Ever wonder where some of the biggest companies got their brand names? Thanks to a Wikipedia list showing the etymology of hundreds of company names, it’s easy to learn the origins of many of the biggest brand names out there, including the 50 well-known companies here:
Founder Jeff Bezos wanted to choose a company name starting with “A” so it would always be near the top of alphabetical lists. He changed the name from Cadabra.com to Amazon for the largest river in the world.
Apple is named after the fruit because not only was it co-founder Steve Jobs’ favorite, but he also worked on an apple orchard. The warm, simple and relatable name “Apple” also served to set the computer company apart from its competitors.
8. Arm & Hammer
Founder Pierre Omidyar first had a web consulting firm called Echo Bay Technology Group. When he created the auction web trading site, “EchoBay.com” was already taken by a gold mining company, so he went with his second choice, “eBay.com.”
Originally, “Google” was an accidental misspelling of “googol,” the number 1 followed by 100 zeros (or 10 raised to the power of a 100), a number which the search company’s founders thought reflected their goal of amassing and organizing extensive amounts of available information online. The domain “google.com” was available and the name stuck.
When the business plan for the company was created by Sabeer Bhatia, he tossed around many names ending in “mail.” He finally settled on “Hotmail” because it included the letters “HTML,” the language used to write web pages.
The first two letters in IKEA’s name are the initials of its Swedish founder Ingvar Kanprad. The last two are the first letters of the name of the property and village where he grew up: Elmtaryd Agunnaryd
Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore originally named their company N M Electronics. Later they wanted to change it to Integrated Electronics, but that name was taken. Instead, they used the initial syllables of Integrated Electronics to come up with “Intel,” and then purchased rights to companies with similar names, like Intelco, to avoid conflict.
Founder George Eastman’s favorite letter was “K,” because it is strong and sharp, so he wanted his company name to begin and end with that letter. He saw three benefits to the name he created: it was a trademark word, hard to mispronounce, and, at the time, unlike any word associated with cameras.
In 1935, Lancôme founder Armand Petitjean was vacationing in the French countryside, touring the ruins of the castle Le Chateau de Lancôme (Loir-et-Cher). Taken by the many wild roses growing nearby, he named his perfume company after the castle and chose the rose as its symbol.
Today’s Mozilla and Netscape browsers are distant cousins who share a common ancestor by the name of Mosaic. While under development, the Netscape browser was known internally as Mozilla, a combination of Mosaic and Godzilla. (Netscape was to “kill” Mosaic and the company’s mascot bore a likeness to Godzilla.) A host of web tools and applications ended up being named the Mozilla Suite. After AOL acquired Netscape, the open-source Mozilla became independent.
Sony’s name comes from the Latin “sonus,” which means sound. In addition, “sonny” is American slang which refers to bright youngsters; the founders believed they were “sonny boys working in sound and vision.” In addition, the name was chosen because “Sony” can be easily pronounced in several languages.
Sprint Corporation started as the internal communications unit of Southern Pacific Railroad; the name of the phone company derived from the initial letters Switched PRIvate Network Telecommunications.
39. Taco Bell
Though co-founder Jack Dorsey rejected the name “Twitch,” he looked to the dictionary to find similar words. Once the founders came across “twitter,” meaning “a short burst of inconsequential information” and “chirps from birds,” they knew there was no better name for their social network.
Well-known for designing race cars and luxury vehicles, Ferdinand Porsche wanted to produce an affordable car for the masses. The resulting product went by the name Volkswagon, German for “people’s car.”
In his book Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift created the word “yahoo” to describe people who are revolting in appearance. Yahoo! founders David Filo and Jerry Yang jokingly thought of themselves as “yahoos.”