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How Companies Got Their Name

Published Monday, August 08, 2005

This week, we will look at how some companies around the world got their name. This list is placed in alphabetical order however, it will not be a comprehensive list of all companies.

  • Abloy - Acronym for "Aktiebolag Lås/Lukko Osakeyhtiö", meaning roughly "Lock Corporation" in both Swedish and Finnish.
  • ABN AMRO - In the 1960s, the Nederlandse Handelmaatschappij (Dutch Trading Society; 1824) and the Twentsche Bank merged to form the Algemene Bank Nederland (ABN; General Bank of the Netherlands). In 1966, the Amsterdamsche Bank and the Rotterdamsche Bank merged to form the Amro Bank. In 1991, ABN and Amro Bank merged to form ABN AMRO.
  • Accenture - Accent on the Future. Greater-than 'accent' over the logo's t points forward towards the future. The name Accenture was proposed by a company employee in Norway as part of a internal name finding process (BrandStorming). Prior to January 1, 2001 the company was called Andersen Consulting.
  • Adecco - Formed from the merger of Swiss staffing company Adia with French staffing company Ecco.
  • Adidas - from the name of the founder Adolf (Adi) Dassler.
  • Adobe - came from name of the river Adobe Creek that ran behind the houses of founders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke.
  • Ahold - Ahold ) stands for Albert Heijn Holding. The holding was constructed around Albert Heijn supermarkets (founded in 1887). In 1987, Ahold became Royal Ahold.
  • Airam - Maria, the name of the founder's wife, backwards.
  • Akamai - Hawaiian for "clever, intelligent and cool."
  • AKZO Merger 1969 of Algemene Kunstzijde Unie (AKU) und Koninklijke Zout Organon (KZO).
  • Alcatel - Société Alsacienne de Constructions Atomiques, de Télécomunications et d'Electronique.
  • Aldi - acronym for Albrecht (name of the founders) and discount
  • Alfa Romeo - The company was originally known as ALFA, which is an acronym meaning Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili. When Nicola Romeo bought ALFA in 1915, his surname was appended to the company name.
  • Allegra Print & Imaging - from ALL Electronic GRAphics. The international printing franchise was formerly known as "American Speedy Printing Centers."
  • Alstom - Till 1997 it was Alsthom, set up in 1928 by Société Alsacienne de Constructions Mécaniques and Compagnie Française Thomson-Houston.
  • AltaVista - Spanish for "high view".
  • Alza - from the name of the founder Alex Zaffaroni.
  • Amazon.com - Founder Jeff Bezos renamed the company to Amazon (from the earlier name of Cadabra.com) after the world's most voluminous river, the Amazon. He saw the potential for a larger volume of sales in an online bookstore as opposed to the then prevalent bookstores. (Alternative: It is said that Jeff Bezos named his book store Amazon simply to cash in on the popularity of Yahoo at the time. Yahoo listed entries alphabetically, and thus Amazon would always appear above its competitors in the relevant categories it was listed in.)
  • AMD - Advanced Micro Devices
  • AMOCO - AMerican Oil COmpany - now part of BP
  • Amstrad - Amstrad Consumer Electronics plc was founded by Sir Alan Michael Sugar in the UK. The name is a contraction of Alan Michael Sugar TRADing.
  • Apache - The name was chosen from respect for the Native American Indian tribe of Apache (Indé), well-known for their superior skills in warfare strategy and their inexhaustible endurance. Secondarily, and more popularly (though incorrectly) accepted, it's considered a cute name that stuck: its founders got started by applying patches to code written for NCSA's httpd daemon. The result was 'a patchy' server — thus the name Apache.
