List of Meanings and Origins of Band Names

Posted in Music

This is a list of band names with their name origins explained.


  • 10,000 Maniacs ? adapted from the title of the 1964 splatter film Two Thousand Maniacs!
  • 10cc ? from a dream the group's producer Jonathan King had. A popular urban legend suggests that the name is an amount slightly larger than the average amount of semen a man ejaculates. King and band member Eric Stewart have refuted the rumor.
  • 12 Rods ? a phrase taken from the bible verse Numbers 17:1-13.
  • 23 Skidoo ? a phrase associated with the Illuminati which has been used in the works of Aleister Crowley and William S. Burroughs.
  • 30 Seconds to Mars ? according to member Jared Leto, the name is a rough translation of a phrase from the manuscript Argus Apacase and was chosen by the band for being "imaginative and really represent the sound of our music in as unique a way as possible."
  • 311 ? the police code for indecent exposure in Omaha, Nebraska. The name was erroneously thought to be an allusion to the Ku Klux Klan, and band members have given various other explanations in the past.
  • 36 Crazyfists ? taken from the 1977 Jackie Chan film The 36 Crazy Fist.
  • 7 Year Bitch ? from the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch.
  • 702 ? from area code 702, the area code of the band's hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • 808 State ? from the Roland TR-808 drum machine and the state of mind the members shared


  • a-ha ? the band liked the name because it means the same thing in several languages.
  • ABBA ? a palindromic acronym from the initials of the first names of the band members: Agnetha F?ltskog, Bj?rn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.
  • AC/DC ? the name was invented by Angus and Malcolm Young's sister Margaret. It comes from the letters AC/DC (alternating current/direct current) on the back of their mother?s sewing machine.
  • Ace of Base ? the band's first studio was in the basement of a car repair shop, and they considered themselves to be the "masters" of the studio. "Ace of Base" was derived from "masters of the basement".
  • Aerosmith ? Joey Kramer wrote this word all over his notebooks in high school. It is also thought that Aerosmith were inspired by the book Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis.
  • AFI ? stands for "A Fire Inside".
  • Aiden ? after a character from the 2002 film The Ring.
  • Air Supply ? 5 years prior to the band's signing, Graham Russell saw the name in a dream.
  • Alexisonfire ? from contortionist stripper, Alexis Fire, which nearly resulted in a lawsuit from the stripper's representatives.
  • The All-American Rejects ? Taken from the Green Day song "Reject". The "All-Americans" and "the Rejects", both suggested to the band as names, were merged.
  • Alice Cooper ? Alice Cooper was a band before one of its members started a solo career under the same name. Allegedly, Alice Cooper was the name of a spirit members of the band came in contact with through a ouija.
  • Alice in Chains ? A parody of Alice in Wonderland, implying Crossdressing.
  • Anberlin ? band member Stephen Christian has offered the explanations that he planned naming his first daughter Anberlin and that the name was a modification of the phrase "and Berlin" from a list of cities Christian wanted to visit. The one story that Christian asserts is true, however, is that he heard the word in the background noise of the Radiohead song "Everything in Its Right Place".
  • ?And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead ? initially claimed to be a line in a Mayan ritual chant, though lead singer Conrad Keely has since admitted the story was a joke.
  • Arctic Monkeys ? The name was made up by the guitarist, Jamie Cook, while at school.
  • Atreyu The name is from the character Atreyu in fantasy movie and german novel The Neverending Story
  • Art of Noise ? Named after the 1913 manifesto called The Art of Noises by Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo.
  • Audioslave ? according to lead guitarist Tom Morello the name supposedly came to singer Chris Cornell in a vision.
  • Automatic Pilot ? from psychiatric testimony characterizing Dan White's state of mind while killing George Moscone and Harvey Milk.
  • Avenged Sevenfold -Lead Singer M.Shadows got the name from a list of Bible references that he thought would make good band names and the other members had a vote and they all picked "Avenged Sevenfold."Genesis Ch.4:15"And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." Genesis Ch.4:24"If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold..."


