Behold, the ultimate pub name generator!
As it stands, there are an estimated 52,000 pubs currently serving in the U.K. That means 52,000 other venues giving it all they’ve got to stay up-and-running in a difficult market, and therefore 52,000 tenacious business people competing for your customers, nationwide.
It may be that you are just starting out, or it may be that you are looking to rebrand - either way, how your venue self-identifies is a huge opportunity to reach out to your target market and position your pub in the eyes of the public. What is one piece of information about your venue that is always customer-facing? That’s right - Your name.
As the number of pubs in the UK has hit its lowest figure in the last decade, it is now more important than ever to nail every business decision that comes your way and nab that all-important business from your competitors. No pressure.
Never fear though, for help is at hand. Have a go on the Cluboid Pub Name Generator for inspiration for that perfect pub honorific...
If you were to overhear people talking about ‘The Red Lion’, what might you assume they were talking about? How about ‘The Bloated Mallard’ or ‘The Black Horse’? You may have never heard of those names specifically, but from the ring of the title, it’s fairly safe to assume… they’re talking about a pub.
But why is that? How can we make an assumption based on a certain arrangement of words like that? Possibly because most pubs have similar names, yes. But rather because they are so formulaic, and that formula itself is age old. So the question really is: why is there a formula?
The origin of the traditional pub name format dates back to a time when reading and writing were not so much of a common skillset. Because many town-folk were illiterate when public houses first came to be, people needed easy ways to identify meeting spots and specific locations. This meant that pub names were chosen with imagery in mind, so that the title could be drawn on a sign and left outside as a visual cue for the locals.
This meant that recognisable things such as animals (Ducks, Pigs, Foxes), agricultural machinery (Ploughs or Harrows) and Heraldic symbols (Bears, Lions, Swans) inspired many of their titles - a lot of which have carried on right through to current day. Additionally, colours and descriptive words were added to provide even more variations of an image that everyone could recognise.
Others used inanimate objects - such as boots, horseshoes and kettles - as they could be easily sourced and left outside as another way of identifying one building from another. This tradition can be seen to go back as far as The Romans - when items like vine leaves were hung outside to signify what kind of wares were sold there.
As of 2016, there were over 200 Victorias, Wheatsheafs and Bells open for custom in the U.K., but the names topping the polls are significantly more frequent than that. With a massive 592 venues nationwide, ‘The Red Lion’ topped the charts as most popular pub name, closely followed by ‘The Crown’ with 548 and ‘The Royal Oak’ at 467. Also on the list were such favourites as: The Plough, The White Hart, The Castle, The Queen’s Head, The George, The Ship, The Swan and The Railway. How many of them have you encountered along your travels?
Don’t be too generic
The last thing anyone needs is another Red Lion (...Apart from maybe this lady) Opting for something that is already a brand elsewhere also means nabbing web traffic is pretty difficult, and therefore finding you online (your menus/ opening hours/ marketing efforts etc.) can be a bit of a nightmare. Don’t make things harder for yourself than they need to be.
Don’t go for titles that sound corporate
It strips the venue of any kind of personal touch, and immediately puts the patron on guard. Pubs are about channeling a homey vibe - you wouldn’t feel inclined to go for a Sunday roast at somewhere that sounds like a conference suite, would you?
Do consider a traditional homage
Fun, contemporary twists on the classic pub name formula (i.e. ‘The Shuffling Unicorn’, ‘The Laughing Sloth’) can still entice new people, but remain unmistakably a pub.
Do consider scrapping the format entirely
If your pub is all about new, exciting boundary breaking - then what a better way to convey that message. Who ever said a pub couldn’t have a 9 worded name anyway?
Do think about your logo
Every pub has one, it’s one way to distinguish yourself as a pub. Is your name easily interpreted as an image, and is that image something we associate with positively? Does it provide good branding opportunities?
...And of course, when we say best, we obviously mean the hilarious, the original the and downright bizarre:
1 - The Job Centre, Deptford
Hilariously named after the fact that the building was previously was a job centre. Your wife is calling to see where you are? Just ‘at The Job Centre,’ of course.
2 - John the Unicorn, Peckham
Out of the mouths of babes. The owner’s daughter was given a toy unicorn as a gift which she naturally decided to name John. Giving the pub an unusual mascot such as a unicorn provides some great imagery to work with. This can be applied to not only logos but decoration, menu design and house specials. The possibilities are endless.
3 - Drink Wisconsibly, Wisconsin
Trying to pronounce the name even makes you feel like you’ve had a few too many. It’s clever, really. It identifies where it is geographically as well as what it provides in a really imaginative way, just using 2 words. Plus, it’s almost like a sobriety test. If you can’t say it, you clearly didn’t drink wisconsibly.
4 - The Nobody Inn, Devon
This reason that this name is clever is two-fold. It’s not just a play on words; it also relates to the history of the venue. The pub supposedly took it’s name from an unfortunate event surrounding the ex-landlords wake, when his coffin was brought back after the funeral, only to find that nobody had actually turned up. Dreadful - but very witty indeed.
