A Dictionary of Pokemon Name Origins

One of my hobbies is playing the Pokemon TCG with my son.  Another hobby is studying word origins, and I have always been interested in the origins of Pokemon names.

I have created a dictionary of Pokemon name origins, and I think kids would enjoy reading it, and they might learn something!

I have nothing to do with Nintendo or Wizards, so my work is completely unofficial, not to mention speculative.  There some names I was not able to figure out, and some where I had to guess, so other readers might be interested in adding their own ideas.

Thank You.  Here's my list: (revised 12-2-00)

A dictionary of Pokemon name origins:

Abra:  ABRA is a familiar magic word, most popular in the phrase “Abra Kadabra” (see Kadabra and Alakazam).

Aerodactyl:  from AERO- meaning “flying” and DACTYL meaning “finger.” Flying finger??  Yes, because Aerodactyl’s large wings are attached to one very long finger bone on each arm.  The word PTERODACTYL is very similar.  PTERO- means “wing,” so PTERODACTYL means “wing finger.”

Alakazam:  ALAKAZAM is another familiar magic word (see Abra and Kadabra).

Arbok:  from COBRA.  It’s KOBRA spelled backwards.  See Ekans.  Arcanine:  combination of ARCANE, meaning “obscure” and CANINE meaning “doglike.”  Thus, a rare, doglike Pokemon.

Articuno:  from ARCTIC (notice difference in spelling!) and UNO, Spanish for “one.”  Articuno lives in the cold arctic-like climate, and is the number-one legendary bird. 

Beedrill:  combination of BEE and DRILL.  Thus, a bee-like Pokemon who can drill (as a form of attack).

Bellsprout:  a SPROUT (plant) shaped like a BELL.

Blastoise:  combination of BLAST  and TORTOISE.  Note the difference in pronunciation: we say tor-tiss, but blas-toys.

Bulbasaur: combination of BULB (plant root tuber), and -SAUR meaning “lizard” (as in dino-saur, “powerful lizard”).  Bulbasaur looks like a lizard with a bulb on its back.

Butterfree:  combination of BUTTERFLY and FREE.  Thus, a butterfly that flies freely, as all butterflies should.

Chansey:  Of obscure origin.  CHANCEY means “risky,” and this may be the source of the name, because Chansey’s first attack requires a coin flip, and its second often involves self-sacrifice.

Charizard:  combination of CHAR (burn) and LIZARD.  Thus, a lizard who burns things.

Charmander: combination of CHAR (burn) and SALAMANDER.  Thus, a salamander who burns things.

Charmeleon:  combination of CHAR (burn) and CHAMELEON.  Thus, a chameleon who burns things.

Clefable: combination of CLEF (musical symbol) and FABLE, a folk tale, typically with a moral, often involving fanciful events, especially talking animals.  FABLE refers to Clefable’s particularly magical abilities.  CLEF refers to Clefable’s musicality.  See Clefairy.

Clefairy:  combination of CLEF (musical symbol) and FAIRY, a magical mythical creature. FAIRY refers to Clefairy’s particularly magical abilities.  CLEF refers to Clefairy’s musicality.  See Clefable.

Cloyster:  combination of CLAM (or CLAMP) and OYSTER.  “Cloyster” is pronounced the same as “cloister” (notice difference in spelling!).  A cloister is a church building where religious people live a life of isolation.  In his shell, Cloyster lives a life of isolation too.

Cubone:  variation on BONE.  Cubone likes to collect bones.  The origin the CU- prefix is obscure.

Dewgong:  variation of DUGONG, a real animal similar to Dewgong.

Diglett:  from DIG and -LET (small thing).  Thus, a small Pokemon who digs.

Ditto:  DITTO means “to repeat” or “to duplicate.”  Ditto is good at

re-forming its body to duplicate other things.  DITTO is the name of a

process, popular before the emergence of xerography, for duplicating paper documents.

Dodrio:  combination of DODO, an extinct bird, and TRIO meaning “a group of three.”  Thus: a bird with three heads. See Doduo.

Doduo:  combination of DODO, an extinct bird, and DUO meaning “a group of two.”  Thus: a bird with two heads.  Doduo, a long-necked, long-legged bird, does not much resemble the dodo, a squat, awkward bird too slow to evade capture by hungry humans - thus its extinction.   See Dodrio.

Dragonair: from DRAGON. -AIRE can mean “someone closely associated.” Thus, a Pokemon closely associated with being a dragon.  AIR may also refer to Dragonair’s ability to fly.