  • Apple - for the favourite fruit of co-founder Steve Jobs and/or for the time he worked at an apple orchard. He was three months late in filing a name for the business, and he threatened to call his company Apple Computer if his colleagues didn't suggest a better name by 5 p.m.. Apple's Macintosh is named after a popular variety of apple sold in the US. Apple also wanted to distance itself from the cold, unapproachable, complicated imagery created by the other computer companies at the time had names like IBM, NEC, DEC, ADPAC, Cincom, Dylakor, Input, Integral Systems, SAP, PSDI, Syncsort and Tesseract. The new company sought to reverse the entrenched view of computers in order to get people to use them at home. They looked for a name that was unlike the names of traditional computer companies, a name that also supported a brand positioning strategy that was to be perceived as simple, warm, human, approachable and different. Note: Apple had to get approval from the Beatle's Apple Corps to use the name 'Apple' and paid a one-time royalty of $100,000 to McIntosh Laboratory, Inc., a maker of high-end audio equipment, to use the derivative name 'Macintosh', known now as just 'Mac'.
  • Arby's - the enunciation of the acronym of its founders-Raffel Brothers. The partners wanted to use the name "Big Tex," but were unsuccessful in negotiating with the Akron businessman who was already using the name. So, in the words of Forrest, "We came up with Arby's, which stands for R.B., the initials of Raffel Brothers, although I guess customers might think the initials stand for roast beef."
  • Arcelor Arcelor was created in 2001 by a merger of Arbed (Luxembourg), Aceralia (Spain) and Usinor (France) in a joint venture to create a global leader with the ambition of becoming a major player in the steel industry.
  • ARM Ltd - named after the microprocessor developed by small UK company Acorn as a successor to the 6502 used in its BBC Microcomputer. ARM originally stood for Acorn Risc Machine. When the company was spun off with backing from Apple and VTI, this was changed to Advanced Risc Machines.
  • Artis (zoo in Amsterdam) - from the Latin phrase, Natura Artis Magistra, or Nature is Art's Teacher
  • ASDA - Associated Dairies, a large UK supermarket chain now a subsidiary of Wal-Mart
  • ASICS - ASICS is an acronym for "Anima Sana In Corpore Sano," which, translated from Latin, means "A sound mind in a sound body". Originally the citation is "mens sana in corpore sana", but MSICS does not sound very good.
  • Ask Jeeves - search engine named after the gentleman's gentleman (valet, not butler) in P. G. Wodehouse's series of books.
  • Aston Martin - from the "Aston Hill" races (near Aston Clinton) where the company was founded, and the surname of Lionel Martin, the company's founder.
  • AT&T - American Telephone and Telegraph Corporation officially changed its name to AT&T in the 1990s.
  • Atari - From the board game Go, "atari" is a Japanese word to describe a position where an opponent's stones are in danger of being captured. It is similar, though not identical, to "check" in chess. The original games company was American but wanted a Japanese-sounding name.
  • ATS - Auto Technik Spezialerzeugnisse, German company producing light alloy wheels and motor parts with an own formula 1 team in the late 70s and early 80s.
  • Audi - Latin translation of the German name 'Horch'. The founder August Horch left the company after 5 years, but still wanted to manufacture cars. Since the original 'Horch' company was still there, he called his new company Audi, the Latin form of his last name. In English it is: "listen!".
  • Avanade - derivation of words that collectively convey the company's future-oriented and proactive approach to driving customer value: avan-, advance, advantage, avenue + -ade, action, act. (Inside the company, the story is that the name is the derivation of the words "Avenue" and "Promenade", to aid pronunciation.)

