I chose the word Lightninged (not lightning) to name a product. It means literally be struck by a lightning, and it is a real word as discussed in ELU: What is the past tense of “lightning”?. The name is inspired by this quote of Mark Twain:

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

Since the origin word of lightning is lightening, and lighten relates to enlighten, therefore lightninged can be understood as enlightened. This picture conveys exactly what in my mind:

bolt of lightning striking a tree

My product is about learning advanced English vocabulary. Since I emphasize the importance of using the right word, I think it's a suitable name. Does the word have a bad connotation when used as a name for this thing?

After reading the comments, I have some thoughts:

  1. Didn't the founders of reddit think the same to me when they named their product?
  2. Since no native English speaker will need to learn English vocabulary, and for all non-native English speakers any English word that they don't know is new, what would be a problem to use it for non-native ones? Related question on Language Learning: How would non-native readers percept writing that has no problem, but sounds unnatural to the native speakers?
  3. Mark Twain also said: "Thunder is good, thunder is impressive. But lightning that does the work". So definitely I won't encourage people to use the thundered words.

Meta discussion: I name a product with an English word, and many people say it's a bad name. Can I ask why it's bad here?


5 Answers 5


There are two famous sayings that most native English speakers know:

Music soothes the savage beast.


Far from the maddening crowd.

The problem is that, while "everyone" knows them, they're both wrong. The actual quotes are

"Musick has charms to soothe a savage breast."
The Mourning Bride, William Congreve


Far from the Madding Crowd
Thomas Hardy, 1874

The reasons why people remember the wrong versions are varied and not important - but I bring them up because a café opened here named "Far From The Madding Crowd". A good name for a café as a place of respite from the daily grind (pun intended...).

But literally every day more than one person came in and told them that their sign was wrong. They ended up making a big sign inside explaining that the name was right, the customer had been told the wrong thing, and they weren't going to change the name of the café. And still people insisted that the sign was wrong - they refused to learn.

This is one example of why naming something that people think is incorrect is a bad idea. It may make it memorable, and you may teach people something (if they're willing to learn), but you may also alienate them instead.

Some names are deliberately misspelled, with a *wink* to the reader, and people think "Oh, that's clever!" Sorry, but in my opinion "lightninged" isn't one of those.


To be honest, this is the first time I have ever heard of the word Lightninged. Neither the Oxford not the Cambridge dictionaries include it: Merriam-Webster does have it.

The ELU link provides some evidence that the word exists, though the answerer makes it clear that he is from southern USA. This NGram gives a clear indication that its usage is pretty rare compared to lightning.

If you want to use an obscure word to make a point, it would be better to choose a word that people can actually find in any dictionary.


"Lightninged" has a few problems with it:

  • The "inged" at the end makes it look (at a glance) like it should rhyme with "unhinged" which is not correct. Stumbling block #1.

  • The pronunciation is tiring on the mouth; the tongue must first be at the front for the 'tn', then in the back of the mouth for the 'ng', then return to the front for 'ed'. It's possible to say, but it is difficult enough to be uncomfortable. Stumbling block #2.

  • It's a common error of both new English speakers and children alike to attach the wrong ending to a word...a child might say "he falled down!" and this word appears to be the same error, even if it's technically correct. Stumbling block #3.

Usage and perception is everything; the (in)famous incorrect perception that "inflammable" means "does not burn" is a great real-world example where those who were technically correct had to bite the bullet and start labeling things "flammable" so the greater population would understand. Your word here, while it follows the rules, doesn't look like it follows the rules, or feels like it breaks some rule somewhere that the listener can't quite put his finger on.

If you want something with similar dual meanings consider something like Lightningstruck. It's incorrect, but incorrect in a manner that seems slightly less accidental, though you will still run into the problem of being perceived as an incorrect thunderstruck.


Easy to read, pronounce and remember

Names of products don't need to be "real words" - it is perfectly okay for them to be real words, portmanteaus, made up words, spelling variations of real worlds or random characters. However, they do need to be usable in practice when mentioning your product in speech and writing.

Will people be able to write down the name properly after hearing it, for example, to google your product after a recommendation? Will there be a large chance of misspellings?

Is it comfortable to use in speech? Is it short and memorable?

It is these factors that you need to worry about when choosing a word like "Lightninged".

  • Don't the easy to read and easy to pronounce actually serve the easy to remember? If the word is really likely to be remembered, then will its memorable-ness overwhelm the other factors?
    – Ooker
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 15:09
  • @Ooker Sure, if the memorableness is sufficient. XKCD is a well-known webcomic whose name was chosen because it can't be pronounced, but that's a hard sell. Remembering something when you can't pronounce it makes it a pain to look up or spread via word-of-mouth: "I saw this neat company, but I stumbled over the word constantly. Lightninginger? Something."
    – Ketura
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 17:46

You may have a reference to demonstrate it is a real word, but that doesn't mean that native English speakers will recognise or even understand it in 2016. As I read your question, I assumed initially that you had made up a word which you intended to be unique (and internet searchable) - but I still felt it was a bad choice.

To identify a couple of the problems with this as a product name, it's pronunciation is awkward (with the repeated n), and on casual reading, I parse it as light hinged which is meaningless, but not good. If I read it more carefully, I arrive at light nighted, also meaningless.

There is a strong association between enlightened and struck by lightning, but only in the sense that they have similar sounds - the strict meanings have no real overlap. Enlightened is, as you recognise, relevant to describe your product - but not particularly unique.

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