The post on 10 company name types was so well received that The Name Inspector has decided, shamelessly, to make a sequel. This time we’ll look at names for lesser-known search engines, in which The Name Inspector has a special interest.

The fodder for this analysis is the list of the Top 100 Alternative Search Engines that’s begun to make a monthly appearance on Read/WriteWeb. Below the 100 names from last month’s list are put into the same ten categories that were found in the TechCrunch index.

But there’s a twist. Aside from the fact that we’re a ten-fingered species and have all pretty much settled on a decimal number system, there’s no reason there should be exactly ten kinds of name, and some new types pop up on this list. Interestingly, the new categories are basically mashups of the other ten. For example, if you can have misspelled word names and compound names, you can also have compounds in which one of the words is misspelled: a name type mashup. Let’s give these the slightly ridiculous name mashonyms. They’re discussed at the end.

1. Real words (23)

First a comment about the subcategory Misspelled Words. It’s a bit of a catch-all, because there are lots of different ways to tweak the spelling of a word. The most obvious is to replace letters and letter combinations with sound-alikes–a time-honored technique for creating product names which is now being applied more and more to company names (isn’t it interesting the way a web application blurs the distinction between company and product?). Two other techniques are worth mentioning because they’re especially common in Web 2.0 names. One is the domain hack. Everyone’s favorite example is the much-imitated, which makes a word out of the subdomain del, the domain name icio and the top-level domain us. Another technique is the omission of vowels (e.g. Flickr), which is vaguely reminiscent of text messaging conventions.


Misspelled words

blinkx (blinks)
filangy (phalange ‘finger bone’)
GRUUVE (groove)
pipl (people)
retrievr (retriever)
sidekiq (sidekick)
Sproose (spruce)
S R C H R (searcher)
Swamii (swami)

Foreign words

hakia (Finnish hakea ‘to fetch’ hakia COO says no–see comments here) (Italian ‘quick’ Mario says a better gloss is ‘ready’–see comment)
soople (archaic variant of the English verb supple ‘soften, make supple’)
girafa (Portuguese ‘giraffe’)

2. Compounds (20)

Blabline (Presumably sounds like a Bostonian saying bookmark)
FyberSearch *
qksearch (= quicksearch) *
WASALive *
ZABASEARCH (“ZABA is from the Greek word tzaba…’free’ or ‘at no cost’ “) *

3. Phrases (17) *
Ask Mobile
goshme Beta 3.0
Quintura for kids
Web 2.0
whonu? *
Windows Live Mobile
Yahoo! Mobile
yoono (you know) *

4. Blends (9)

collarity (collaborative + clarity)
CONGOO (“taken from the words content and glue“) *
exalead (exact + lead ??)
GoLexa (Google + Alexa)
mnemomap (mnemonic + map)
Quintura (quintessence + neural networks)
Speegle (speech + Google)
Swoogle (Semantic Web Ontology + Google) *
yoople (Yahoo! + Google + people) *

5. Made up or obscure origin (8)

Of course, this means obscure to The Name Inspector. Anyone who sees an overlooked meaning or derivation should please leave a comment. For example, onkosh is an Arabic search portal–does the name have a recognizable Arabic derivation?

fazzle (blend of facile and dazzle?)
lurpo (???)
Mojeek (?)
onkosh (something derived from Arabic?)
Slifter (blend of sifter and lift?)
UJIKO (adjacent letters on keyboard)
yubnub (Ewok “hooray”; no, this does not belong in Real Words)
ZUULA (made up, but means ‘to take off’ in an African language)

6. Tweaked words (7)

Clusty (cluster)
d e c i p h o (decipher)
KartOO (cartoon?)
Lexxe (lexical)
Trexy (treks)
WIKIO (wiki)

7. Affixed words (6)


8. Initials and acronyms (4)

Omgili (Oh my god, I love it!)
TWERQ (The Web’s Effective Result Query; also from QWERTY) (domain name for test verion only)

9. Puns (3)

gnod (nod, n –> gnostic ‘relating to knowledge’)
gnosh (nosh, n –> gnostic ‘relating to knowledge’)
scirus (cirrus, ci –> science)

10. People’s names (3)


Mixing the name types in mashonyms

Some of the names above are flagged with asterisks because they really belong to more than one category. These are the mashonyms:

Blend + Compound = FyberSearch (first word blend of fiber and cyber ?)