B - C

  • B&Q - from the initials of its founders, Block and Quayle
  • Bang & Olufsen - from the names of its founders, Bang and Olufsen, Denmark.
  • Bally - originally Lion Manufacturing, changed their name to Bally after the success of their first popular pinball machine, Ballyhoo.
  • BASF - Initials of Badische Anilin und Soda Fabriken. Anilin and Soda were their first products. Badisch refers to the location in the state of Baden, Germany (Black forest region).
  • Bauknecht - Founded as an electrotechnical workshop in 1919 by Gottlob Bauknecht.
  • BBC - Stands for British Broadcasting Corporation.
  • BEA Systems - from the first initial of each of the company's three founders: Bill Coleman, Ed Scott and Alfred Chuang.
  • BEGO - short form for Bremer Goldschlägerei, in fact it should be BREGO, but was difficult to pronounce. BEGO is a manufacturer of dental goods.
  • BenQ - Bringing ENjoyment and Quality to life
  • Blaupunkt - Blaupunkt (Blue dot) was founded in 1923 under the name Ideal. Their core business was the manufacturing of headphones. If the headphones came through quality tests, the company would give the headphones a blue dot. The headphones quickly became known as the blue dots or blaue Punkte. The quality symbol would become a trademark, and the trademark would become the company name in 1938.
  • BMW - abbreviation of Bayerische Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Factories)
  • Borealis - The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, is the celestial phenomenon that features bursts of light in colourful patterns dancing across the night skies of the north. Borealis, inspired from the shining brilliance of the Northern Lights, was formed in 1994 out of the merger between two northern oil companies, Norway's Statoil and Finland's Neste.
  • BP - formerly British Petroleum, now "BP" (The slogan "Beyond Petroleum" has incorrectly been taken to refer to the company's new name following its rebranding effort in 2000).
  • BRAC - abbreviation for Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, world's largest NGO (non governmental organization). It works in development programs around the world.
  • Bridgestone - named after founder Shojiro Ishibashi. The surname Ishibashi (石橋) means "stone bridge", i.e. "bridge of stone".
  • Brillamont - Basic to middle school founded in Monterrey, Mexico by Americo Ferrara Padilla in 1981. The name Brillamont references the founding of the school on a mountain directly downwind of a brill (fish) processing plant.
  • Bull - Compagnie des machines Bull was founded in Paris to exploit the patents for punched card machines taken out by a Norwegian engineer, Fredrik Rosing Bull.
  • Bultaco - Catalan company of motorcycles, disappear in the 80's. Its name is an acronym of his founder Paco Bultó
  • C&A - The letters C&A are the initials of the brothers Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer, who founded a textile company with the name C&A in the Netherlands in 1841.
  • Cadillac - Cadillac was named after the 18th century French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, founder of Detroit, Michigan. Cadillac is a small town in the South of France.
  • Canon - Originally (1933) Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory the new name (1935) derived from the name of the companies first camera, the Kwannon, in turn named after the Japanese name of the Buddhist bodhisattva of mercy.
  • Caprabo - Catalan supermarkets, founded by Carbó, Prats and Bonet.
  • Carrefour - The first Carrefour store is located in Annecy near a crossroads (carrefour in French). This is the smallest Carrefour store in the world.
  • Casio - from the name of its founder, Kashio Tadao who had set up the company Kashio Seisakujo as a subcontractor factory.
  • CGI - from the first letter of Information Management Consultant in french (Conseiller en Gestion et Informatique).
  • Ciba Geigy - CIBA means Chemical Industry Basel, mergered with a Company named after its founder Johann Rudolf Geigy-Merian . Renamed to Novartis after a merger with Sandoz.
  • Cincom - Originally United Computer Systems, which was similar to several other software and services companies of the day, changed to Cincom Systems, Inc. On a sales visit to Philco (Philadelphia Company) 2 of the 3 original founders saw how a company could incorporate personal preference into a company name, that would not limit growth potenial. Derived from Cincinnati (where it was based) and Computer (its business) and adding Systems, the name was complete.
  • Cisco - short for San Francisco. It has also been suggested that it was "CIS-co" -- Computer Information Services was the department at Stanford University that the founders worked in.
  • Citroën - André-Gustave Citroën (1878-1935) was a French entrepreneur of Dutch descent. He was the fifth and last child of the Dutch Jewish diamond merchant Levie Citroen and Mazra Kleinmann (of Warsaw, Poland). The Citroen family moved to Paris from Amsterdam in 1873 where the name changed to Citroën.
  • COBRA - Computadores Brasileiros, "Brazilian Computers", electronics and services company, was the first state-owned designer and producer of computers in the 1970s, later acquired by the Banco do Brasil.
  • Coca-Cola - Coca-Cola's name 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' for the name to look better.
  • Coleco - began as the Connecticut Leather Company.
  • Colgate-Palmolive - formed from a merger of soap manufacturers Colgate & Company and Palmolive-Peet. Peet was dropped in 1953. Colgate was named after William Colgate, an English immigrant, who set up a starch, soap and candle business in New York City in 1806. Palmolive was named for the two oils (Palm and Olive) used in its manufacture.
  • COLT - from City of London Telecom
  • Compaq - from "comp" for computer, and "pack" to denote a small integral object; or: Compatibility And Quality; or: from the company's first product, the very compact Compaq Portable.
  • ComputerCableStore - A fast growing online cable and network solutions company.
  • Comsat - an American digital telecommunications and satellite company, founded during the President Kennedy era to develop the technology. Contraction of Communications Satellites.
  • Copersucar - Brazilian production cooperative in sugar and alcohol, its name is a contraction of Cooperativa de Açucar e Álcool.
  • Corel - from the founder's name Dr. Michael Cowpland. It stands for COwpland REsearch Laboratory.
  • Cosipa - Brazilian largest steel mill, located in Cubatão, the state of São Paulo. Its name is an abbreviation of Companhia Siderúrgica Paulista.
  • Cray Research - named after its founder, Seymour Roger Cray, who was killed in a car crash in 1996.
  • CVS - abbreviation of Consumer Value Stores.

