List of band name etymologies

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a list of band names, with their name origins explained and referenced with reliable sources.

Contents: 0–9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z  Bibliography   References 


a-ha live. The band's name means the same thing in several languages


Bauhaus in concert. The band are named after the German Bauhaus art movement


  • Cansei de Ser SexyPortuguese for "tired of being sexy", an alleged quote of Beyoncé Knowles, one of the largest musical influences upon this Brazilian band.[39]
  • Coldplay - Chris, Jonny, Will & Guy were called "Starfish" originally and a friend's group was called "Coldplay". When they did not want the name anymore, "Starfish" asked if they could use it instead. The original Coldplay took the name from a book of collected poems.[40]
Crass singer Eve Libertine
  • Crass - A reference to the David Bowie song "Ziggy Stardust" (specifically the line "The kids was just crass"[41]).
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival - The band took the three elements from, firstly, Tom Fogerty's friend Credence Newball (to whose first name Credence they added an extra 'e', making it resemble a faith or creed); secondly, "clear water" from a TV commercial for Olympia beer; and finally "revival", which spoke to the four members' renewed commitment to their band.[42]
  • The Cure — The band's original name was Easy Cure, which was taken from the name of one of the group's early songs. The name was later shortened to The Cure because frontman Robert Smith felt the name was too American and "too hippyish".[43]


  • Dashboard Confessional — Derived from the line in the band's song "The Sharp Hint of New Tears" which is "on the way home, this car hears my confessions/I think tonight I'll take the long way home...".[44]
  • Dead Kennedys — the name was not meant to insult the assassinated Kennedy brothers, but to quote vocalist Jello Biafra, "to bring attention to the end of the American Dream".[45]
  • Depeche Mode — inspired by a French fashion magazine of the same name.[46]
  • Dexys Midnight Runners — from the stimulant Dexedrine.[47]
  • The Doors - The band took its name from Aldous Huxley's book The Doors of Perception, the title of which was a reference to a William Blake quotation: "When the doors of perception are cleansed, things will appear to man as they truly are...infinite."[48]
  • Dream Theater — Named after a movie house in Monterey, California. The name was suggested by drummer Mike Portnoy's father, who lived in Monterey.[49]
  • Duran Duran — The band played at Birmingham's Barberella's nightclub[50] so took their name from the villain of the cult science fiction film Barbarella, Dr. Durand-Durand.[51]


  • E Street BandBruce Springsteen's band was named after E Street (E, not East) in Belmar, New Jersey, because the band used to practice at the E Street home of pianist David Sancious' mother.[52]
  • Evanescence - When asked where they got their name, they responded, "The dictionary." The word "evanescence" means "a disappearance or dissipation, like vapor." They apparently disliked their previous name and wanted something better. They also wanted to do some artwork (with whatever name they chose) and decided to look under E. They liked the word and definition, likening it to the temporal nature of life.[53]


  • Five Iron Frenzy - According to bassist Keith Hoerig: "We got the name Five Iron Frenzy from a roommate of most of ours. He was kind of paranoid, and afraid that if he went outside on this particular night he was going to get jumped by some people. He had a golf club to defend himself and he said something to the effect of it being like "putter mayhem". Scott looked at the golf club he was holding, and noting that it was a five iron said, "No, more like a Five Iron Frenzy." The name stuck."[54]


