Cezary Pietrzak | Mashable

You know that naming a startup and securing a great domain is difficult, but you’re committed to the cause because you realize it’s important. You’ve also done your research on great startup names, set up a Google spreadsheet to track your progress, and organized a brainstorm with a small group of people. But how do you actually create a name?

The reality is there is no easy trick; but, the right approach can dramatically increase your chances of success. Follow the guidelines below to ensure you haven’t missed anything important and to prevent duplicate work. For the majority of the naming process, you’ll be iterating on two steps: creating a list of words that are related to your product or service, as well as creating permutations of these words to determine the final name.

Are you ready for the good stuff?

Generating the Root Word

The foundation of your name will be the root word, so the best way to start your brainstorm is to generate as many of them as possible. Below are several ways to develop great roots. As you create new ones, keep them organized in thematic groups on your spreadsheet.

1. Develop literal concepts. The first set of roots should be fairly literal and represent a core aspect of your business. This may include the product category (travel, music, fashion) as well as the product function (discovery, sharing, tracking).

Example: A family app generates words like ancestry (genealogy, lineage, roots), relatives (mother, parents), storytelling (narrative, news), home (nest, hut) and sharing (bond, tie).

2. Develop figurative concepts. To move beyond the obvious, extend your list of roots to names, objects, phrases, moments and feelings that are loosely related to your core business. Be as experimental and obscure as possible: focus on one detail, then write down everything that comes to mind. In general, I find figurative concepts to be more original and interesting than their literal counterparts, and their domains to be more readily available or cheaper to purchase.

Names associated with family: fam, bunch, collection, kin
Objects commonly found in families: photo frame, fireplace, family records
Phrases typical associated with family: call me, i love you, goodnight
Feelings that family elicits: happiness, joy, trust, safety
Moments spent with family: dinner, living room, weekend

3. Look up synonyms. You can easily multiply your output by adding a list of synonyms to the roots you already developed.

Example: Family has many synonyms, including ancestors, blood, clan, descendants, folk, kin, lineage and tribe.
Tools: Thesaurus.com helps you find direct synonyms, while Visual Thesaurus casts a wider net of associations (but is a paid service).

4. List examples and types. Another way to bring a concept to life is through examples and types that describe it. Keep in mind that these names should be understood by your target demographic, so they quickly trigger the associated idea.

Example: There are several different types of family trees, including redwood, maple, spruce, chestnut and birch.

5. Find visual inspiration. Pictures are worth a thousand words, especially when it comes to expressing ideas. To generate more names for your startups, do a keyword search on a visual search site and browse its images for inspiration. Pinterest is probably the best tool for this, given its robust database of high-quality images, but you can also use e-commerce sites like Etsy or a simple image search on one of the major search engines.

Example: Pinterest, Etsy product search, Google image search

6. Use foreign words. Foreign words that are commonly used in English or have a strong semblance to their English counterpart can be a great way to generate a concept. For English-speakers, words from romance languages (Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese) as well as some German, Japanese and Hawaiian words may be helpful.

Example: The word ‘tree’ translates to arbol (Spanish), albero (Italian), arbre (French) and arvore (Portuguese). The startup Casahop uses the word ‘casa’ (Spanish/Italian/Portuguese for house) in a clever way.



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