slavery.
Hebrews did not have a surname which was passed from generation to generation. However, they were typically known as the child of their father. For example: David, son of Jesse. In a sense, they used their fathers' first names as their own last names, a practice done by most Muslims today.

Talmudic attitudes

The Babylonian Talmud maintains that names exert a mystical influence over their bearers, and a change of name is one of four actions that can avert an evil heavenly decree, that would lead to punishment after one's death. Rabbinical commentators differ as to whether the name's influence is metaphysical, connecting a person to their soul, or bio-socio-psychological, where the connection affects his personality, appearance and social capacities. The Talmud also states that all those who descend to Gehenna will rise in the time of Messiah. However, there are three exceptions, one of which is he who calls another by a derisive nickname.

Technical names for names

Naming convention

For Wikipedia's own naming conventions see Wikipedia:Naming conventions
A naming convention is an attempt to systematize names in a field so they unambiguously convey similar information in a similar manner.
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; some examples include:
  • In Manhattan, roads that go across the island (East-West) are called "Streets", while those that run the length of the island (North-South) are called "Avenues". Manhattan streets and avenues are numbered, with "1st Street" being near the southern end of the island, and "219th Street" being near the northern end, while "1st Avenue" is near the eastern edge of the island and "12th Avenue" near the western edge.
  • In Ontario, numbered concession roads are East-West whereas "lines" are North-South routes.
  • In San Francisco at least three series of parallel streets are alphabetically named, e.g. Irving, Judah, Kirkham, Lawton, Moraga, Noriega, Ortega, Pacheco, Quintara, Rivera, Santiago, Taraval, Ulloa, Vicente, Wawona.
  • The same tendency is seen in central Boston, Massachusetts, where Arlington Street is followed by roads to the west running parallel to it and named Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester, and Hereford.
  • In Brampton, Ontario, different sections of town all have streets starting with the same letter and the alphabetical order reflects chronology.
  • In Phoenix, Arizona, roads east of Central Avenue are termed streets while those west are Avenues.
Large corporate, university, or government 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 East Asian cultures, it is common for one syllable in a two syllable given name to be a generation name which is the same for immediate siblings. In many cultures it is common for the son to be named after the father. In other cultures, the name may include the place of residence. Roman naming convention denotes social rank.
Products may follow a naming convention. Automobiles typically have a binomial name, a "make" (manufacturer) and a "model", in addition to a model year, such as a 2007 Chevrolet Corvette. Sometimes there is a name for the car's "decoration level" or "trim line" as well: e.g., Cadillac Escalade EXT Platinum, after the precious metal. 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.

Brand names

The process of developing a name for a brand or product is heavily influenced by marketing research and strategy to be appealing and marketable. The brand name is often a neologism or pseudoword.

See also


name in Aymara: Suti
name in Bosnian: Ime
name in German: Name
name in Modern Greek (1453-): Όνομα
name in Spanish: Nombre
name in Esperanto: Nomo
name in Croatian: Ime
name in Indonesian: Nama
name in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Nomine
name in Icelandic: Nafn
name in Lojban: cmevla
name in Korean: 이름
name in Macedonian: Име
name in Dutch: Naam
name in Japanese: 名前
name in Norwegian Nynorsk: Namn
name in Narom: Noum
name in Portuguese: Nome
name in Quechua: Suti
name in Russian: Имя
name in Albanian: Emri
name in Simple English: Name
name in Slovenian: Ime
name in Finnish: Nimi
name in Swedish: Namn
name in Thai: ชื่อ
name in Ukrainian: Ім'я
name in Yiddish: נאמען
name in Chinese: 名称

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Christian name, Establishment, VIP, acclaim, advert to, advertise, alias, allude to, announce, appellation, appellative, appoint, assign, baptismal name, baptize, baron, be taken as, big, big cheese, big gun, big man, big name, big shot, big-league, big-name, big-time, bigwig, bigwigged, binomen, binomial name, brass, brass hat, byname, byword, call, call to mind, celebrity, character, choose, christen, cite, cite a particular, cognomen, consequential, considerable, constellation, cryptonym, cynosure, declare, define, delegate, demonstrate, denominate, denomination, denote, designate, designation, determine, dignitary, dignity, distinction, document, double-barreled, dub, earthshaking, eclat, elder, elect, emblematize, eminence, empty title, entitle, epithet, eponym, esteem, euonym, example, exemplify, fame, famousness, father, favor, figure, finger, fix, folk hero, forename, galaxy, give a for-instance, glory, grand, great, great man, handle, heavyweight, hero, heroine, high regard, high-powered, honor, honorific, hyponym, identify, idol, illustrate, immortal, important, important person, incognito, indicate, instance, interests, itemize, kudos, label, lion, lords of creation, luminaries, luminary, magnate, major, make, man of mark, mark, master spirit, material, mention, mogul, momentous, moniker, nabob, name for office, namesake, nickname, nom de guerre, nomen, nomen nudum, nominate, notability, notable, notoriety, notoriousness, ordain, ordinate, panjandrum, particularize, person of note, person of renown, personage, personality, pet name, pick out, pillar of society, pin down, pinpoint, pleiad, point at, point out, point to, pop hero, popular hero, popular idol, popularity, power, power elite, prestige, prominence, proper name, proper noun, propose, public figure, publicity, publish, put up, quote, rank, rating, reclame, recognition, recognize, refer to, renown, report, reputation, repute, respect, rubric, ruling circle, run, run for office, sachem, scientific name, secret name, select, self-important, set, significant, signify, sobriquet, social lion, somebody, something, specialize, specify, stand for, standing, star, state, stigmatize, stipulate, style, submit, substantial, superior, superiority, superstar, symbol, symbolize, tab, tag, tap, tautonym, term, the bubble reputation, the great, the top, ticket, title, top brass, top people, trinomen, trinomial name, tycoon, typify, very important person, vogue, world-shaking, worthy
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