Why Generation 1 Pokemon Names Are The Best
On September 28, 1998, Pokemon Red and Blue were released in North America and would help catapult Pokemon into a multibillion-dollar franchise. Before this though, Pokemon was first released in Japan with Red and Green versions on February 27, 1996.
In order to port the game over for a North American audience, Nintendo had to create new names for some Pokemon which were clever as much as they were descriptive.
Take a look and see how many you figured out as a kid!
Bulbasaur → Ivysaur → Venusaur
The inspiration here likely started with the word “dinosaur”. It originally starts with a bulb on its back, resembling that of a “bulb” of garlic. Since the bulb will flower, the word ivy (a plant) was used when it first evolves and venu came from the “venus flytrap” for its final evolution.
Charmander → Charmeleon → Charizard
They used the prefix “char” for all three stages, which makes sense since they’re fire types. They took inspiration from the salamander, chameleon, and lizard to create the final names.
Squirtle → Wartortle → Blastoise
A turtle pokemon, squirtle is a combination of “squirrel” and “turtle”. Some may say that it’s “squirt” instead, but the tail makes the former argument a lot stronger. The word “tortoise” seems to be used for both Wartortle and Blastoise. If we were to guess, they probably named Blastoise first, the word “blast” was used to describe the water cannons on its back, and they chose the word “war” (either war or warrior) for the Pokemon’s first evolution name.
Caterpie → Metapod → Butterfree
Caterpie and Butterfree translated well into English. Caterpie comes from “caterpillar”, Metapod seems to come from the word “metamorphosis” and “pod”, and Butterfree comes from “butterfly” and “free”.
Weedle → Kakuna → Beedrill
Weedle seems to be a combination of “worm” and “needle” to describe the pointy stinger on its head. Kakuna comes from the word “cocoon” and Beedrill is merely a description of its form. Though it may resemble a wasp more so than a bee, Beedrill sounds better than Waspdrill, don’t you think?
Pidgey → Pidgeotto → Pidgeot
“Pidge” is seen in all stages of evolution for this species. As a tiny bird pokemon, Pidgey likely got its name from the words “pidgeon”, “budgie”, and “chickadee”. Whether is was intended or not, the word “dicotto” means 18 in Italian, which is the level when Pidgey evolves into Pidgeotto. They may have just dropped the “to” from Pidgeotto to arrive at its final form. The Japanese name for Pidgeot is Pigeot (just missing the d), so it’s possible the d was just added to keep the naming pattern consistent.
Rattata → Raticate
The original prototype name for Rattata was Rattatak, combining the words “rat” and “attack”. Rattata may also draw inspiration from “rat-a-tat”. Raticate then uses the words “rat” and “eradicate” or “masticate”.
Spearow → Fearow
Spearow sounds like “sparrow”, but is spelled using the word “spear”. Fearow then is a combination for “fear” and “sparrow”, but it could also be from “feather” and “arrow”.
Ekans → Arbok
The Japanese created the name for Arbok by spelling “kobra” (cobra) backwards. For the North American release, the name for ekans was created as “snake” spelled backwards.
Pikachu → Raichu
English translators didn’t need to change the names here. In Japanese, pikapika is an onomatopoeia for sparkle, and chūchū is for the sound of squeaking. “Rai” in Japanese means thunder.
Sandshrew → Sandslash
The words “sand” and “shrew” were combined here, which makes sense since it’s a ground-type Pokemon and resembles a shrew. As it evolves, it gains larger claws, thus the word “slash” was chosen.
Nidoran♀ → Nidorina → Nidoqueen
Nidoran♂ → Nidorino → Nidoking
Using the Japanese-created names, nido means two times or two degrees, which refers to the male/female types of the same species. The Japanese word ran when translated to English means orchid. Coincidentally, orchids can be blue or purple, and these colors also indicate which gender a Nidoran is. Blue is for female and purple is for male. In a language like Spanish, ending names and words with a indicate the female gender and those ending in o indicate the male gender. Using queen and king respectively is self-explanatory.
Clefairy → Clefable
Likely a combination of the French word “clef” and the English word “fairy”. Clefable uses the word “fable”.
Vulpix → Ninetales
Using the Latin word for fox “vulpes” they combined it with “six” to describe its six tails. When it evolves, it gains nine tails. It’s spelled as “tales” because it also refers to the Japanese myth it’s based on.
Jigglypuff → Wigglytuff
It’s a combination of “jiggly” and “puff” likely because of it’s round shape and ability to expand. Not sure if making the names rhyme has anything to do with it, but they combined the words “wiggly” and “tuff” for its evolved form. “Tuff” could draw from the word “tough” or to describe the small “tuft” of hair on its head.
Zubat → Golbat
The Japanese based the name on their word zubatto. It’s an onomatopoeia to describe an edged tool piercing something forcefully. For Golbat, “bat” and the English word “gollop” means to eat or drink (something) quickly, and judging by the size of its mouth would make sense. “Gol” could also come from the golden-capped fruit bat, one of the largest bats in the world.