D - G

  • Daewoo - the company founder Kim Woo Chong called it Daewoo which means "Great Universe" in Korean.
  • Danone (Dannon in USA) - Isaac Clarassó in Barcelona made his first yoghourts with the nickname of his son Daniel
  • Debian - project founder Ian Murdock named it after himself and his girlfriend, Debra.
  • DEKA - Manchester, NH R&D company responsible for Segway, iBOT, HomeChoice Dialysis, etc named after founder Dean Kamen.
  • Dell - named after its founder, Michael Dell. The company changed its name from Dell Computer in 2003.
  • DHL - the company was founded by Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom, and Robert Lynn, whose last initials form the company's moniker.
  • Dow - named after its founder, Herbert Henry Dow.
  • dreihundertzehn - German advertising agency, whose name is based on a running-gag, rounding up the resolution value of an image for best results in 60-point-raster in offset-print. normally 304,8 dpi or, rounded up, 310.
  • eBay - Pierre Omidyar, who had created the Auction Web trading website, had formed a web consulting concern called Echo Bay Technology Group. "Echo Bay" didn't refer to the town in Nevada, the nature area close to Lake Mead, or any real place. "It just sounded cool," Omidyar reportedly said. When he tried to register EchoBay.com, though, he found that Echo Bay Mines, a gold mining company, had gotten it first. So, Omidyar registered what (at the time) he thought was the second best name: eBay.com.
  • Eletropaulo - One of the largest Brazilian companies in electricity generation and distribution, its name derives from Companhia de Eletricidade de São Paulo.
  • EMBRAER - Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, its name an abbreviation of Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica (Brazilian Aeronautics Enterprise).
  • EMBRAPA - Brazilian state agricultural research and development company, its name is an abbreviation of Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária.
  • EMBRATEL - Largest Brazilian telecommunications company, was a state monopoly until 1992, when it was privatized and sold to MCI, later resold to Telmex corporations. Its name is an abbreviation of Empresa Brasileira de Telecomunicações.
  • EMC2 Corporation - The Company was founded by Richard (E)gan and Roger (M)arino the E and M in EMC. There has long been a rumor that there was originally another partner (C) which provided for the third letter. Other reports indicate the C is just there to stand for Company (ie. E + M + Company = EMC). Since the company was to operate in the technology sector they adopted the EMC2 notation to refer to the famous Einstein Equation E=mc2.
  • Epson - Epson Seiko Corporation, the Japanese printer and peripheral manufacturer, was named from "Son of Electronic Printer"
  • Esso - the enunciation of the initials S.O. (Standard Oil of New Jersey).
  • Exxon - a name contrived by Esso (Standard Oil of New Jersey) in the early 70s to create a neutral but distinctive label for the company. Within days of announcement of the name, Exxon was being called the "double cross company " but this eventually subsided.
  • Fanta - was originally invented by Max Keith in Germany in 1940 when World War II made it difficult to get the Coca-Cola syrup to Nazi Germany. Fanta was originally made from byproducts of cheese and jam production. The name comes from the German word for imagination (Fantasie or Phantasie), because the inventors thought that imagination was needed to taste oranges from the strange mix.
  • Fazer - named after its founder, Karl Fazer.
  • Fegime - abbreviation for "Fédération Européenne des Grossistes Indépendants" (European Federation of Independent Electrical Wholesalers).
  • Fiat - acronym of Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Italian Factory of Cars of Turin)
  • Fiatc - acronym of Federació Industrial de Autotransports de Catalunya (Federación Industrial de Autotransportes de Cataluña).The FIATC origin, is located in Barcelona (Catalonia/Spain), in April of 1930, when the Union of Carriers was grouped to share the risks derived from its activity.
  • Finnair - from "Finland" and "air". Originally called "Aero Osakeyhtiö", which the international flight code "AY" comes from.
  • Firestone - named after its founder, Harvey Firestone.
  • Ford Motor Company - named after its founder Henry Ford, who introduced automobile mass production in 1913.
  • Fuji - from the highest Japanese mountain Mount Fuji
  • Garmin - named after its founders, Gary Burrell and Dr. Min Kao.
  • GlaxoSmithKline - 2000 merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham
  • GLOCK - named after its founder, Gaston Glock.
  • Google - the name is a misspelling of the word googol, reflecting the company's mission to organize the immense amount of information available online.
  • Grundig - Founded in 1945 by radio dealer turned manufacturer Max Grundig.
  • Gulfstream Aerospace traces it origins to the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation. In 1985, the company was sold and renamed Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation after the Gulf Stream current that runs just off the east coast.


