Behind the Band Name: Imagine Dragons

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Originating from Las Vegas, Imagine Dragons has become one of the best-selling bands with recognizable hits “Thunder,” “Believer,” “Demons” and many more. They have nearly 50 awards to their name, including three American Music Awards, one Grammy Award, and several MTV Video Music Awards. Since its founding in 2008, the pop-rock band has released six studio albums, four of which have been certified platinum for sales of one million copies or more. While Imagine Dragon’s popularity is no secret, how they got the unique name remains a mystery.

Meaning Behind the Name

In a 2013 Billboard cover story, lead singer Dan Reynolds said they had numerous discussions about what the band name should be, and that Imagine Dragons stems from a special anagram related to “a phrase that meant something to all of us,” he said, intentional about keeping the phrase under wraps as a way to maintain some level of privacy in an industry that’s very public. “As a musician, you’re exposing yourself in so many different ways we thought it would be cool to have something the four of us hung on to,” Reynolds explains. “It seems like such a strange thing to start out with a secret we want to keep from everybody, but we just thought it would be nice to keep something to ourselves, and we’ve kept it to ourselves for four years.” The singer adds that even their closest family and friends don’t know the origin of the name. “I haven’t even told my mom, and she’s bothered me about it since day one,” he says.

In an interview with Walmart Soundcheck, Reynolds expands on this theory, revealing that they had a different name originally, but it didn’t stick. “We all got together in the very early stages of the band and like any band, we were like ‘we need a name.’ We came up collectively with a phrase that had meaning to us, but we didn’t want to name the band it,” he recalls. “It just didn’t seem right for the band name.” Instead, they reorganized the letters to make an anagram that led to Imagine Dragons. “It was unique and strange and we liked it,” he said of why they picked the name they’re now famous for. “Since then, we haven’t told anybody what the original phrase was. We just did it as a joke for the first week and then we were like ‘this is actually pretty fun because it’s something that we get to keep to ourselves,’ which as artists, there’s not a lot of things you keep to yourself when it concerns your art.”

Fan Theories

Bandmate Wayne Sermon says that fans have repeatedly shared their hypotheses about what the phrase is, “Gemini is So Grand,” “Aged Men’s Radio,” “Ragged Insomnia” and “God is in a Manger” are among the guesses. “Way more clever than we could ever be,” Sermon jokes. Fans have been theorizing for years about the original phrase, with Reddit threads circulating speculating what it is. One particular thread has fans going so far as to do a deep dive into album cuts, alleging that if you play certain songs backward, there are contradictory messages, with one song saying “there is no anagram” while another affirms “there is an anagram.” Imagine Dragons has not confirmed these claims.

“I feel bad. In those moments, I kind of want to just tell people what the anagram is,” Reynolds says of fans who come up to them at live shows with handwritten lists of what it could be. But the phrase may not be a secret forever. Reynolds hinted that he anticipates one day they will reveal the message—but anticipates fans will be disappointed. “At the same point, I feel like now after four years, when the day comes, because it will I’m sure, when the day comes where we’re like ‘okay this is what it is’ everybody’s going to be like ‘oh really? I had so many better combinations you could’ve done,'” he predicts. “I’m sure one of these days we’ll divulge the secret of the anagram.”

Photo by LISA O’CONNOR/AFP via Getty Images

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