Universally, object names make up the largest proportion of any word type found in children's early lexicons. Here we present and critically evaluate a set of six lexical principles (some previously proposed and some new) for making object label learning a manageable task. Overall, the principles have the effect of reducing the amount of information that language-learning children must consider for what a new word might mean. These principles are constructed by children in a two-tiered developmental sequence, as a function of their sensitivity to linguistic input, contextual information, and social-interactional cues. Thus, the process of lexical acquisition changes as a result of the particular principles a given child has at his or her disposal. For children who have only the principles of the first tier (REFERENCE, EXTENDIBILITY, and OBJECT SCOPE), word learning has a deliberate and laborious look. The principles of the second tier (CATEGORICAL SCOPE, NOVEL NAME – NAMELESS CATEGORY’ or N3C, and CONVENTIONALITY) enable the child to acquire many new labels rapidly. The present unified account is argued to have a number of advantages over treating such principles separately and non-developmentally. Further, the explicit recognition that the acquisition and operation of these principles is influenced by the child's interpretation of both linguistic and non-linguistic input is seen as an advance.