The name U2 doesn’t seem to fit with a band that is known for its pacifism. A U2 was a spy plane used the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. A U2 plane crashed four days before Bono’s (the band’s lead singer) birth, according to one theory for the band’s name.
U2 is a play on words that means “you too” or “you two,” which could be part of its origin. Other bands were experimenting with similar names at the time the band formed. XTC easily translates to “ecstasy,” and INXS loosely translates to “in excess.” Other bands, such as UB40, which is an unemployment form in England, followed in U2’s footsteps.
There is another possible explanation for the band’s name, which is the most likely one. In Ireland, a U2 is a form used to file for unemployment benefits. This reference to the form may have held the most significance because the band’s early albums focused on poverty, particularly the unrest in Northern Ireland. Also, because poverty was widespread in parts of Ireland at the time the band was formed, a pun on the word “filing” is likely. “I’m completing a U2 form.” Oh, you as well?”
The band used to go the names Feedback and The Hype before settling on the current moniker. However, the name U2 stuck, and the band recorded their first album, Boy, in 1980, under that moniker.
Some claim the band made up a ten-name list and voted on it, with U2 coming out on top. Bono, the lead singer, has been quoted as saying that he has never liked the name and has never been associated with the verbal play on words. He hasn’t said anything about the unemployment form.