Dragonite: from DRAGON and -ITE meaning “someone closely associated.”

Thus, a Pokemon closely associated with being a dragon.

Dratini:  combination of DRAGON and TEENY. Thus, a teeny dragon.

Drowzee:  variation of DROWSY, meaning “sleepy.”

Dugtrio:  combination of DUG and TRIO (group of three).  Dugtrio is a digging Pokemon with three heads.

Eevee:  of obscure origin.  May be the pronunciation of “E.V.,” an abbreviation for “evolution.”  Eevee is a master of evolution.

Ekans:  SNAKE spelled backwards.  See Arbok.

Electabuzz:  combination of ELECTRIC and BUZZ.

Electrode:  an ELECTRODE is a conductor in an electric circuit used to make contact with a non-metallic circuit element.

Exeggcute:  combination of EGG and EXECUTE.  EXECUTE means “carry out a task,” referring presumably to Exeggcute’s efficiency in carrying out its attacks.  EXECUTE also has a special meaning—to put to death a condemned prisoner, but this is not likely the intended meaning in regard to Exeggcute, since killing is a violation of the Pokemon ethic (see Exeggutor).  EXEGGCUTE may also be a combined form of CUTE, since Exeggcute is so cute, but scholars disagree on this point.

Exeggutor: combination of EGG and EXECUTOR.  An EXECUTOR is someone who carries out a task.  Since Exeggutor is the evolved form of Exeggcute, the name reinforces the notion that Exeggcute’s name does not refer to putting prisoners to death.  A person who puts prisoners to death is called an “executioner,” not an “executor.”  (See Exeggcute.)

Farfetch’d: a variant of FAR-FETCHED, meaning “on the border of


Fearow: combination of FEAR (because Fearow is to be feared) and SPEAROW, from whom Fearow evolves.  (See Spearow.)

Flareon: from FLARE and -EON meaning “object.”  Thus, an object (Pokemon) who flares.

Gastly: variation of GHASTLY (note difference in spelling!) meaning “horrifying.”

Gengar:  of obscure origin.  May be related to GENGHIS KHAN.  See Kangaskhan.

Geodude: combination of GEODE and DUDE meaning “fellow.”  A GEODE is a round rock with crystal formations inside.  Geodude’s body looks like a geode, at least on the outside.

Gloom:  GLOOM means “spookiness.”  It can also mean “sadness.”  The Pokemon called Gloom may embody a little of both.

Golbat:  from BAT (flying mammal).  GOL- may come from GOLD, meaning that Golbat is a very valuable bat.

Goldeen:  from GOLD and -INE (a feminine ending).  Thus, a Pokemon that looks like a feminine goldfish.  Presumably, this is true of both male and female Goldeens.

Golduck: from GOLD and DUCK.  Thus, a very valuable Pokemon who looks like a duck.

Golem: GOLEM is the name of a mythological creature, essentially an artificial human.

Graveler:  from GRAVEL, small stones.  Graveler looks like a piece of gravel, but he is much larger.

Grimer:  from GRIME.  Grimer lives in the sewer, where there’s lots of grime.

Growlithe:  from GROWL.  Growlithe is a dog-like Pokemon, so presumably Growlithe growls like a dog.  The -LITHE ending is of disputed origin.  Perhaps it is from the Greek LITHOS, meaning “stone” and referring to Growlithe’s strength.  Perhaps it is from the English LITHE, meaning “lean and muscular.”  Perhaps it has no meaning at all.

Gyrados:  of obscure origin.  May be related to the verb “gyre,” meaning to turn in a thrashing manner, as a sea serpent.  The word “gyre” was invented by Lewis Carroll for his poem “Jabberwocky,” in which it was the “slithy toves” that did “gyre.”

Haunter:  a HAUNTER is someone who haunts.

Hitmonchan:  A combination of HIT, MONSTER, and CHAN, referring to Jackie Chan, the famous martial arts master. 

Hitmonlee:  A combination of HIT, MONSTER, LEE, referring to Bruce Lee, considered by many to be the greatest martial arts master of all time.

Horsea:  from SEAHORSE.  Horsea looks like a seahorse.

Hypno:  HYPNO means “related to sleep,” or is short for HYPNOTIZE.  Ivysaur: combination of IVY, and -SAUR meaning “lizard.”  Ivysaur looks like a lizard with ivy growing on its back.  See Bulbasaur.  Jigglypuff:  A PUFF that is JIGGLY.  A good description of this roly-poly fellow.

Jolteon:  combination of JOLT and -EON (object).  Thus, a Pokemon who will give you a jolt.