Oddish → Gloom → Vileplume
Oddish combines the words “odd” and “radish”. As it evolves to Gloom, it’s a fitting name because of its facial features. Vileplume comes from the words “vile” and “plume”.
Paras → Parasect
From the Japanese version, Paras is derived from the word “parasite” because it has the parasitic mushrooms growing on its back. When it evolves, the word “insect” is used, or it could have come from “sect” the Latin word for cut.
Venonat → Venomoth
Taking the word “venom” and combining it with “gnat” and “moth” gives you the origin for this species.
Diglett → Dugtrio
Similar to the Japanese name (Digda), “dig” was kept and combined with “singlet”. Dugtrio is the same for both regions as the evolved form has three heads (“trio”), but instead uses the past tense of dig (“dug”).
Meowth → Persian
Meow is used here as it’s the sound a cat makes. Similar to the Japanese name (Nyarth) where nyā means the same thing. Thus, they may have just taken the “-th” and ported it over to the English name. Persian is the same for both regions and just refers to Persian cats.
Psyduck → Golduck
A combination of “psychic” and “duck”. The Japanese name for Golduck was the same. It may have come from “gold” and “duck”, and although Golduck is not gold, gold is often used to represent the psychic type.
Mankey → Primeape
Same for both English and Japanese, Mankey comes from either “man” or “mad” and “monkey”. Primeape comes from “prime” or “primate” and “ape”.
Growlithe → Arcanine
Growlithe combines the words “growl” and “lithe” which can mean graceful. Arcanine combines “arcane” and “canine”.
Poliwag → Poliwhirl → Poliwrath
Based on the “polliwog”, each evolution uses the words “wag”, “whirl”, and “wrath”, respectively.
Abra → Kadabra → Alakazam
“Abracadabra” is a common saying during magic shows in the past. “Alakazam” is also said to be a common phrase which follows “abracadabra”.
Machop → Machoke → Machamp
Machop should be a combination of the word “macho” and “chop” to denote the fighting nature of the Pokemon. The suffix changes to the word “choke” and “champ” (champion) for each respective evolution thereafter.
Bellsprout → Weepinbell → Victreebel
Bellsprout takes the word “bell” to describe the shape of its head and “sprout” for its young and growing nature. The “bell” remains in Weepinbell and draws from the word “weeping”. Victreebel seems to combine “victory” “tree” and “bell”. Apparently, because of a 10-character limitation on Gen 1 Pokemon names, bell was shortened to “bel”.
Tentacool → Tentacruel
A play on the word tentacle. The word “cool” is used for the unevolved form and and “cruel” for the evolved form.
Geodude → Graveler → Golem
Geodude uses the Greek word for earth (“geo”) and “dude”. Graveler is likely from the word “gravel” because it is a dual rock/ground type Pokemon. Golem is probably used here in reference to Jewish folklore for entities created from inanimate matter (such as clay or mud).
Ponyta → Rapidash
Ponyta was ported over directly from the Japanese version. Using the word “pony” to describe its infancy form, it could also be a shortened version of the word “ponytail”. Rapidash is a combination of the words “rapid” and “dash”. Having “ash” in its name also works because it is a fire-type Pokemon.
Slowpoke → Slowbro
With its dopey-looking nature, slowpoke is just a fitting name here. The “bro” in Slowbro could be derived from the brotherly/symbiotic relationship between a Slowpoke and a Shellder.
Magnemite → Magneton
The word “magnetite” could be used as an inspiration here, but it’s more likely that the word “magnet” was used because of the magnets on its body and “mite” to denote its size. The word “tonne” could be used for its evolved form, or it could just be the word “magneton” which is a unit of magnetic movement.
This Pokemon name is based on the concept of something being “far-fetched”.
Doduo → Dodrio
The “dodo” was a flightless bird that is now extinct. “Dodo” aws combined with “duo” for the unevolved form and “trio” for the evolved form. The spelling for trio may have been changed to “drio” to feel similar to the Japanese name Dodorio.
Seel → Dewgong
Seel is a “seal” and Dewgong gets its name from the “dugong” which is a relative of the manatee. “Dew” is used instead because of its water/ice type.
Grimer → Muk
Grimer comes from the word “grime” and Muk comes from “muck”. Both words are used to describe something dirty or filthy.
Shellder → Cloyster
Shellder is the same in Japanese and English. The word “shell” is used to describe its unevolved shape. Cloyster on the other hand, was chosen because it combines “clam” and “oyster”, both shellfish.
Gastly → Haunter → Gengar
Gastly could be a play on the word “ghastly” while using the word “gas”. Haunter is fitting because it is a ghost Pokemon, and also a play on the word “hunter”. For Gengar, the Japanese name was Gangar and it could have been derived from the word “doppelganger”. For the English name, the e and the a position have just been flipped from “ganger”.
