Nail Yeah! How Polishes Get Their Awesomely Weird Names

Keri Hilson performs during the Supafest Music Festival in Melbourne, Australia, on April 17, and Lady Gaga visits the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on April 16.
Photo: Getty Images

It used to be, way back when, that to distinguish one nail polish color from another you had to be good with numbers (i.e. Red 09345 is soooooooo different from Red 004. Get it straight.). Thank goodness those days are, for the most part, over—ever since AP math class, us and numbers haven’t gotten along. But, do you ever sit back in the pedicure chair and wonder who comes up with all of those hard-to-forget nail lacquer names (“Ballet Slipper” and “Lincoln Park at Midnight” for example). Is it a fancy, Back to the Future-style name aggregator? A witty army of kids who graduated from college at the age of four? Divine intervention? According to a recent Fashionista post, at least for one company, Essie, it’s the brand’s founder who spits out the dozens of perfectly punny polish names each year. Essie Weingarten says that she’s been naming bottles of lacquer for as long as her eponymous company has existed (30 years, so bow down to your sensei). Practice must make perfect. It’s the only way we can explain “Trophy Wife” and “Room With a View” and “Miami Nice” and “Turquoise and Caicos”—just a handful of our fave Essie names. The polish queen, Ms. Weingarten, mentioned in the post that she couldn’t think of any other brand with polish names as clever as hers but we went ahead and found a few other brands that give Essie a run for her money.


Nail polish!!
Photo: Courtesy of OPI/Ginger And Liz/Sephora

OPI Friar, Friar, Pants on Fire ($8.50,
The name is so out-there (like, what does it mean?), but the shade of red is flattering on any skin tone during any season.

Ginger and Liz Caution! ($12,
It’s true yellow–of course–and would look great with bold monochromatic prints (hello, sundress!)

Illamasqua Bacterium ($14,
Don’t be scared off by the name. This is the perfect no-color color for Spring.

Still haven’t had your fill of INSANE lacquer names? Here are 10 more (one for every finger) that really do exist.

OPI Lemonade Stand By Your Man (retro yellow)
Sephora Tomorrow, Detox! (teal with silver glitter)
NARS Mash (army green infused with gold)
MAC Brown Bag (dark, muted nude)
Butter London Tramp Stamp (dark chocolate)
Illamasqua Phallic (shimmering midnight navy)
Essie Clambake (creamy red-orange)
OPI Sand in My Suit (shimmery nude)
Lippmann Tiny Dancer (barely-there pink)
Butter London Frilly Knickers (iridescent pastel glitter)