Naming Tips: Number 3 in a Series

If you’re going to be naming lots of products and businesses over time, you’ll probably want a library of good reference books. They can be invaluable. I own some 75 dictionaries, thesauruses and other word-oriented reference books. Yes, I’m a little obsessive and compulsive. But I’ve purchased most of them from used book dealers and public library sales for a dollar or two each. The links associated with each reference are to specific pages in the Amazon database.

Some dictionaries are very specialized (Biblical, biology, physics, cross-word, English-Spanish, etc.) and their use is limited.

But I have three references I use with almost every naming project. I’ll briefly describe them:

Random House Webster Word Menu by Stephen Glazier.

It purports to be…

“A merging of dictionary, thesaurus, treasury of glossaries, reverse dictionary and almanac – fully indexed.
“the ultimate one-volume resource for finding and using words.
“organizes language by subject matter.”

The book is essentially a compendium of word lists by category, together with a comprehensive index. Under “Transportation” for instance is a category called “Ships and Boats”. That category is further broken down into logical sections like “Types of Ships”, “Parts of Ships”, “Nautical Occupations” and “Seamanship & Port”. Each word found therein will be defined as well. Thus, you can establish a comprehensive list of relevant words pretty quickly. I almost always start a project with this unique and valuable tome.

Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus in Dictionary Form edited by Barbara Ann Kipfer.

Not only is this a modern, comprehensive thesaurus (20,000 words, 500,000 synonyms and over 1,000,000 word choices), it has a “Concept Index” that allows you to begin with a word and its synonyms and expand the scope of relevancy by looking at other words in the same conceptual category. For instance, looking up “army” in the main thesaurus section you’ll find 25 synonyms like “battalion” and “brigade” and a reference to a concept. Going to the concept section, we find there a category called “Military” and under that heading, “Organization”. Here we’ll find “navy”, “fleet” and other related words that can expand our thinking as well as our candidate list of name parts. This is my favorite thesaurus even though I also use The Synonym Finder by J.I.Rodale quite often.

Word Stems: A Dictionary by John Kennedy

This modest book lists some 5,500 common words and bold-faces the stems of each. Then you can look up the stems in the Stem List to find other words that use the same stem. Thus, looking up tend from pretend, you find the root means stretch or reach and shares the stem with contend, distend, extend, intend, etc. Also it’s related to tendon and tender (to offer). This exercise can expand the playing field. I can also find appropriate stems and connect them to various prefixes and suffixes (found in Word Menu) to create new word-names.

Other references I find helpful for certain arenas and applications include:

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, edited by Ivor H. Evans

Dictionary of Art and Archaeology by J.W. Mollett

Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion by W. L. Reese

Merriam Webster’s Geographical Dictionary

The Complete Rhyming Dictionary by Clement Wood

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