  • Häagen-Dazs - Contrary to common belief, the name is not European; it is simply two made-up words meant to look European to American eyes. This is known in the marketing industry as foreign branding.
  • Haier - Chinese 海 "sea" and 尔 (a transliteration character; also means "you" in Literary Chinese)
  • H&M - In 1947, a Swedish businessman named Erling Persson established Hennes, a ladies' clothing store, in Västerås, Sweden. "Hennes" is Swedish for "hers." In 1968, Persson acquired premises in Stockholm for his chain by buying the premises and inventory of a hunting equipment store named Mauritz Widforss. Included in the inventory was a collection of men's clothing, prompting Persson to expand into menswear. Accordingly, he renamed the company Hennes & Mauritz, which was later abbreviated to H&M.
  • Haribo - From the name of the founder and the German home town of the company: HAns RIegel, BOnn
  • Hasbro - Founded by Henry and Helal Hassenfeld, the Hassenfeld Brothers.
  • HP - Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard tossed a coin to decide whether the company they founded would be called Hewlett-Packard or Packard-Hewlett.
  • Hitachi - old place name, literally "sunrise"
  • Hoechst - from the name of a district in Frankfurt
  • Honda - from the name of its founder, Soichiro Honda
  • Honeywell - from the name of Mark Honeywell founder of Honeywell Heating Specialty Co. It later merged with Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company and was finally called Honeywell Inc. in 1963.
  • Hospira - The name, selected by the company’s employees, is derived from the words hospital, spirit, inspire and the Latin word spero, which means hope. It reflects the company’s primary market focus, its heritage as the core global hospital products business of Abbott, and expresses the hope and optimism that are critical in the healthcare industry.
  • Hotmail - Founder Jack Smith got the idea of accessing e-mail via the web from a computer anywhere in the world. When Sabeer Bhatia came up with the business plan for the mail service, he tried all kinds of names ending in 'mail' and finally settled for Hotmail as it included the letters "HTML" - the markup language used to write web pages. It was initially referred to as HoTMaiL with selective upper casing. (If you click on Hotmail's 'mail' tab, you will still find "HoTMaiL" in the URL.)
  • HSBC - The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation
  • Hyundai - connotes the sense of "the present age" or "modernity" in Korean.