Based on the mineral “onyx”.
Drowzee → Hypno
Because the Japanese name was Sleep, the word “drowsy” was the inspiration for the English name. Changing the -sy to -zee is likely because they sound the same, but it references “zzz”, a common way to symbolize sleeping. Hypno was used as the evolved form name, short for “hypnosis”.
Krabby → Kingler
Based on a “crab” and the word “crabby”. The Japanese name for the evolved form was also Kingler, a combination of the “king” crab and the “fiddler” crab.
Voltorb → Electrode
Voltorb is based off the words “volt” for electricity and “orb” for its round shape. Electrode could be from the word “electrode”, but could have also been derived from the words “electric” and “explode”.
Exeggcute → Exeggutor
Exeggcute is a combination of the words “execute”, “egg”, and “cute”. “Executor” was used for the evolved form.
Cubone → Marowak
The words “cute”, “cub”, and “bone” may have been used to describe Cubone. The words “marrow” and “whack” were used to create Marowak.
Both of these Pokemon take inspiration from famous martial artists. In addition to the words “hit” and “monster”, “lee” was selected in reference Bruce Lee and “chan” for Jackie Chan. The Japanese referenced a kickboxer and boxer respectively.
This name seems to be a combination of “lick” and “tongue”.
Koffing → Weezing
Based on the words “coughing” and “wheezing”.
Rhyhorn → Rhydon
Rhyhorn was probably Inspired by the words “rhinoceros” and “horn”. The Japanese name for Rhyhorn was Sihorn and Rhydon was Sidon, the “don” may have come from the Latin word dominus, or it was a nod to dinosaur naming conventions.
The Japanese name was Lucky, so Chansey was probably based on “chance” and “chancy”.
The name could be a combination of “tangle” with “Medusa”.
This combines “kangaroo” with “Genghis Khan”
Horsea → Seadra
Horsea is based on the seahorse with the syllables reversed. Seadra seems to have combined “seahorse”, “dragon” and/or “hydra” and it was the same for both Japanese and English.
Goldeen → Seaking
Putting “goldfish” and “queen” together makes Goldeen. Seaking combines “sea” and “king”.
Staryu → Starmie
The “star” comes from the starfish. Starmie is the same for both Japanese and English, but “yu” (you) was used in opposition of “mie” (me) for the naming of Staryu.
Dude is a mime.
From the word “scythe” to refer to its sharp blades.
Based on the word “jinx” because it’s an ice/psychic type Pokemon.
This combines the words “electric” and “buzz”, a perfect fit for its electric nature.
Because of its fire-type nature, this Pokemon gets its name from the word “magma”.
Because of the claws on its head, the word “pincer” was used.
The Latin word for bull is “Taurus”. The English name is just a shorter version of the Japanese name, Kentauros.
Magikarp → Gyarados
Magikarp combines “magic” and “carp”. Gyarados is the same in Japanese and English. The name may come from the word gyakusatsu (to massacre or slaughter) or gyakkyō (meaning hardship and/or adversity).
The Japanese name Laplace comes from the French word for seat (la place), which fits as this Pokemon is known to help ferry people across bodies of water.
The word slang word “ditto” means “the same”, appropriate for a Pokemon who can copy the form of another Pokemon.
Eevee → Vaporeon, Jolteon, Flareon
Eevee is spelling out the pronunciation for E.V., based on the word “evolution”. “Eon” is used in all three evolutions, with the prefix denoting what type the Pokemon is. “Vapor” is for water, “Jolt” is for electric, and “Flare” is for fire.
It’s the same for the Japanese and it’s based on the word “polygon”.
Omanyte → Omastar
From the word “ammonite”, this Pokemon evolves into an Omastar, the “star” likely due to its body shape.
Kabuto → Kabutops
Looking like a horseshoe crab, the Japanese name is the same (Kabuto) and is derived from their word for horseshoe crab, kabutogani. The ending for Kabutops could be based on “triops”, or just to refer that the head is covered and not the whole body (tops).
“Aero” means air in Greek, and it’s combined with “pterodactyl”.
Because of the Pokemon’s sleeping nature, the words “snore” and “relax” were used here.
Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres
There are three legendary birds, and as such, the Spanish words for one (“uno”), two (“dos”), and three (“tres”), were used. Arti comes from “arctic”, Zap refers to electricity, and Mol comes from “molten”.
Dratini → Dragonair → Dragonite
“Dragon” is the inspiration here. The -tini refers to its smallest evolutionary form (ie. tini-tiny), the –air for its gentle aura, and the -ite may have come from “knight” or “night”. Dragonite could also have come from the word “draconite”, which is a mythical gemstone from the heads of dragons.
See next. The two indicates that it’s a Mew clone and the same for both English and Japanese.
The English/Japanese name is the same, and it’s from the sound a kitten makes.