Phage Naming Rules

These are guidelines for how new phage names should be chosen. Please read these carefully before submitting a new phage or your name may be vetoed.

Download a hard copy as a Word Document.


  1. Do not name your phage after Nicolas Cage.
  2. Must be a new name. Check the phage list at to see if your name has already been taken. Avoid names that are very similar to—or homophones of—existing names. For example, there is already a phage “Dori,” so do not name your phage “Dory.”
  3. Must be 4 characters or longer. Gone are the days of L5, U2, and D29.
  4. Must start with a capital letter.
  5. Must not exceed 14 characters in length. (I.e., be short enough to fit handwritten on a 1.5ml microcentrifuge tube.)
  6. Numbers and letters only. Special characters or symbols ()#-@_%$&^*>?:”_ etc. are not acceptable.
  7. No spaces in the name.
  8. Avoid words that already have specific meanings in the phage world, such as phage, pham, cluster, virus, capsid, or mycobacterium (or their derivatives). Do not try to get around this rule by using words such as “fage” or “vyrus.”
  9. Phage names are case-sensitive, so be consistent with CAPS/lowercase letters. If the phage is RedRock in one place, it should not be redrock or Redrock in another place. Choose your capitalization at the start and stick to it.
  10. Do not use a single person’s first and last names. Example: “GrahamHatfull” is not an acceptable name. However, you could name your phage “Graham” or “Hatfull”.
  11. Avoid names with all capital letters and/or no pronounceable parts. For example, names like RTTJ or GOANNA or ALX65Tb are not good options. Think of something you might name a pet, not a robot.

Strong Suggestions to Help Choose a Good Name

  • Phage names should be easily pronounceable. The phage “Gf33Rf22” technically fulfills the above rules, but it is difficult to say out loud and would likely be rejected. This also applies to initial-type names. Avoid things like “Rnt15” and instead make sure to have a word-like, pronounceable part, such as “Runt15”.
  • Avoid all CAPS. In addition to making your phage name seem angry or like it forgot to turn off Caps Lock, these names often appear similar to old systematic names which we are trying to avoid. So “BALL16” and “JNK1” are not good choices. Try “Ball16” or “Jenks” instead.
  • Think of choosing a phage’s name as similar to choosing a child’s or pet’s name. “Humphrey” or "Giles" are names you could call a dog. "YRTT”, “La7X”, “Fpiml”, and “TDAY09RD” (all real name submissions) are not great choices for children/pets, and are not ideal for phages either.