Editors' Choice

Why Generation 1 Pokemon Names Are The Best

Steve Porter / November 13, 2016

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

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

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

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 → 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 → 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

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

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 → 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

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

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

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♀ → Nidorina → Nidoqueen

nidoran-nidorino-nidoking

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

Clefairy → Clefable

 

Likely a combination of the French word “clef” and the English word “fairy”. Clefable uses the word “fable”.

 

vulpix-ninetales

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

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

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 → 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

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

Venonat → Venomoth

 

Taking the word “venom” and combining it with “gnat” and “moth” gives you the origin for this species.

 

diglett-dugtrio

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

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

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

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 → Arcanine

 

Growlithe combines the words “growl” and “lithe” which can mean graceful. Arcanine combines “arcane” and “canine”.

 

poliwag-poliwhirl-poliwrath

Poliwag → Poliwhirl → Poliwrath

 

Based on the “polliwog”, each evolution uses the words “wag”, “whirl”, and “wrath”, respectively.

 

abra-kadabra-alakazam

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 → 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 → 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

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 → 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 → 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

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

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.

 

farfetchd

Farfetch’d

 

This Pokemon name is based on the concept of something being “far-fetched”.

 

doduo-dodrio

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 → 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 → 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 → 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 → 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”.

 

onix

Onix

 

Based on the mineral “onyx”.

 

drowzee-hypno

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

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 → 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 → Exeggutor

 

Exeggcute is a combination of the words “execute”, “egg”, and “cute”. “Executor” was used for the evolved form.

 

cubone-marowak

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.

 

hitmonlee-hitmonchan

Hitmonlee, Hitmonchan

 

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.

 

lickitung

Lickitung

 

This name seems to be a combination of “lick” and “tongue”.

 

koffing-weezing

Koffing → Weezing

 

Based on the words “coughing” and “wheezing”.

 

rhyhorn-rhydon

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.

 

chansey

Chansey

 

The Japanese name was Lucky, so Chansey was probably based on “chance” and “chancy”.

 

tangela

Tangela

 

The name could be a combination of “tangle” with “Medusa”.

 

kangaskhan

Kangaskhan

 

This combines “kangaroo” with “Genghis Khan

 

horsea-seadra

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

Goldeen → Seaking

 

Putting “goldfish” and “queen” together makes Goldeen. Seaking combines “sea” and “king”.

 

staryu-starmie

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.

 

mrmime

Mr. Mime

 

Dude is a mime.

 

scyther

Scyther

 

From the word “scythe” to refer to its sharp blades.

 

jynx

Jynx

 

Based on the word “jinx” because it’s an ice/psychic type Pokemon.

 

electabuzz

Electabuzz

 

This combines the words “electric” and “buzz”, a perfect fit for its electric nature.

 

magmar

Magmar

 

Because of its fire-type nature, this Pokemon gets its name from the word “magma”.

 

pinsir

Pinsir

 

Because of the claws on its head, the word “pincer” was used.

 

tauros

Tauros

 

The Latin word for bull is “Taurus”. The English name is just a shorter version of the Japanese name, Kentauros.

 

magikarp-gyarados

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).

 

lapras

Lapras

 

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.

 

ditto

Ditto

 

The word slang word “ditto” means “the same”, appropriate for a Pokemon who can copy the form of another Pokemon.

 

eevee-vaporeonjolteonflareon

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.

 

porygon

Porygon

 

It’s the same for the Japanese and it’s based on the word “polygon”.

 

omanyte-omastar

Omanyte → Omastar

 

From the word “ammonite”, this Pokemon evolves into an Omastar, the “star” likely due to its body shape.

 

kabuto-kabutops

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).

 

aerodactyl

Aerodactyl

 

“Aero” means air in Greek, and it’s combined with “pterodactyl”.

 

snorlax

Snorlax

 

Because of the Pokemon’s sleeping nature, the words “snore” and “relax” were used here.

 

articuno-zapdos-moltres

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

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.

 

mewtwo

Mewtwo

 

See next. The two indicates that it’s a Mew clone and the same for both English and Japanese.

 

mew

Mew

 

The English/Japanese name is the same, and it’s from the sound a kitten makes.

 

Images via reddit. Featured image via youtube.