Jynx:  a JYNX is a bad luck charm.

Kabuto:  from the Greek KATABURSO meaning “covered with hides.”  This refers to Kabuto’s thick top covering.

Kabutops: from the Greek KATABURSOPS meaning “covered with hides on the face.”  Kabutops has a tough skin like Kabuto, but unlike Kabuto has a distinguishable head and face.

Kadabra:  KADABRA is a familiar magic word, most popular in the phrase “Abra Kadabra.”  See Abra.

Kakuna:  variation of COCOON, which Kakuna resembles.  The evolution of Weedle to Kakuna to Beedrill mirrors the metamorphosis in nature of many crawling bugs through a dormant stage into flying bugs.

Kangaskhan:  combination of KANGAROO and GENGHIS KHAN, a Mongol conqueror who died in 1227.

Kingler:  from KING CRAB, a large species of crab.  Kingler looks like a large crab.

Koffing:  variation of COUGHING.

Krabby:  from CRAB.  Krabby looks like a crab.  Krabby may also be CRABBY, meaning ill-tempered.

Lapras: of obscure origin

Likitung: combination of LICK and TONGUE.

Machamp:  combination of MACHOKE (from whom Machamp evolves) and CHAMP, short for “champion.”

Machoke: combination of MACHOP (from whom Machoke evolves) and CHOKE.  Presumably Machoke could choke you, though this is not one of his attacks in the card game.

Machop: combination of MACHO, meaning “manly” and CHOP, as in “karate


Magikarp: combination of MAGIC and CARP, a fish.  Goldfish are small carp, as are their bigger cousins in Japanese decorative ponds.

Magmar:  from MAGMA, the molten rock under the earth’s crust.

Magnemite:  combination of MAGNET and MITE (small thing).  Thus, a small magnetic Pokemon.

Magneton:  from MAGNET and -TON (object):  Thus a magnetic Pokemon.

Mankey:  combination of MAN and MONKEY.  Thus, a Pokemon that looks sort of like a man and sort of like a monkey.

Marowak:  from MARROW, the filling inside a bone, and WHACK.  Marowak likes to whack his opponents by throwing bones at them.

Meowth: variation of MEOW, the sound of a cat.  Meowth is a cat-like Pokemon.

Metapod:  from METAMORPHOSIS and POD.  Metapod resembles the pod, chrysalis, or cocoon, within which many insects in nature undergo metamorphosis from crawling bugs into flying bugs.  The evolution of Caterpie to Metapod to Butterfree closely mirrors the metamorphosis in nature of caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.

Mew:  MEW is the sound made by Mew.  It is also the sound made by a cat.

It is unclear why Mew makes the same sound as a cat.

Mewtwo:  variation of MUTANT, meaning “genetically modified life form” and TWO, indicating that Mewtwo is a second (genetically modified) version of Mew.  See Mew.

Mr. Mime: just a man’s name - MISTER MIME.  A MIME is an actor who performs without speaking and without props or sets.  One famous mime act involves pretending to be trapped inside an invisible box, thus Mr.  Mime’s “Invisible Wall” Pokemon Power.  This, and most mime acts, are very difficult to perform convincingly, and mimes who can do them well are hard to find.  Marcel Marceau is probably the world’s most famous mime.

Moltres:  from MOLTEN meaning “melted,” like the molten rock beneath the earth’s crust, and TRES, Spanish for “three.”  Moltres is the number-three legendary bird.

Muk:  variation of MUCK meaning “mud” or “manure.”

Nidoking: combination of NIDORINO (from whom Nidoking evolves) and KING.

Nidoking: combination of NIDORINA (from whom Nidoqueen evolves) and QUEEN.

Nidoran: from NIDORINO, into which male Nidoran evolve.

Nidorina:  from NIDORINO with the -A feminine ending.  A Nidorina is a female Nidorino.

Nidorino:  RHINO means “nose,” as in rhino-ceros meaning “nose horn.” Nidorino has a horn between the eyes, sort of like a rhinoceros.  The NIDO- prefix is of obscure origin.

Ninetales: compounding of NINE and TAILS.  Ninetales indeed has nine tails.  The “cat of nine tails” is a whip that splits from a single handle into nine (or at least many) ends.  However, Ninetales is a fox, not a cat nor a whip.

Oddish: combination of ODD and RADISH. 

Omanite:  of obscure origin

Omastar: combination of OMANITE (from which Omastar evolves) and STAR meaning “hero.”