  • Garbage - Either lead singer Shirley Manson's father yelled down to the band at one of their basement practice sessions, "Play more quietly - you sound like garbage." or from a friend of drummer Butch Vig, who said "This stuff sounds like garbage!"[55]
  • Georgia Wonder - Georgia Wonder was the stage name of Lulu Hurst, a 'magnetic phenomenon' whose vaudeville act toured America in the late 19th Century. Stephanie Grant and Julian Moore from the band chose the name after trying to duplicate these powers from an exposé they discovered in a book about the period.[56]
  • Grateful Dead- The name Grateful Dead was chosen from a dictionary. According to Phil Lesh, in his biography (pp. 62), "...Jer[ry Garcia] picked up an old Britannica World Language Dictionary...[and]...In that silvery elf-voice he said to me, 'Hey, man, how about the Grateful Dead?'" The definition there was "the soul of a dead person, or his angel, showing gratitude to someone who, as an act of charity, arranged their burial." According to Alan Trist, director of the Grateful Dead's music publisher company Ice Nine, Garcia found the name in the Funk & Wagnalls Folklore Dictionary, when his finger landed on that phrase while playing a game of "dictionary".[57] In the Garcia biography, Captain Trips, author Sandy Troy states that the band was smoking the psychedelic DMT at the time. The term "Grateful Dead" appears in folktales of a variety of cultures.
  • Green Day — "green day" is a slang term for spending a day smoking marijuana. Billie Joe Armstrong wrote a song called "Green Day" about his first experience with the drug, and it soon replaced "Sweet Children" as the band's name.[58]


  • Hard-Fi - "Hard-Fi" is the name given to the sound produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry, a Grammy award-winning reggae and dub artist, at his Black Ark recording studio. Being admirers of Perry's work, the band decided to name themselves after his distinctive sound.[59]
  • Heaven 17 - from a line in Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange, a fictional band mentioned by a young woman in the record store.[60]
  • Hüsker Dü — is the name of a Scandinavian memory-based board game that means "Do you remember?"[61]



  • Jefferson Airplane - According to Jorma Kaukonen the name was coined by a friend as a satire of blues pseudonyms such as "Blind Lemon" Jefferson.[63]
  • Jethro Tull - Having trouble getting repeat bookings, the band took to changing their name frequently to continue playing the London club circuit. Band names were often supplied by their booking agents' staff, one of whom, a history enthusiast, eventually christened them "Jethro Tull" after the 18th-century agriculturist. The name stuck because they were using it the first time a club manager liked their show enough to invite them to return.[64]
  • Joy Division - In order to avoid confusion with the London punk band Warsaw Pakt, the band renamed themselves from Warsaw to Joy Division in late 1977, borrowing their new name from the prostitution wing of a Nazi concentration camp mentioned in the 1955 novel The House of Dolls.[65]


  • Kaiser Chiefs — Named after the South African Kaizer Chiefs Football Club, the former team of long-serving former Leeds United captain Lucas Radebe.[66]
  • Kasabian - Named after Linda Kasabian, a member of the Charles Manson cult (aka the Manson "family") famous for serving as his getaway driver.[67]
  • Kassidy - Took their name from a play on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.[68]
  • The Killers - Name which comes from the bass drum of a fictional band in the music video for the New Order song "Crystal".[69]
  • Klaxons - Originally known as "Klaxons (Not Centaurs)", a quote from Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's futurism text The Futurist Manifesto . Also in an interview a band member stated Klaxons "is to toot to be a loud intrusive noise to disrupt".[70]
  • KJ-52 - Hybrid name of this artist's first rap name "KJ" coupled with the New Testament Miracle of the Feeding of the Multitude, Mark 8:1-9 & Matthew 15:32-39.[71]


  • Lasgo — from the Scottish city Glasgow with the first and last letters removed.[72]
  • Linkin Park - Their name came from the lead singer, Chester Bennington, because they had to change their name due to copyright issues, and he drove past Lincoln Park on the way home from band practice. However, the domain "" was more than they could afford, so they changed the spelling to Linkin park. It has also been suggested that the name 'Linkin Park' was suggested so that the band would appear right next to Limp Bizkit at record stores.[73]
  • Living Colour - They named the band after the NBC TV advertisement which said "Broadcasting in Living Color."[74]
  • Lothar and the Hand People — Band member Richard Willis had a dream in which an enslaved race called the Hand People was saved by a hero named Lothar. Later, well after the name had been chosen, they decided that Lothar was the name of the theremin used by member John Emelin.[75]
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd - They were named after Leonard Skinner, a gym teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida who was notorious for strictly enforcing the school's policy against boys having long hair.[76]