  • The B-52's ? from the name of a beehive hairstyle., itself named for the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.
  • Bachman-Turner Overdrive ? a combination of band members last names and the magazine Overdrive. The bands name had previously been "Bachman-Turner".
  • Backstreet Boys ? named after a flea market in Orlando, Florida.
  • Bad Company ? from the 1972 film Bad Company.
  • Badfinger ? originally called "The Iveys" after a street in Swansea, Wales. Once the band was signed to Apple Records by The Beatles the band took the opportunity to change their name. The name "Badfinger" was derived from "Bad Finger Boogie," the working title of The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends".
  • The Band They were originally known as The Hawks, after their original lead singer Ronnie Hawkins. While working with Bob Dylan in the 1960s, they decided to change their name, but were unable to agree on a new name. They finally decided to simply call themselves "The Band."
  • The Bangles - originally named "The Bangs"
  • Bauhaus ? originally named "Bauhaus 1919" after the German Bauhaus art movement, and shortened to "Bauhaus" in 1979.
  • Bay City Rollers ? from Bay City, Michigan, which had been randomly selected by the band from a map.
  • Beastie Boys - According to front man Mike D., BEASTIE stands for Boys Entering Anarchistic Stages Towards Internal Excellence.
  • Bee Gees ? not a contraction of "Brothers Gibb", which is a popular assumption, but rather the initials of two men who helped the group in their early career, Bill Goode and disc jockey Bill Gates.
  • Belle & Sebastian ? from Belle et S?bastien, a children's book by French writer C?cile Aubry.
  • The Black Crowes - The group originally called themselves Mr. Crowe's Garden, after a favorite children's book. They sang under that name until they signed with Def American Records in 1989. They renamed themselves at the suggestion of a producer.
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ? The Black Rebels was the name of the biker gang led by Marlon Brando's character in the film The Wild One. Peter Hayes, guitarist, and bassist Robert Levon Been, originally named the band "The Other Gang" because Brando's gang were always beaten by the "other gang", but switched to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club when The Other Gang didn't catch on.


  • Catch 22 - from the novel/movie of the same name - Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.
  • Counting Crows - Comes from old English nursery rhyme which had to do with predicting the future from the numbers of birds seen. Lead Singer Adam Duritz liked the rhyme.
  • Cotton Mather - from 17th century Puritan preacher and author Cotton Mather famous for, among other things, supporting the executions of the so-called "witches" at the Salem witch trials.
  • Crass - A reference to the David Bowie song "Ziggy Stardust" (specifically the line "The kids was just crass").
  • 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".
  • Cypress Hill - The rap group was named after Cypress Avenue, the street in South Gate, California where they all grew up.


  • Depeche Mode ? inspired by a French fashion magazine of the same name.
  • Deus ex Machina - from Deus Ex Machina, Latin for "god from a/the machine"
  • Dexy's Midnight Runners ? from the stimulant Dexedrine.
  • Duran Duran ? The band played at Birmingham's Barberella's nightclub  so took their name from the villain of the cult Science Fiction film Barbarella, Dr. Durand-Durand.


  • E Street Band ? Bruce 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.
  • EMF - An Acronym standing for Epsom Mad Funkers.


  • Faith No More - Named after a race horse they saw listed on a racing form.
  • 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."
  • Foo Fighters - A term used by World War II pilots to describe strange flying fireballs they sometimes saw.
  • Fountains of Wayne - from Fountains of Wayne, a lawn ornament store in Wayne, New Jersey.
  • The Fugees - Group member Wyclef Jean came up with the name from a corruption of the word "refugees".


