June 12, 2015

The Fun Stories Behind 40 Famous Company Names

Have you ever wondered why both a cell phone company and computer giant are named after fruits such as apples and blackberries? Or how about why a social media site is named after the sound a bird makes or what a character in a Moby Dick novel has to do with the biggest coffee shop in the world?
Well, wonder no more. We’ve tracked down the etymologies of 40 of the best known companies around.


This coffee giant was named after Starbuck, a character in the novel Moby-Dick. Founders thought the name evoked the romance of the high seas and the seafaring tradition of the early coffee traders.


What does the name have to do with furniture and endless jokes about getting lost in their stores? Not much. It’s a composite of the first letters in the Swedish founder Ingvar Kamprad’s name and the first letters of the names of the property and the village in which he grew up: Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.


Contrary to popular belief, it’s not code for “tiny things parents step on on a daily basis.” Instead, it’s a combination of the Danish “leg godt”, which means to “play well.” Lego also means “I put together” in Latin, but the company claims this is only a coincidence.


The original concept for the name was Sky-Peer-to-Peer, which morphed into Skyper, then Skype.


It was originally Micro-Soft and the name was coined by Bill Gates to represent the company that was devoted to MICROcomputer SOFTtware.


Oddly enough, it gets it’s name from the digestive enzyme pepsin and was originally was marketed as a healthy drink that would aid in digestion.


It was renamed from “U-Tote’m” in 1946 to reflect their newly extended hours, 7:00 am until 11:00 pm. Although most are now open 24/7, they stuck with the name.


This iconic swoosh was named after the Greek goddess of victory.


Founder Dave Thomas’ daughter was named Melinda, but Wendy was her nickname.


The name is an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”
The term “hierarchical” described how the Yahoo database was arranged in layers of subcategories. The term “oracle” was intended to mean “source of truth and wisdom.” And the term “officious”described the many office workers who would use the Yahoo database while surfing from work.
However, co-founder David Filo insists they mainly selected the name because they liked the slang definition of a “yahoo” to refer to an unsophisticated, rural Southerner, as Filo was often referred to as a “yahoo” by his college girlfriend.


This computer software company gets it’s name from the Adobe Creek that ran behind the house of co-founder John Warnock.


Pierre Omidyar had formed a Web consulting concern called Echo Bay Technology Group. A gold mining company had already taken, so Omidyar registered what (at the time) he thought was the second best name:


In 1907, Eugène Schueller, a young French chemist, developed an innovative hair-color formula. He called his improved hair dye Auréole.


It means “people’s car” in German.


This one is sort of obvious, but CEO Andrew Mason used to get asked about it a lot, so he used the entirety of his acceptance speech at the 2011 Webby Awards ceremony to explain: “It’s short for group coupon.”


The name is an acronym for Anima Sana In Corpore Sano, which means “Healthy soul in a healthy body” in Latin.


It has two parts: mitsu means three and hishi (which is pronounced bishi when at the end of a word) means diamond (the shape). Hence, the three diamond logo.


The name was created as an acronym of Government Employees Insurance Company, as it was initially targeted to federal employees and certain categories of enlisted military officers.


The name was originally an accidental misspelling of the number googol and settled upon because was unregistered. Googol is pronounced the same way and is the number 1 followed by 100 zeros. It was proposed to reflect the company’s mission to organize the immense amount of information available online.


The company name was taken from its founder Adolf Dassler whose first name was shortened to the nickname “Adi.” Together with the first three letters of his surname it formed ADIDAS. The fact that it is also an acronym for “All day I dream about soccer” is just a fun coincidence.


The name stems from the colloquial name of books given to newly enrolled students at the start of the academic year by university administrations in the U.S. with the intention of helping students to get to know each other better.

BIC Corporation

It was named after one of its founders, Marcel Bich. He dropped the H to avoid a potentially inappropriate English pronunciation of the name, but yet chose to keep a creepy cartoon person with a bowling ball head as the mascot.


Formerly The National Biscuit Company, it was shortened in 1971 to Nabisco.


It means “three stars” in Korean.


It’s not from “Life’s good,” but from the combination of two popular Korean brands, Lucky and Goldstar.


Named by Tom Watson Sr, an early employee who had been recruited from National Cash Register Corporation, “International Business Machines” was his effort to represent that IBM would one-up his former employer in all respects.


This name was derived from Quality, Value, and Convenience.


Having rejected the name Twitch for their social networking service, co-founder Jack Dorsey said they looked in the dictionary for words around it and came across the word ‘twitter.’ The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information’ and ‘chirps from birds’ and that’s exactly what the product was.


Named for the favorite fruit of co-founder Steve Jobs and/or for the time he worked at an apple orchard. It was also meant to distance itself from the cold, unapproachable, complicated imagery created by other computer companies at the time.


The name is from the company’s previous name of American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus (which remains the legal name of their underwriting subsidiary).


The name comes from the company’s original name, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company.


Founder Jeff Bezos selected the name Amazon by looking through the dictionary and settled on “Amazon” because the Amazon river was by far the “biggest” river in the world (according to drainage, not length), and he planned to make his store the biggest in the world.


It’s Latin for “I roll.”


The name was coined in 1991 because the keys on the BlackBerry resembled the drupelets on the fruit.


Coca-Cola is derived from the coca leaves and kola nuts used as flavoring. Coca-Cola creator John S. Pemberton changed the K of kola to C to make the name look better.


It’s named from the Biblical character Samson, renowned for his strength.


Originally Consumer Value Stores, CEO Tom Ryan has said he now considers ‘CVS’ to stand for “Customer, Value, and Service”.


The name is from its parent company, Southern Pacific Railroad INTernal Communications. At the time, pipelines and railroad tracks were the cheapest place to lay communications lines, as the right-of-way was already leased or owned.


This is an alternate spelling of rhebok, an African antelope.


The name was made up in 1961 by the founders and has no meaning.
If nothing else, you are now armed with more knowledge for the next time that you watch “Jeopardy.” Oh, by the way. “Jeopardy” was almost named “What’s the question?” by creator Merv Griffin before being told that “It doesn’t have enough jeopardies.” As they say, the more you know.

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