  • The Maine - The band The Maine is named after a song by Ivory named 'The Coast of Maine', therefor the band shortened it down to The Maine".[77]
  • Marillion — The band was originally called "Silmarillion." The name was taken from the title of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. The name was eventually shortened to avoid possible legal problems.[78]
  • Matchbox Twenty — originally titled "Matchbox 20," the band took its name from a softball jersey with a "20" on it and a patch that had "Matchbox" written on it. The band altered its name to "Matchbox Twenty" after the release of its debut album Yourself or Someone Like You.[79]
  • Megadeth — While Dave Mustaine was traveling back to his home in the Bay Area on a bus after getting kicked out of his former band, Metallica, he would write lyrics on the back of a handbill to pass the time. The handbill itself quoted "The arsenal of megadeath can't be rid no matter what the peace treaties come to," which inspired him to use Megadeath as his band name. He later found out "The Megadeaths" was the former band name for Pink Floyd and dropped the 'A' in 'Death' to keep the name.[80]
  • Modest Mouse — Their name derives from a passage from the Virginia Woolf story "The Mark on the Wall," which reads, "...and very frequent even in the minds of modest, mouse-coloured people..."[81]
  • The Moody Blues - Originally named The M&B 5 after a Birmingham brewery called "Mitchells & Butlers". This was changed and the new name was inspired by a Duke Ellington song named 'Mood Indigo'.[77]
  • The Mountain Goats — The name is taken from the Screamin' Jay Hawkins song "Yellow Coat", which contains the line "50 million bulldogs, 20 mountain goats, all gathered 'round at sundown to see my yellow coat."[82]


  • Ned's Atomic Dustbin — title of an episode of The Goon Show that the mother of vocalist Jonn Penney would read to him.[83]
  • Nine Inch Nails — sole constant member Trent Reznor chose the name because it "could be abbreviated easily" and denied any "literal meaning" to the name.[84]
  • No Doubt — Back-flipping original singer John Spence forms Orange County-based 2 Tone ska group named after his favorite expression, with keyboardist Eric Stefani. After Spence's death, the name stuck.[85]
  • NOFX — guitarist Eric Melvin says that he came up with the name, inspired by the broken up punk band "Negative FX". The name is also meant to symbolize the band's rejection of gimmickry that the band was seeing in music at the time.[86]


  • Oasis - evolved from an earlier band called The Rain, composed of Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan (bass guitar), Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs (guitar), Tony McCarroll (drums) and Chris Hutton (vocals). Unsatisfied with Hutton, Arthurs auditioned acquaintance Liam Gallagher as a replacement. After Gallagher joined the group, the band's name was changed to Oasis, which was inspired by an Inspiral Carpets tour poster which was in his and his brother Noel's bedroom. One of the venues on it was the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon.[87]
  • The Offspring — Its members Dexter Holland and Greg K decided to form a band after attending a Social Distortion concert. The band was called Manic Subsidal, who suddenly changed their name to The Offspring in 1986.[88][89]
  • Opeth - The band name was derived from the word "Opet", taken from the Wilbur Smith novel Sunbird. In this novel, Opet is the name of a (fictional) Phoenician city in South Africa whose name is translated as "City of the Moon" in the book.[90]