I - J

  • IBM - started by an ex employee of National Cash Register. To one-up them in all respects he called his company International Business Machines.
  • ICL - abbreviation for International Computers Ltd, once the UK's largest computer company, but now a service arm of Fujitsu, of Japan.
  • ICODEX - started by a group of Lotus Notes professionals.
  • iCodsi Labs - it is a word which does not exist in any language, it sounds good and of course the .com and .biz domains were available.
  • IG Farben - Interessen-Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie AG - was so named because the constituent German companies produced dyestuffs among many other chemical compounds. The consortium is most known today for its central participation in the WWII Holocaust, as it made the Zyklon B gas used in the gas chambers.
  • Iiyama - Manufacturer of monitors and TVs. Was named after the japanese city Iiyama.
  • IKEA - founded by Ingvar Kamprad of Sweden. The name IKEA comes from a clever acronym using the initials of the founder, Ingvar Kamprad, who was from a family farm called Elmtaryd, which was near the village of Agunnaryd. The acronym is for a Swedish phrase but it turns out to be the same in English, Ingvar Kamprad's Economical Alternative.
  • IKON - Copier company. The name IKON stands for I Know One Name.
  • Imhotep Ltd - named after Imhotep (BC 2686–2613), the first engineer. He built the step pyramid at Saqqara.
  • Infineon Technologies AG - After the detachment of Siemens's Semiconductor branch (called Siemens HL or Siemens SC/SSC), the new name was taken from the two words Infinity and Aeon.
  • Intel - Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore initially incorporated their company as N M Electronics. Someone suggested Moore Noyce Electronics but it sounded too close to "more noise". Not a good choice for an electronics company! Later Integrated Electronics was proposed but it had been taken by somebody else. Then, using initial syllables from INTegrated ELectronics, Noyce and Moore came up with Intel. To avoid potential conflicts with other companies of similar names Intel purchased the name righs for $15,000 from a company called Intelco. (Source: Intel 15 Years Corporate Anniversary Brochure)
  • Interland - A web hosting provider formally known as Micron Computer, Inc. which was named either after Internet Land or the combination of the largest acqusition it performed, Interliant with the wor Land.
  • Itautec - a Brazilian top manufacturer of computers, its name means Itaú Tecnologia S/A, because it is owned by the Banco Itaú private conglomerate. Itauna ("black stone") is a word in the tupi-guarani language of Amerindians which gives the name to the city of Itaú in the state of Minas Gerais, a large site of limestone mining where it all began with a Portland cement manufacturing operation by the same group of shareholders who later founded the bank.
  • Jägermeister - German for Hunt Master.
  • Johnathon Arndt Gallery of Jewels - The dream, first conceived during the spring of 1999, blossomed and successfully evolved into the Johnathon Arndt Gallery of Jewels. The distinguished Founders and Owners, Johnathon Arndt, Newman Arndt and Stanley K. Kwok envisioned a gallery of jeweled masterpieces unparalleled in the world.

K - L

  • Kawasaki - from the name of its founder, Shozo Kawasaki
  • KFC - short for Kentucky Fried Chicken, the company adopted the abbreviated form of its name in 1991 to avoid the unhealthy connotations of the word 'fried'. Recent commercials have tried to imply that the abbreviation stands for "Kitchen Fresh Chicken".
  • Kia Motors - The name "Kia" (起亞) roughly translates as "Rising from Asia" in Chinese characters.
  • Kinko's - from college nickname of founder, Paul Orfalea. He was called Kinko because he had curly red hair.
  • Knallgrau - When two founders where talking on phone about the company name, they missunderstood each other. One said "Knall" (which means "bang") the other one "Grau" (grey).
  • Kodak - Both the Kodak camera and the name were the invention of founder George Eastman. The letter "K" was a favourite with Eastman; he felt it a strong and incisive letter. He tried out various combinations of words starting and ending with "K". He saw three advantages in the name. It had the merits of a trademark word, would not be mis-pronounced and the name did not resemble anything in the art. There is a misconception that the name was chosen because of its similarity to the sound produced by the shutter of the camera.
  • Konica - it was earlier known as Konishiroku Kogaku. Konishiroku in turn is the short for Konishiya Rokubeiten which was the first name of the company established by Rokusaburo Sugiura in the 1850s.
  • Kyocera - from Kyoto Ceramics, after Kyoto in Japan.
  • Lada - from the name of a Slavic goddess.
  • Lancôme - began in 1935, when its founder, Armand Petitjean was exploring the ruins of a castle, Le Chateau de Lancôme (Loire-et-Cher), while vacationing in the French countryside. Petitjean's inspiration for the company's symbol, a rose, were the many wild roses growing around the castle.
  • LEGO - combination of the Danish "leg godt", which means to "play well." Lego also means "I put together" in Latin, but LEGO Group claims this is only a coincidence and the etymology of the word is entirely Danish. Years before the little plasticbrick was invented, LEGO manufactured wooden toys.
  • LG - combination of two popular Korean brands Lucky and Goldstar. (In Mexico publicists explained the name change to the public as an abbreviation to Linea Goldstar Spanish for Goldstar Line)
  • LoJack - "LoJack" (the stolen-vehicle recovery system) is a pun on the word "Hijack" (to steal a vehicle).
  • Lominger Limited - combination of the two founders last names: Lombardo and Eichinger.
  • Longines - En 1862 the new company "Ancienne Maison Auguste Agassiz, Ernest Francillon, Successeur" was born. At that time watchmaking in the area used the skills of people working outside the "comptoir d'établissage", often at home. In 1866, Ernest Francillon, bought two plots of land on the right bank of the river Suze at the place called "Les Longines" and brought all of the watchmaking skills under one roof - this was the first "Longines factory".
  • Lonsdale - Boxing equipment manufacturer named after the Lonsdale belt, a boxing trophy donated by the English Lord Lonsdale.
  • L'Oréal - In 1907, Eugène Schueller, a young French chemist, developed an innovative hair-color formula. He called his improved hair dye Auréole.
  • Lotus Cars
  • Lotus Software - Mitch Kapor got the name for his company from 'The Lotus Position' or 'Padmasana'. Kapor used to be a teacher of Transcendental Meditation technique as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
  • Lotus Watches
  • Lycos - from Lycosidae, the family of wolf spiders.