  • Godsmack - According to the band they arrived at the name after one band member made a particularly inappropriate comment and another remarked "God will smack you for that one". Hence forth one would receive a "Godsmack" for bad behavior. There are too many similarities between Godsmack and Alice in Chains to ignore. Namely that Godsmack is an Alice in Chains song from the album Dirt. As well the "Godsmack" logo is extremely similar to that of the sun logo of Alice in Chains. From Wikipedia, "Erna perfectly mimics the late Layne Staley's low, guttural, sinister singing and snarly, metal-inspired growls. The band's music is a faithful retread of Jerry Cantrell's churning, tuned-down hard rock. Godsmack album "Faceless", mixes arena rock in the vein of an Alice in Chains."
  • Goldfinger - Named after the James Bond movie Starring Sean Connery.
  • Grateful Dead - Chosen by guitarist Jerry Garcia from a dictionary. They had previously been called The Warlocks, but bassist Phil Lesh heard that the name had been taken by another band already.
  • Green Day ? "green day" is a slang term for spending a day smoking marajuana. 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.
  • Grey Eye Glances - from a quote from Edgar Allan Poe's poem "To One in Paradise".
  • Guns 'N' Roses - Originally two bands L.A. Gunns and Hollywood Roses. Hollywood Roses was headed by Axl Rose, Tracii Guns headed the other band which also featured Slash & Steven Adler. The two frequented clubs and played there and were friends.


  • Heaven 17 - from a line in Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange, a fictional band mentioned by a young woman in the record store.
  • H?sker D? ? is the name of a Scandinavian memory-based board game that means "Do you remember?"
  • Hootie and The Blowfish - From the nicknames of two friends of singer/guitarist Darius Rucker one of them had owl-like eyes so he called him "Hootie", the other friend had puffy "Blowfish" cheeks.


  • Iggy Pop ? real name James Jewel Osterberg. His stage name derives from his first band The Iguanas, where he got the nickname - Iggy of the Iguanas.
  • Iron Maiden ? Steve Harris named the band after the iron maiden torture device as shown in the film, The Man in the Iron Mask.


  • Jane's Addiction - The band got it's name from a girl Jane that Frontman Perry Farrell knew back in L.A who was a prostitute and called it her addiction.
  • Jefferson Airplane ? according to Jorma Kaukonen the name was coined by a friend as a satire of blues pseudonyms such as "Blind Lemon" Jefferson.
  • Jethro Tull - from 18th century Jethro Tull (agriculturist)


  • Kaiser Chiefs ? Named after the South African Kaizer Chiefs Football Club, the former team of long-serving former Leeds captain Lucas Radebe.
  • KISS - According to Paul Stanley, Kiss just sounded dangerous (kiss of death) and sexy at the same time. Kiss denies the rumors that the name stands for "Kids In Service of Satan" or the saying "Keep It Simple Stupid."
  • KoRn - There are many stories as to how the name originated, however the most believable is that Korn starts with Kern County, CA which is where Frontman Jonathan Davis worked as a Coroner. From that came "KoRn". It was then decided that it would be written like a child would write it, hence the K instead of a C, and the backwards R.


  • Lasgo ? from the Scottish city Glasgow with the first and last letters removed.
  • Limp Bizkit - Got the idea from Fred Durst's dog Biscuit who has a limp.
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • Metallica - Drummer Lars Ulrich was helping a friend think of a name for a metal fanzine. The choices were Metal Mania and Metallica. Metal Mania was chosen for the magazine & he used Metallica for his band.
  • 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..."
  • Mr. Bungle ? Named after a "Lunchroom manners" classroom film from 1950.
  • M?tley Cr?e - A friend said "What a Motley looking Crew" - Motley meaning "of great variety" and once describing the appearance of a court jester. The re-spelling was their own invention using the umlauts came to them while they were partying & drinking Lowenbrau beer.
  • Mot?rhead - British slang for a drug user who uses a lot of speed.


  • 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.
  • Nirvana - guitarist Kurt Cobain heard it while watching a late night special on Buddhism. Nirvana means to describe the perfect peace of the mind that is free from craving, anger and other afflictive states.
  • No Doubt - A favorite phrase of John Spence, it became the name of the band prior to his suicide.
  • 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.


  • Oasis evolved from an earlier band called The Rain, comprised 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.