  • Panic! at the Disco lifted the name from the lyrics of a song called "Panic," by Name Taken: "Panic at the disco / Sat back and took it so slow."[91]
  • Paramore According to Hayley Williams, the name "Paramore" came from the maiden name of the mother of one of their first bass players.[92] Once the group learned the meaning of the homophone "paramour" ("secret lover"), they decided to adopt the name, using the Paramore spelling.[93]
  • Pearl Jam - The band's first name was "Mookie Blaylock" after the All-Star basketball player, but the name was changed to "Pearl Jam" due to trademark concerns. Vocalist Eddie Vedder claimed in an early interview that the name was a reference to his great-grandmother Pearl Brunner.[94] In 2006 guitarist Mike McCready said that bass player Jeff Ament came up with "Pearl" and that "Jam" was added after seeing Neil Young live.[95]
  • Pink Floyd - Playing under multiple names, including "Tea Set", when the band found themselves on the same bill as another band with the same name, Syd Barrett came up with the alternative name The Pink Floyd Sound, after two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.[96][97] For a time after this they oscillated between The Tea Set and The Pink Floyd Sound, with the latter name eventually winning out. The Sound was dropped fairly quickly, but the definite article was still used regularly until 1970. The group's UK releases during the Syd Barrett era credited them as The Pink Floyd as did their first two U.S. singles. 1969's More and Ummagumma albums credit the band as Pink Floyd, produced by The Pink Floyd, while 1970's Atom Heart Mother credits the band as The Pink Floyd, produced by Pink Floyd. David Gilmour is known to have referred to the group as The Pink Floyd as late as 1984.[98]
  • Pixies — selected randomly from a dictionary by guitarist Joey Santiago. The band took a liking to the word's definition, "mischievous little elves".[99] The name was shortened from the original, "Pixies In Panoply".[100]
  • +44 — pronounced "plus forty four," a reference to the international dialing code of the United Kingdom, where band members Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker first discussed the project.[101]
  • The Pogues — Originally called Póg mo Thóin - Gaelic for "Kiss my ass". Shortened to The Pogues after complaints received by the BBC.[102]
  • Porno for Pyros — inspired by the Los Angeles riots of 1992.[103]
  • Portishead - Named after the English town of Portishead, Somerset, the hometown of one of the band's founding members, Geoff Barrow.[104]
  • Procol Harum — The band was named after the pedigree name of a Siamese cat that belonged to a friend of Guy Stevens, the band's manager.[105] The name was Procul Harun, which is Latin for "Beyond these things", but was written down incorrectly by Keith Reid.[106] The band would say in interviews that the cat was a Burmese Blue, though all cats with the name are the Devon Rex breed.[107]


  • Queen - Were originally called Smile. Singer Freddie Mercury came up with the new name for the band, later saying: "Years ago I thought up the name 'Queen' … It's just a name, but it's very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid … It's a strong name, very universal and immediate. It had a lot of visual potential and was open to all sorts of interpretations. I was certainly aware of gay connotations, but that was just one face of it."[108]
  • Queensrÿche - Were originally called "The Mob". The name is derived from a song on their EP "Queen of the Reich", and is the only known use of the letter Y with an umlaut in English. It was used to soften "Queensreich" and not confuse the band with Nazism.[109]
  • Qntal - In a dream, vocalist Sigrid Hausen saw the letters in flames.[110]


  • Radiohead – originally known as "On a Friday", the band was given two weeks after signing to Parlophone to change their name. The band renamed themselves after the 1986 Talking Heads song "Radio Head" on the album True Stories, claiming it as the "least annoying song" from the album.[111]
  • Rage Against the Machine - when the band formed in 1991, they chose the name of a song Zack de la Rocha had written for his old band, Inside Out.[112]
  • The RamonesPaul McCartney used the alias Paul Ramon when booking hotel rooms. So the band decided to use the last name Ramone even though it's not their given name.[113]
  • R.E.M. — vocalist Michael Stipe drew the acronym randomly out of the dictionary. The term refers to the rapid eye movement phase of sleep. Stipe says that is not the reason why the band is named R.E.M.[114]
  • The Residents – In 1971 the group sent a reel-to-reel tape to Hal Halverstadt at Warner Brothers. Because the band had not included any name in the return address, the rejection slip was simply addressed to "The Residents". The members of the group then decided that this would be the name they would use, first becoming Residents Unincorporated, then shortening it to the current name.[115]
  • The Rolling Stones – from the Muddy Waters song, "Mannish Boy".[116]
  • Russian Circles - Originally the title of their first piece, which was later called "Carpe". Russian Circles are a drill in hockey.[117]