Misspelled Word + Compound = qksearch

Initials/Acronym + Compound = WASALive (This is a guess. Does anyone know what WASA means?)

Foreign Word + Compound = ZABASEARCH

Phrase + Misspelled Word + Domain Hack =

Phrase + Misspelled Word = whonu? (knew –> nu)

Phrase + Misspelled Words = yoono (you –> yoo, know –> no)

Blend + Tweaked Word = Congoo (glue –> goo)
Blend + Acronym = Swoogle (Swo is an acronym for Semantic Web Ontology)

Triple Blend: yoople (Yahoo! + Google + people)

The search for search engine names has drawn on some creative linguistic strategies. As new companies proliferate and compete for attention, domain names, and trademarks, these strategies are bound to become even more complex.

[tags]search, search engines, search startups, search engine names, company names, web 2.0 names, web2.0 names, naming strategies, name categories, name types, compounds, phrases, prefixes, suffixes, affixes, blends, portmanteaus, puns, acronyms, made-up names, mashonyms [/tags]

9 Responses to “Search engine names: 10 types plus mashonyms”

  1. on 09 Mar 2007 at 5:03 pm David Ayre

    Anothe great post ! Keep doin that name thing that you been doin !

  2. on 10 Mar 2007 at 3:26 am Mario

    I really like these topics. You should post daily.

    Just a quick note: “pronto” (at least if taken alone as in is probably better translated as “ready” from italian (it also is “soon” in spanish).

    It is also the standard way to answer the phone (in italian): “pronto?”

    There actually are uses for “pronto” as “quick” but seem largely secondary (‘pronta consegna’ = ‘quick/immediate delivery’, typically referred to a car).

  3. on 10 Mar 2007 at 2:00 pm John Doe

    Activating links would be easier for us to check out some of these websites.

  4. on 11 Mar 2007 at 3:47 pm rene-y

    Dear Name Inspector:
    I truly enjoy reading your posts! In this latest one, I nearly laughed out loud in a crowded Starbucks when you quipped about how Bookmach might be how a Bostonian would say “bookmark”!
    Please don’t ever stop posting!
    Your fan,

  5. on 14 Mar 2007 at 7:26 am Hany Abdelkawi


    Onkosh is an Arabic word meaning “unearth”. is the recent English / Arabic search engine offering services focusing on the Arabic-related web.

    There is also, which is a specialized interface for mobile users where Onkosh is the first Arabic search engine supporting .mobi.

  6. on 15 Mar 2007 at 5:37 pm Zac Echola is muffin but trouble

    [...] The Name Inspector has a strange write up on search engine company names. [...]

  7. [...] The Name Inspector identifierar 10 olika typer av namn på nätet. Förkortningar, fraser, egennamn, påhittade ord och mixar av två ord är några av typerna tillika metoderna för att skapa ett namn. (via Fleecelabs) [...]

  8. on 08 Jul 2007 at 9:58 pm Kay

    Great post. I’d argue that pronto is best translated as quick because we’re evaluating all these names from an English-speaker’s perspective. In spoken English, the word pronto means “quick.”

    In fact, I’d say its usage in English is universal enough that it doesn’t belong in the “foreign words” subcategory at all.

  9. on 18 Nov 2008 at 2:45 am Roger

    Super article.
    It makes you think of names twice.
    The difficulty in finding a good names lies in the fact that in many cases the name is part of the logo as well and should be able to be pronounced in many different cultures all over the planet almost equally.

    I chose Yimmiy for the search site I built. Its a palindrome as well.

    Check it at

    Regards, Roger

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