Over on Stackoverflow, I keep seeing questions wherein posters say:

*I have an item named SoAndSo (a table, a file, etc.).

Shouldn't it be:

*I have an item called SoAndSo.

Is "named" an acceptable word in this context? Are those words specific to a particular English speakers, e.g. UK vs. USA vs. Australia, etc.?

  • You really should ask but one question at a time, not two as you have done here. The second one is answered here.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 19:33
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    "My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip." Charles Dickens Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 22:51
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    @anongoodnurse "The name of the song is called “Haddocks’ Eyes.”’ ‘Oh, that’s the name of the song, is it?’ Alice said, trying to feel interested.‘No, you don’t understand,’ the Knight said, looking a little vexed. ‘That’s what the name is called. The name really is “The Aged Aged Man.”’‘Then I ought to have said “That’s what the song is called”?’ Alice corrected herself.‘No, you oughtn’t: that’s quite another thing! The song is called “Ways and Means”: but that’s only what it’s called, you know!’‘Well, what is the song, then?’ said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered." Carroll
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 17:11
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    Programmers must decide what names to assign to items. They might name them SoAndSoAAA and SoAndSoBBB. Good names are ones that others can read and understand their purpose when they come along later to fix problems (and the creators are gone). Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 16:39
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    Lewis Carroll creates amusement from the differences between "named" and "called" in Through the Looking Glass, Chapter Eight - "It's my own invention". See Haddock's Eyes Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 11:50

4 Answers 4


If the name of the item is indeed SoAndSo, then it is reasonable and correct to refer to it as an “item named SoAndSo”. If in addition to being named SoAndSo it usually is called SoAndSo, it still is ok to refer to it as an item named SoAndSo (and also would be ok to refer to it as an item called SoAndSo).

But if, although usually called SoAndSo, it actually has some name other than that, then it would be incorrect to refer to it as an “item named SoAndSo”.

Some further examples appear in answers to “Don’t know what the name is” vs. “Don’t know what it’s called”.

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    This sounds very strange, as though they were proper nouns. One doesn’t have a table named “So and so”, nor a door, nor a stone or stump. Maybe a cat or a rat or a unicorn, or even a peasant, but we don’t normally name common nouns.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 20:49
  • @tchrist, throughout history many tables, doors, stones, and stumps have been specifically named. Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 20:56
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    @tchrist: It's especially common to have names for things in computing. Especially since calling something is very different than naming something. (I'm thinking particularly of functions, but in many other cases as well, it's actually more natural to say that an item is named whatever.)
    – John Y
    Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 21:23
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    @tchrist I presume in this case, table is 'database table', which would indeed have a name. Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 21:36

You should definitely use named to describe a table, function or any other software construct, especially if it is in a written context. It isn't a matter of formality, but more like notation in math, where you say a "variable named X".

If describing an alias, one might be more likely to use called.

Here's an explanation that is specific to programming, emphasis mine:

A variable is a symbolic name for (or reference to) information. The variable's name represents what information the variable contains. They are called variables because the represented information can change but the operations on the variable remain the same... This is similar to mathematics...


Using the word named in that context, sounds very formal. Here in the UK, people usually use the word called.


I was taught in Catholic English that a person is 'named' Smith not that a person is 'called' Smith.

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