Onix:  from ONYX (note difference in spelling!), a semi-precious stone.

Paras: from PARASECT, into which Paras evolves

Parasect:  combination of PARASITE and INSECT.  Parasect is a mushroom-like Pokemon.  Many varieties of mushrooms are parasites, meaning that they live attached to other living things - usually trees.  Unlike a mushroom, Parasect has many legs, like an insect.  However, it looks a lot like a crab, which is not an insect.

Persian:  PERSIAN is a breed of long-haired cat.  PERSIAN actually means “from Persia” which today is called Iran.  Presumably, Persian cats originated in ancient Persia.  The Pokemon called Persian is a cat-like Pokemon.

Pidgeot:  a variation of PIDGEOTTO, from whom Pidgeot evolves.

Pidgeotto:  a variation of PIDGEY, from whom Pidgeotto evolves. The -OTTO ending is similar to Italian forms, but it is unclear what, if anything, Pidgeotto has especially to do with Italy.  Maybe he was born there.

Pidgey:  a variation of PIGEON, a bird that Pidgey resembles.

Pikachu:  from the Japanese PIKA, a mouse-like animal.  Similarity to the English phrase “peek at you” has aroused the curiosity of scholars, but no direct linkage to that phrase has been established.

Pinsir:  from PINCER, a pointed appendage used for spearing and grabbing.  Pinsir has two pincers on his head, and several on his feet.

Poliwag:  combination of POLIWOG meaning “tadpole” and WAG.  Thus, a Pokemon that looks like a tadpole with a long tail to wag.

Poliwhirl: combination of POLIWAG (from which Poliwhirl evolves) and WHIRL, referring to the spiral marking on Poliwhirl’s chest.

Poliwrath: combination of POLIWHIRL (from which Poliwrath evolves) and WRATH meaning “anger.”  Thus, an angry version of Poliwhirl.

Ponyta: from PONY.  Ponyta looks like a pony.  The origin of the -TA ending is obscure.

Porygon:  variation of POLYGON, meaning “many-sided plane figure.” Triangles, rectangles, and pentagons are examples of polygons.  Porygon is made by computer graphics, and polygons are some of the basic computer graphic building blocks.

Primeape:  combination of PRIMATE and APE.  The primates are an order of mammals that includes apes, chimpanzees, and man.

Psyduck:  Combination of PSYCHIC and DUCK.  Thus, a Pokemon with psychic powers that looks like a duck.

Raichu:  variation of PIKACHU, from which Raichu evolves.  The origin of the RAI- prefix is obscure.  RAI- sometimes means “nose,” but there is nothing noteworthy about Raichu’s nose.

Rapidash: from RAPID (swift) and DASH.  Thus, a Pokemon who can dash swiftly.

Raticate:  combination of RAT and ERADICATE meaning “thoroughly destroy.”  Thus, a Pokemon who looks like a rat and is very effective in battle.

Rattata:  combination of RAT and RAT-A-TAT-TAT, the sound of a machine gun.  Thus, a Pokemon who looks like a rat and is very effective in battle.  However, Rattata does not actually use a machine gun in battle.

Rhydon: combination of RHYHORN (from which Rhydon evolves) and -DON meaning “object.”  Thus, a Rhyhorn-like Pokemon.  Similarity to PTERANODON is curious, but in PTERANODON, the -ODON ending means “tooth,”  Thus, RHY-DON would mean “nose tooth,” but this doesn’t make sense because Rhydon does not have a tooth on his nose.

Rhyhorn:  from RHY- meaning “nose” and HORN.  Thus, a Pokemon with a horn on its nose.  The meaning is the same as the word RHINO-CEROS.  RHINO- is Greek for nose, and CEROS is Greek for horn.  Rhyhorn looks a lot like a rhinoceros.

Sandshrew:  combination of SAND and SHREW, a small rodent.  Thus, a Pokemon who looks like a shrew and lives in the sand.

Sandslash: combination of SAND and SLASH.  Thus, a Pokemon that lives in the sand, and slashes as an attack.

Scyther:  SCYTHER is a very uncommon English word meaning “someone who uses a scythe.”  A SCYTHE is a long (and long-handled) blade used mostly by farmers to cut high grass and hay by hand.  Father Time, who in the end reaps all, is usually depicted carrying a scythe, and is thus the most formidable of all scythers.

Seadra:  from SEA.  The -DRA ending is of disputed origin.  May be from DRAGON, or from HYDRA, a sea monster of Greek mythology.

Seaking:  the KING of the SEA.  Seaking is a powerful fish-like Pokemon.

