The 10 Best Dinosaur Names

Raptorex and Psittacosaurus skeletons on display

Kumiko / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Not all dinosaur names are impressive. It takes a particular kind of paleontologist to come up with a name that's so striking, so descriptive, that it forever fixes a dinosaur in the public imagination, no matter how scant the fossil evidence might be. Below you'll discover an alphabetical list of the 10 most memorable dinosaur names, ranging from Anzu to Tyrannotitan. Just how cool were these dinosaurs? Compare them to the 10 Worst Dinosaur Names.


Anzu dinosaur

Fred Wierum/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

The first "oviraptorosaur" ever to be discovered in North America, Anzu was also one of the biggest, tipping the scales at up 500 pounds (or an order of magnitude more than its better-known relative Oviraptor from central Asia). The name of this feathered dinosaur derives from 3,000-year-old Mesopotamian folklore. Anzu was a winged demon who stole the Tablet of Destiny from the sky god Enlil, and you can't get much more impressive than that!



FunkMonk (Michael B. H.) / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Despite what you may think, the Greek root "daemon" in Daemonosaurus doesn't necessarily mean "demon," but "evil spirit," not that this distinction would really matter if you found yourself being chased by a pack of these toothy, 50-pound theropods. The importance of Daemonosaurus is that it was closely related to the better-known Coelophysis (also of North America) and thus counts as one of the earliest true dinosaurs of the Jurassic period.


Gigantoraptors on land

Kostyantyn Ivanyshen / Getty Images 

From its name, you might assume that the giant feathered menace Gigantoraptor was the biggest raptor that ever lived, outclassing even Velociraptor and Deinonychus. The fact is, though, that this impressively named, two-ton dinosaur wasn't technically a true raptor at all, but a late Cretaceous theropod closely related to the central Asian Oviraptor. (For the record, the largest true raptor was the 1,500-pound Utahraptor of middle Cretaceous North America.)



​Lukas Panzarin / Wikimedia Commons  / CC BY 2.5

A relatively new addition to the dinosaur bestiary, Iguanacolossus (you don't need to have studied ancient Greek to translate its name as "colossal iguana") was a multi-ton, vegetable-munching ornithopod dinosaur of late Cretaceous North America. And yes, in case you noticed the resemblance, this ponderous plant-eater was a close relative of Iguanodon, though neither of these dinosaurs was closely related to modern iguanas.


Khaan skeleton

Steve Starer / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Why do central Asian (and North American) dino-birds get all the coolest names? Khaan is Mongolian for "lord," as you might already have guessed from the famous Mongolian warlord Genghis Khan (not to mention Captain Kirk's epic "KHAAAAN!" from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Ironically, though, Khaan wasn't all that big or fierce by meat-eating dinosaur standards, only measuring about four feet from head to tail and weighing 30 or so pounds.


Raptorex skeleton

Kumiko / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Cleverly combining cool bits from Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus Rex, Raptorex leaned toward the latter side of the dinosaur spectrum. This is one of the earliest tyrannosaurs yet identified, roaming the plains of central Asia a full 60 million years before its more famous namesake. There are, however, some paleontologists who believe that Raptorex is actually an incorrectly dated specimen of Tarbosaurus, another tyrannosaur of middle Cretaceous Asia, and thus undeserving of its own genus name.



Rodolfo Noguiera / Getty Images 

The name Skorpiovenator (Greek for "scorpion hunter") is cool and misleading at the same time. This large, meat-eating dinosaur of middle Cretaceous South America didn't receive its moniker because it feasted on scorpions. Rather, its "type fossil" was discovered in close proximity to a seething bed of living scorpions, which must have been a memorable experience for any scantily dressed graduate students who happened to be assigned to the dig.


Stygimoloch skull

Waltfish / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

The difficult-to-pronounce Stygimoloch hovers uneasily on the line dividing the best and worst dinosaur names. What puts this pachycephalosaur, or "thick-headed lizard," in the former category is that its name translates roughly as "horned demon from the river of hell," a reference to the vaguely satanic appearance of its skull. (By the way, some paleontologists now insist that Stygimoloch was a growth stage of a closely related bone-headed dinosaur, Pachycephalosaurus.)



Jim Robins / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.5

With a name like Supersaurus, you'd think this 50-ton sauropod of late Jurassic North America liked to prance around in a cape and tights and tackle evildoers (perhaps targeting Allosaurus juveniles in the act of robbing liquor stores). Ironically, though, this "super lizard" was far from the biggest plant-eater of its kind. Some of the titanosaurs that succeeded it weighed more than 100 tons, consigning Supersaurus to relative sidekick status.


Tyrannotitan skeleton on display

Tecnópolis Argentina / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Often, the "wow factor" of a dinosaur's name is inversely proportional to the amount of information we actually know about it. The deceptively named Tyrannotitan wasn't a true tyrannosaur, but a large meat-eating dinosaur of middle Cretaceous South America closely related to the truly enormous Giganotosaurus. Beyond that, though, this theropod remains fairly obscure and controversial (making it similar to another allusively named dinosaur on this list, Raptorex).

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Strauss, Bob. "The 10 Best Dinosaur Names." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Strauss, Bob. (2023, April 5). The 10 Best Dinosaur Names. Retrieved from Strauss, Bob. "The 10 Best Dinosaur Names." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).