How to Name Columns in Excel (The Easiest Method)

An Excel spreadsheet is a two-dimensional set of cells. The grid of cells that runs horizontally is called a row.

And the cells that run vertically make a column. By default, Excel columns are named based on alphabets starting from A up to XFD which makes 16,384 columns. Wow-worthy number 🤩

In any case, if you do not like how these columns are named in Excel, you are not bound to go with the alphabetical names. You can name them as you like.

In this tutorial, we will see quite a few methods to name columns in Excel. To learn these methods with us, download the free practice workbook for this guide here and stay tuned till the end.

Type in the Column Header in the first row

The first method is to add a column header for your data (after the Excel column headers) to name columns in Excel.

For example, I have a list of data populated in Excel 📝

Data in Excel worksheet

To name these columns:

Step 1) Go to the first cell of any column.

Step 2) Right-click to launch the context menu.

Step 3) Click on the Insert.

Insert option from drop-down menu

Step 4) From the insert menu, select Entire row and click Enter.

You can insert a new row by pressing the keyboard shortcut key of Shift key + Control key + Plus sign (+).

Kasper Langmann, co-founder of Spreadsheeto
Insert an entire row

A new row will be inserted above your data.

New row inserted

Step 5) In this row, type the column header names as you desire.

Column names typed

You can then format them to be bold or however, you like to give them name-like prominence.

Formatting headers

These column headers will help you identify the columns by the names you want. But Excel still knows them by their alphabetical names 🔡

If you want Excel to know them by these names (that we just entered), follow the next section.

Name Columns in Excel from Selection

Once you have named the columns in your data by writing a column header, you can tell Excel to save these headings as the column names by following these steps 👇

Step 1) Select the columns that you want to be named based on their headers.

Step 2) Go to the Formulas tab > Defined Names > Create from selection.

Create from Selection

Step 3) Select the option to create column names from Top Rows.

Step 4) Press okay.

Make headers from the top row

From the column headings in the Top Row, Excel has created column names.

Now when you type this name in any cell in a formula or simply after an equal sign, Excel will identify it as the name of that relevant column.

Create column names from the Top Row

We had selected only the cells containing the data, so the column name Item only includes Cell D2 to D11.

Column name includes certain cells

Under each column name, only those cells that you selected while converting the header into column name. If you selected the entire columns, then the name would cover the entire column. If you selected only certain cells, say A2:A10, only these will be covered by the column name for Column A.

Kasper Langmann, co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Name Columns in Excel from the Name Box

Another way to name columns is to name them from the Name box 🎯

Pro Tip!

The name box is the small box towards the left of the formula bar that shows the name/reference of the active cell row or column.

Here it is:

Name box in Excel

Step 1) Select the column that you want to name by clicking on the column header as highlighted below.

This will automatically select the whole column.

Selection of column

Step 2) Go to the Name box.

Step 3) Type the name that you want for this column.

Typing column name

Step 4) Press Enter.

Excel will save this column by the name given by you.

Check this out:

name saved in Excel

This is the easiest method to name columns in Excel.

Name Column in Excel from Name Manager

The Name Manager in Excel stores the names for all the named items in Excel. These can be cell names, named ranges, table names, or anything else 😲

To name a column:

Step 1) Select the column to be named from by clicking on its header.

Step 2) Go to the Formulas tab > Define names > Name manager.

Formulas tab

The Name Manager dialog box will launch before you.

Name manager

Step 3) Click on the New button.

Step 4) Within the New Name box, write the name you want for the column.

Step 5) Set the scope of this name to extend across the active sheet only or the whole workbook (in which case you’d be able to refer to this column with its name in any sheet of the workbook).

Defining the New column name

Step 6) Click on okay to save the name.

Now when you again launch the Name Manager from the Formulas tab > Define Name > Name Manager, you’ll see the name saved there 🚀

Name saved in the Name manager

Excel now knows this column by the designated name, and you can refer to it anywhere around the sheet or workbook (depending upon the scope you’ve set).

Excel saves column name

You can use it in formulas and use it as a reference just like you use any normal cell reference.

use name in formulas

The Name Manager gives you a quick view of all the names defined in Excel.

Name Columns in Excel in R1C1 Style

This is not really about naming columns to your choice.

But if you’re bored of looking at the same alphabetically designated columns or for any other reason, you do not want the columns to be named by A, B, or C but, as 1,2,3, you can opt for the R1C1 reference style 🔢

Pro Tip!

The R1C1 reference style is just a reference style like A1.

It just denotes both the rows and columns by numbers, and accordingly the cell references change from A1 (Column A and Row 1) to R1C1 (Row 1 and Column 1).

Here’s how you can apply it in Excel.

Step 1) Go to the File tab > Options.

Step 2) Go to Formulas from the pane on the left.

Step 3) Under the head Working with Formulas, check the option for R1C1 reference style.

R1C1 reference style check box

Step 4) Click okay.

Come back to your sheet to see all the column headers are changed from column letters to numbers. The cell reference in the name box is now in the R1C1 style 💡

Column named in R1C1 style

If you ecide to change this style anytime later, go back to the Excel options and uncheck the R1C1 reference style.

The column headers will get back to alphabetic denotation.


This guide entails a whole list of stellar methods to change the column names in your Excel sheet each of which is explained step-by-step.

Naming columns in Microsoft Excel can help you with referencing them later around your sheet or workbook. And sometimes, maybe it’s just about how you want your sheet to look 👀

In addition to naming columns, here are some other Excel tutorials that discuss how you can name sheets and ranges in Excel.