  • School of Seven Bells - A mythical South American pickpocket training academy.[118]
  • Seether - Originally Saron Gas. The band was asked to change their name due to Saron Gas being a homophone of sarin gas, a deadly nerve agent. The band changed its name to Seether in honor of Veruca Salt's song titled, "Seether".[119]
  • Sepultura — Their name means "Grave" in Portuguese (and Spanish). The name was chosen after co-founder Max Cavalera translated the lyrics to the Motörhead song "Dancing on Your Grave".[120]
  • Sevendust — After discovering their name Crawlspace was already taken, band bassist Vinnie Hornsby renamed the band after a brand of plant pesticide he found in his grandmother's garage named Sevin dust.[121]
  • Shai Hulud — Named after the gigantic Sandworms of Arrakis from the 1984 science fiction film Dune, based on the Frank Herbert science fiction novel of the same name.[122]
  • Sigur Rós — Sigur Rós was named after the band's vocalist, Jón Þór Birgisson (Jónsi)'s little sister, whose name is Sigurrós (without a space). It translates to "victory rose."[123]
  • Slipknot — Drummer Joey Jordison suggested renaming the band from "Meld" to "Slipknot" after their song that eventually appeared on the band's demo Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat.[124]
  • Sloan — According to band member Jay Ferguson, the band's name refers to a friend's nickname. Their friend Jason Larsen was called "slow one" by his French-speaking boss, which with the French accent sounded more like "Sloan." The original agreement was that they could name the band after their friend's nickname as long as he was on the cover of their first album. As a result, it is Larsen who appears on the cover of Sloan's Peppermint EP.[125]
  • Steely Dan — Named after a dildo in the novel Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs.[126]
  • Stryper — Originally derived from the King James Version of Isaiah 53:5, drummer Robert Sweet created the acronym: Salvation Through Redemption, Yielding Peace, Encouragement, and Righteousness.[127]
  • Sum 41 — The band started 41 days into the summer.[128] The band was originally a NOFX cover band named Kaspir; they changed their name to Sum 41 for a Supernova show on September 28, 1996.[128][129]



  • UB40 - A title of an unemployment form called Unemployment Benefit, Form 40.[77]
  • U2 - A type of spy plane from the United States. Bono once said that the band name came from its interactivity with the audience... as in "you too."[77]



  • The Who - Were originally called The Detours, then changed their name to The Who after a suggestion by Townsend's friend Richard Barnes[disambiguation needed]. Their first manager, Pete Meaden, renamed them The High Numbers, and they released one unsuccessful single, Zoot Suit, under that name. When EMI dropped them the band sacked Pete Meaden and went back to being called The Who. Another possible reason was because of Peter Townshend's grandmother, who would always refer to popular bands as "The Who?" mainly because of hard hearing.[136]
  • Wilco – The group named itself "Wilco" after the CB radio voice procedure for "Will Comply",[137] a choice which Tweedy has called "fairly ironic for a rock band to name themselves."[138]
  • Wu Tang Clan - RZA and Ol' Dirty Bastard adopted the name for the rap group after seeing the Kung fu film Shaolin and Wu Tang, which features a school of warriors trained in Wu-Tang style.[139]
  • Widespread Panic - Due to anxiety problems, lead guitarist Mike Houser used to have the nickname "Panic". One day he came home and announced that he didn't want to be just "Panic", he wanted to be "Widespread Panic".[140]




  • Zox - Name taken from the last name of drummer, John Zox.[143]

See also[edit]


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  • Dolgins, Adam (1998). Rock Names: From Abba to ZZ Top: How Rock Bands Got Their Names. Cidermill Books. ISBN 0806520469.
  • Wilson, Dave (2005). Rock Formations: Categorical Answers to How Band Names Were Formed. Carol Pub. Group. ISBN 0974848352.