5 - Group Therapy, California
Albeit a little confusing to Google, Group Therapy went for the ambiguous title to inspire a community atmosphere at their pub, and to encourage people to talk to each other/ socialise. You know a night here won’t be shy and retiring, let’s put it that way.
6 - The Case is Altered, Pinner
A play on words from the Spanish ‘Casa Alta’ meaning ‘High House’, and reference to a Ben Jonson play from the 1600’s. This title is clever, unusual and can be appreciated in two languages. We’d say that was a win, wouldn’t you?
7 - Bunch of Carrots, Hereford
Bunch of Carrots is apparently named after a rock formation nearby that looks remarkably like, you guessed it, a handful of carrots bunched together. The owner also seems pretty proud to claim to be the only British pub that contains the word ‘carrots’ in its title. Talk about carving your own USP.
8 - I am the Only Running Footman, London
This title came from a period near the end of the 19th century when the profession of a footman was on its way out. A footman is of course, the person that leads a horse-drawn cart down the streets, but with the invention of the car in 1886 no horse-drawn carts meant no footmen. One of the few remaining footmen invested in this public house to commemorate their time in the role. It now is one of the only pubs in the UK to start with ‘I am’.
9 - The Ferret and Radiator, Dawlish
This one speaks for itself, because let’s face it, who could forget that image? It is in fact so seemingly random that it almost stops you in your tracks a bit. Well it turns out it’s not seemingly random - it is literally that. It was decided on by blindly sticking a pin into a phone book a few times. Still, it’s certainly an attention-grabber, which is half the battle!
10 - The Legend of Oily Johnnies, Cumbria
At first glance, it may sound a bit bizarre but it actually refers to a customer that used to fog paraffin oil at the pub. It’s name is both historical and mystical, so gives the pub some real intrigue.
We acknowledge that this is completely subjective, but there are certain things that just don’t sound that great now, aren’t there? Here, are 10 of them...
1 - The Loud Mouth Count, Hull
Don’t get us wrong - we like that it’s fun, but say it quickly and it’s borderline expletive. Not made any better by the fact that many an intoxicated visitor has tried to scratch out the ‘O’ of the name on all signs and menus various. This kind of name is just asking for trouble, really.
2 - The Quiet Woman, Buxton
This one may not have intended to be offensive, but boy does it sound it. Supposedly this pub was named after a headless woman called Juthware that haunts the grounds after being murdered nearby, but what it actually does is isolate 50% of their clientele, and poke fun at women by implying that they should be seen and not heard. Or at least that finding a ‘quiet woman’ is something of a myth. Oh, and let’s not forget the logo so proudly hanging from their door: a decapitated woman.
3 - The Black Boy, Winchester
Again, we’re not quite sure what they were thinking here. The origin is unclear, but may be a reference to 18th century coal workers or chimney sweeps, or perhaps a misspelling of ‘Black Buoy’ - a shipping signal, but in the present day context? Not a chance. There are actually more than 12 venues with this name nationwide.
4 - Fanny on the Hill, Kent
named after, wait for it... Dick Turpin’s wife. We’re not even making this up. Apparently, Fanny was a barmaid that shone a lantern to alert highwaymen (Dick included) that the coast was clear from the King’s soldiers so that they may come out of hiding. The history behind it is lovely, but it’s a little on the crude side. We really don’t want to try and visualise the logo.
5 - Brown Edge, Stoke-on-Trent
Again, your imagination can easily run away with this one, and we think that’s the biggest problem about ‘Brown Edge.’ Formerly known as ‘The Rose and Crown’, which is quite contrastingly pretty, Brown Edge is actually the name of a nearby village - it just has quite an unfortunate connotation. It doesn’t exactly make you want to look at their lunch menu now, does it?
6 - The Bucket of Blood, Cornwall
Sounds rather more like an purchase from a fancy dress shop around Halloween time, no? Apparently it’s actually a reference to when the original owner went to gather water from a well, and instead hoisted up a pail of blood, as it turned out that there was a corpse hidden at the bottom. Again, the name strikes us as something of an appetite suppressant.
7 - The Bung Hole, London
It’s relevant and all - The bung being the cork in a cask of wine or beer - but call us childish, it’s not the first mental image we jump to. (Thanks, rhyme) In a pub crawl, we think the Bung Hole might come just one step before The Brown Edge.
8 - Dirty Dicks, London
And we thought ‘Fanny on the Hill’ was crude. Dirty Dicks is named after an 18th century man that would not wash after losing his wife and became renowned for it. Why that inspired a pub name, we will never know, but maybe after drinking here we could move to the restaurant next door... Filthy plates
9 - Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, London
Old Cheese? Old Cheese was literally the best they could come up with? It has quite the impressive list of literary patrons (such as the likes of Tennyson, Conan Doyle, and Dickens) but we think that had less to do with the name and more do with the fact it was one of the first pubs to be rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1666. You’d think one of them could’ve written a better name for it...
10 - Delius Lived Next Door, Bradford
Well it’s not awwwful, but it is a little uninspired. Turns out he did once live literally next door and that is the grandiose explanation behind that one. You might as well have just gone with ‘Pub’, to be honest guys.