What Is a List of Names Called? – Strategies for Parents

What Is a List of Names Called?

Lists play a critical role in all kinds of settings. There are lists for organizing items you need to remember, lists you can use to categorize people, places, or things, and even official lists of names in education or employment. But what are those lists called?  

An official list of names is often called a “register, roster, or roll.” You can use the word “manifest” to reference a list of names, but only regarding passengers on an airplane. Depending on the reason, such as an official list of people running for office or a list of geographical names, the term you should use may differ. 

Continue reading to learn more about how to phrase or title a “list of names,” as well as the different meanings behind various terms that you can use for this purpose.  

What Is an Official List of Names Called?

As we mentioned above, there are quite a few different reasons for a list of names. Some words that you can use to identify a list of names will differ depending on the category. There are different terms for lists of people versus a list of names of geographical places, for example. 

If you are writing or speaking about a list of names in education or for schooling, you’ll likely use the terms “roster,” “roll,” or “roll call.” In business, you may also see the word “roster.” Another term for an official list is a “register.” 

We’ll go through these various types of lists below.  

Roll Call: Name for a List of Participants in Education

A teacher acquires a list of student names at the beginning of each school year or semester. Each name represents a student in the class. You may have even heard your teacher say, “Please listen as I call roll.”

In the sentence above, the teacher is using the phrase “call role” as a verb — it is another way of saying that they are taking attendance or determining who is present in the class and who is absent. The list refers to student names for that particular class at that particular time.  

Conversely, the phrase “roll call” is a noun phrase. It is the same idea as “calling roll,” but rather than using it as a verb (action), you can use it as a noun phrase. 

A noun phrase consists of a single noun or pronoun called a “headword” — in our case, “roll” —  and a modifier either before or after the headword. In the case of “roll call,” the word “call” is a postmodifier because it modifies the preceding noun, “roll” (source).  Here is an example sentence:

  • The teacher will finish the roll call by the end of the class period. 

Why Do We Say “Roll Call”?

You may also wonder why the word “roll” refers to a list of names. According to some sources, the reason has only to do with the medium on which one would write a list of names. 

In the past, rather than on paper or computer, a rolled scroll of parchment would have been the only way in which you would write something down, including lists of names (source). The term “roll” seems to have stuck around, despite a rolled parchment being an antiquated way to document any list. 

One thing to remember before we move on to another official list of names — be sure that you do not confuse the term “roll” with “role.” While these two words are homophones, two words that sound the same but have different spellings and different meanings, you cannot use them interchangeably (source).  

The word “role” refers to a part that a person plays in a particular situation. On the other hand, “roll” has a few different meanings, one of which is a list of names.   

Image by Javier Trueba via Unsplash

Roster: Name for a List of Participants in Business, Sports, or Education

Another official list of names that you may see and use is a roster. It is quite similar to a roll or roll call, but this list refers to the names of people who may have a particular job to complete (source).  

In some instances, you can use the term “roster” to refer to a list of names coupled with a work schedule. You’ll often see this in terms of sports teams or military units. Take a look at these example sentences:

  •  If you check the weekly job roster, you’ll find your schedule and your assignment. 
  • The roster for the Philadelphia Eagles football team is up-to-date for the fall season. 

In each of the sentences above, the roster refers to the list of names with reference to an employment or assignment and a sports team name list.  

Unlike “calling roll” versus “roll call,” you can only use the term “roster” as a noun — it is a thing. However, the context in which you use it can differ depending on the list you are speaking about.  

Some teachers may also use the term “roster” to refer to a list of students, so keep that in mind as these two names for official lists are synonyms, meaning you can use them interchangeably if you are speaking about lists in education.

Register or Registry: Name for an Official Documented List

The term “register” refers to the action of putting your name into an official list or record of names. The context can be quite wide — you may need to add your name to a list to select an academic course you’d like to take, or you may need to add your name to a list to vote for an election in your state or county.  

There are other contexts in which you can use the term “register,” too. But just remember that, rather than an item, if you are “registering” a name, thereby adding your name or someone else’s name to a list, the term refers to the action of doing so. 

If you use the term “registry,” you are then using a noun to refer to a list of things, whether names or other things. For example, when they get married or are having a new baby, many people will create a “registry” — a list of items requested by the newlyweds or parents-to-be.

The important thing to remember about a registry is that others generally understand it to be an official, documented list or collection of records, names, or places.  

