For several hundred years many hurricanes in the West Indies were named after the particular saint's day on which the hurricane occurred. The USA meteorologists gave tropical storms women’s names. The origin of using women names is linked to the fact that satellite technology was and is still used to track tropical cyclones. Satellites were first used by the military and it is said that Air Force and Navy meteorologists, who plotted the movements of storms, named these storms after their wives and girlfriends. The official method to name a tropical cyclone however was to refer to its latitude-longitude position but this became confusing when the storms moved. It was found that by using a short, distinctive name enabled meteorologists to exchange detailed information about various storms which may be occurring at the same time in the same ocean basin.

The practice of naming tropical cyclones solely after women came to an end in 1978 when men's and women's names were included in the Eastern North Pacific storm lists. In 1979, male and female names were included in lists for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Lists of names are compiled and maintained by various meteorological committees. Each list has a name for each letter of the alphabet starting with A and ending with Z. A name on the list will be replaced if a storm given this name causes extensive damage and loss of life.