Seel: variation of SEAL (note difference in spelling!), a mammal that does a lot of swimming.  Seel looks a lot like a seal.

Shellder:  combination of SHELL and SHELTER.

Slowbro: combination of SLOW (or SLOWPOKE, from which Slowbro evolves) and BRO, a short form of “brother.”

Slowpoke:  a SLOWPOKE is someone who is habitually slow.

Snorlax: combination of SNORE and LAX meaning “lazy.”  A perfect name for this sleepy Pokemon.

Spearow:  combination of SPARROW, a bird, and SPEAR, a sharp-tipped weapon similar to Spearow’s sharp bill.   “Spiro,” pronounced like “Spearow,” is a man’s name.  Spiro T. Agnew was vice-president of the United States from 1969 to 1973.

Squirtle: combination of SQUIRT and TURTLE.  Squirtle is a turtle-like Pokemon who squirts water.

Starmie:  combination of STAR and ME.  Starmie resembles a starfish.

The connection to ME is obscure.  See Staryu.

Staryu:  combination of STAR and YOU.  Staryu resembles a starfish.  The connection to YOU is obscure.  See Starmie.

Tangela:  variation of TANGLE.  Tangela’s tendrils are always in a tangle.

Tauros: variation of the Latin TAURUS meaning “bull.”  Tauros looks like a bull.  TAURUS is a constellation in the Zodiac, and the model name for a popular automobile.

Tentacool:  combination of TENTACLE and COOL.  COOL has several meanings, including “low temperature” and “impressive.”  Both of these meanings apply to Tentacool, who lives deep in the ocean where temperatures are low, and who is quite an impressive specimen, even if not the most powerful attacker.

Tentacruel:  combination of TENTACLE and CRUEL.  CRUEL refers to Tentacruel’s punishing attacking power.

Vaporeon:  from VAPOR and -EON meaning “object.”   Thus, a Pokemon that is like a vapor.  Presumably, this refers to its vapor-like fluidity of movement through the water.

Venomoth:  combination of VENOM meaning “poison” and MOTH.  Thus, a poisonous Pokemon that looks like a moth.

Venonat:  combination of VENOM meaning “poison” and GNAT, a tiny flying insect.  Thus, a poisonous Pokemon that looks like a gnat.

Venusaur: combination of VENUS, and -SAUR meaning “lizard” Venusaur looks like a lizard with a Venus fly trap on its back.  See Bulbasaur.

Victreebel:  combination of VICTORY and BELL (see Bellsprout and

Weepinbell).  Thus, a bell-shaped Pokemon that will bring you victory.  Vileplume:  combination of VILE and PLUME meaning “cloud.”  Thus, a Pokemon that emits a vile cloud.  Presumably, this would be a cloud of pollen, since Vileplume is a flower-like Pokemon.

Voltorb:  combination of VOLT (measure of electric potential) and ORB (round object).  Thus, a round electric Pokemon.

Vulpix:  variation of the Latin VULPES meaning “fox.”  Vulpix is a fox-like Pokemon.  The English word VULPINE means “fox-like.”

Wartortle:  combination of WAR and TURTLE.  Wartortle is a warlike turtle.  Note the spelling - with an O - is also related to TORTOISE.

Weedle:  of obscure origin.  Theories abound, but none has been accepted by a majority of scholars.  It could be related to BEETLE, but Weedle does not much resemble a beetle.  It could be related to WEED, because Weedle perhaps feeds on weeds.  The English word WHEEDLE sounds similar.  It means “to persuade through flattery,”  but this seems to have nothing to do with Weedle.

Weepinbell: combination of WEEPING and BELL (see Bellsprout and Victreebel).  Plants whose stems normally hang down are said to be “weeping.”  The most famous example of this is the “weeping willow” tree.  Weepinbell looks like a bell-shaped  plant whose stem hangs straight down.

Weezing:  variation of WHEEZING meaning “a rushing sound during breathing caused by obstruction of the breathing passages.”

Wigglytuff:  combination of WIGGLY and TOUGH.  Presumably, Wigglytuff wiggles a lot and is tough in battle.

Zapdos:  combination of ZAP and DOS, Spanish for “two.”  Zapdos is the number-two legendary bird, and he can zap you.

Zubat:  from BAT (flying mammal).  The ZU- prefix is of disputed origin.  It may refer to ZOO, perhaps where Zubat belongs.  Or it may refer to ZULU, a proud African nation known for its advanced culture and brave warriors.

- G. Hutton - gahutton@tasc.com