Below you’ll find two example sentences — the first shows you how you can use “register” as an action word (verb) and the second shows you how to use the term “registry” (a noun).

  • I need to register for the Latin course I hope to take next fall. 
  • The registry contains all of the names of those who are eligible to attend the event. 

One quick note before we move on — when you consider official lists, two that you may often hear are voter lists and an electoral candidate list.  

Voter Lists and Electoral Lists

A voter list is a record of names of all people in a particular area who are registered to vote in a public election (source). 

These official lists are important because they identify the names of people who are permitted to vote in a specific county or at a particular public polling station. The list allows officials to quickly and easily determine if a person is registered to vote.

An electoral list is similar in context, given that it is a list of names of candidates for a particular election. If you are eligible to vote, you’ll find your name on the voter list. 

The electoral list is an official list of names, usually by political party in the United States, of those running for election that you would then be able to cast a vote in favor of.  

Gazetteer: a Geographical List of Names

Unlike other official lists of names, a gazetteer (also a noun) does not list the names of people but, rather, lists information about place names (source).

These lists can be encyclopedic in nature, a type of dictionary, or simply an alphabetical list of historical names for places, including countries, regions, streets, as well as other names used in the past for a particular place or location.  

You may see the term in a sentence like this:

I found the gazetteer incredibly helpful in finding the official names of places I was researching.  

Manifest: An Official List of Passenger Names or Cargo

One final official list of names that you may see is what we call a manifest. This term has a few different meanings, but it refers to the official list of passenger names and cargo on an airplane as a noun. If you were to purchase a plane ticket, your name would be part of the manifest. 

You can also use the term to refer to an official itemized list of a ship’s cargo — what the ship is carrying. These lists are important because if the ship is transporting materials from one country to another, customs officials will need to check that list to determine what the items are.

Here is an example sentence for “manifest” — remember that here, too, manifest is a noun:

  • We released the official manifest after the tragic plane crash.

Name List or Names List? 

Now that you understand the various names you can attribute to different types and categories of lists, the question then becomes whether you pluralize “name” so that it becomes “names list,” or is the correct spelling “name list”? 

The simple answer is that both are technically grammatically correct. Whether you write “name” or “names,” you are communicating both what is on the list and the type of list you are presenting.

It is already clear, and individuals will understand that there is more than one name, given that a list is a number of connected items or names that you would write consecutively, so choosing between “names” and “name” is ultimately up to you. 

One note to consider is that, in general, you might use “name list” if you are simply communicating the type of list you are referencing. Examples include a grocery list, name list, movie list, shopping list, etc.

If, however, you are speaking of particular things that are on a list, you would more likely phrase it as “list of X,” such as in “list of names” or “list of attendees” or “list of endangered animals,” for example. 

Nonetheless, you will rarely see “names list” (plural). Rather than that construction, it may be better (and is more common) to write “list of names” or “name list.” So, you might use either of the two examples below:

1.     The list of names of today’s attendees is on the overhead.

2.     The name list of today’s attendees is on the overhead. 

What About Name’s List or Names’ List?

While you can certainly choose between “names list” and “name list,” you should never add an apostrophe in this context. An apostrophe indicates ownership or possession, or it may indicate the omission of letters in contractions (source).

Whether the apostrophe is in front of the “s” or after it comes down to plural versus singular.  

So, if you add an apostrophe to the name of your list, you are indicating that something belongs to a name or list of names. That doesn’t really make sense, especially in the context of lists.  

“Name” simply modifies the noun “list,” showing the kind or type of list you are referring to. There is no ownership or sense of belonging that applies here. With that in mind, you’ll never use an apostrophe in this context, even though choosing between plural (names) versus singular (name) is your choice.  

This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.

If you’d like to learn more about apostrophes and how to use them correctly, take a look at “Week’s or Weeks’: Singular, Plural, and Possessive.”

Final Thoughts 

There are a few ways to write a name list or list of names, depending on the context in which you are referencing a particular type of list — whether in school, business, or even with reference to geographical place names.  

There is no single way to communicate a list of names, though common terms exist to indicate official lists, such as a roster or registry.

Regardless of which phrase or word you choose, you can always write “list of names,” “name list,” or even “names list,” though the latter is not as common. Just remember that you’ll never need an apostrophe unless you are indicating possession in some way.

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