  • Pantera - Spanish for Panther and also a pretty cool car.
  • Pearl Jam - The Bands 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. 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • Phish - A play on drummer Jon Fishman's last name... altered spelling as in The Beatles.
  • Pixies ? selected randomly from a dictionary by guitarist Joey Santiago. The band took a liking to the word's definition, "mischievous little elves". The name was shortened from the original, "Pixies In Panoply".
  • +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.
  • The Pogues ? Originally called Pogue Mahone - Gaelic for "Kiss my ass". Shortened to The Pogues after complaints received by the BBC.
  • Porno for Pyros ? inspired by the Los Angeles riots of 1992.
  • 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. The name was Procul Harun, which is Latin for "Beyond these things", but was written down incorrectly by Keith Reid. The band would say in interviews that the cat was a Burmese Blue, though all cats with the name are the Devon Rex breed.


  • 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."


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Rolling Stones ? from the Muddy Waters song, "Rollin' Stone".


  • Sepultura - Their name means "Grave" in Portuguese. The name was chosen after co-founder Max Cavalera translated the lyrics to the Mot?rhead song "Dancing on Your Grave".
  • Shai Hulud ? Named after the gigantic Sandworms of Arrakis from the 1984 sci-fi film Dune, based on the Frank Herbert sci-fi novel of the same name.
  • Skid Row - Slang for a rundown inner city neighborhoods where alcoholics, junkies, street people can afford to live.
  • 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.
  • Steely Dan ? Named after a dildo in the novel Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs.
  • Smash Mouth - Football players use this slang term in any game with a lot of blocking or tackling.
  • Soundgarden - A garden of kinetic sculptures that makes music when wind blows through them... a sculpture in Seattle called "Sound Garden".
  • Spock's Beard - from the episode of Star Trek where Spock of an alternate universe had a beard.


  • Taking Back Sunday ? The band is named after a song by Long Island band The Waiting Process who were inspired by their grandmother, Tina, that they should take back Sunday from the Christian people in Long Island.
  • Talking Heads - From the video jargon for a camera shot showing only the head & shoulders of a person. Newscasters are usually shown this way and it makes for boring TV. Another story says they were inspired by a military experiment involving talking mannequin heads.
  • the GazettE - Originated from the word "casette", emphasizing that their music is original and "handmade" by them. (This is a Japanese Rock/Visual band)


  • U2 - A type of spy plane used by the United States in the 1960's - made famous when Gary Powers' U2 plane was shot down over Russia and he was taken as a prisoner during the Cold War.
  • UB40 - A Title of an unemployment form called Unemployment Benefit, Form 40.


  • Van Halen were originally called Mammoth but Gene Simmons of KISS gave lead singer David Lee Roth the suggestion to name the band after members Eddie Van Halen and his brother Alex Van Halen.
  • The Velvet Underground were named after a book about sadomasochism by Michael Leigh.
  • The Villebillies - The word "Villebillies"  came from a lyric written by vocalist Derek "Child" Monyhan shortly after joining the group. It is a combination of the words Louisville, the band's hometown and largest urban center in Kentucky, and Hillbilly in reference to Kentucky's rural mountain culture. The name references the cross genre nature of the band's music.


  • Weezer - Band member Rivers Cuomo had the nickname "Weezer" in school because of a breathing problem.
  • The Who - Were originally called The Detours, then changed their name to The Who after a suggestion by Townsend's friend Richard Barnes. 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.
  • 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.


  • Xiu Xiu ? from the 1998 Chinese film Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl.


  • The Yardbirds - Grew out of Keith Relf's The Metropolitan Blues Quartet. When the band changed members in 1963 Relf changed the name to Yardbirds partly from the nickname of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, "Bird", and partly from the American slang for prisoner.
  • Yo La Tengo - Translates to "I have it" from Spanish - said to be the phrase called out by Hispanic baseball players when fielding a pop fly ball. Singer/guitar player Ira Kaplan got the expression from a book he was reading about baseball called The Five Seasons.


  • ZZ Top - Taken from the name of a Texas Blues man ZZ Hill. Though a rumor is that they got their name by combining Zig Zag and Top, two well known brands of "cigarette" rolling papers.

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