  • Macronimous - Formed from Magnanimous - Macro gives the meaning Big. Macro + nimous
  • MAN - Abbreviation for Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (Augsburg-Nuremberg Machine Company), the MAN company is a German engineering works and truck manufacturer.
  • Mattel - a portmanteau of the founders names Harold "Matt" Matson and Elliot Handler.
  • Mazda Motor - From the company's first president, Jujiro Matsuda. In Japanese, no syllables are ever stressed and some inner syllables are virtually skipped. Thus, Matsuda is pronounced "Matsda". To make the name fly better outside of Japan, the spelling was changed to Mazda.
  • Mazda Eclairage - Probably from the name of the Zoroastrian supreme being, Ahura Mazda.
  • MBNA - originally a subsidiary of Maryland National Corporation, MBNA once stood for Maryland Bank, NA (NA itself standing for National Association, a federal designation representing the bank's charter).
  • McDonald's - from the name of the brothers Dick McDonald and Mac McDonald, who founded the first McDonald's restaurant in 1940.
  • MCI Communications - Microwave Communications, Inc. The company later merged with Worldcom to create MCI Worldcom. The MCI was dropped in 2000, and the acquiring company changed it's name to MCI when it emerged from bankruptcy in 2003.
  • Mercedes - This is the first name of the daughter of Emil Jellinek, who worked for the early Daimler company around 1900.
  • MFI - Originally called Mullard Furniture Industries and was named after the founder's wife, whose maiden name was Mullard.
  • MGM - Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was formed by the merger of three picture houses Metro Picture Corporation, Goldwyn Picture Corporation and Louis B. Mayer Pictures. Goldwyn Picture Corporation in turn was named after the last names of Samuel Goldfish and Edgar and Archibald Selwyn.
  • Micron - The once well known computer Memory producer was named after the microscopic parts of its products. The official name was Micron Computer, Inc. Since, the company has become Interland, a web hosting provider, after selling/spinning off its RAM division and closing down its computer division, licensing the name. The company is now headquartered in Atlanta.
  • Microsoft - coined by Bill Gates to represent the company that was devoted to MICROcomputer SOFTware. Originally christened Micro-Soft, the '-' was removed later on.
  • midPhase - The post-dotcom era gave using the .com in a companies official name untrendy. A new dotcom company may be named traditionally, in midPhase's case it was named midPhase Services, Inc., the midPhase stands for Middle Phase, or middle of the road.
  • Mimeo.com - Originally called EasyCopy, renamed after the mimeograph machine, a mechanical duplicator that produces copies.
  • Minolta - Minolta was founded in Osaka, Japan in 1928 as Nichi-Doku Shashinki Shōten (日独写真機商店; literally: Japan-Germany camera shop). It was not until 1934 that the name Minolta, meaning "ripening fields of rice" in Japanese, would first appear on a camera, the Minolta Vest.
  • MIPS - Originally stood for Microprocessor without Interlocking Pipeline Stages. When interlocks where added to a later implementation, the name was redefined to not be an acronmym, but just a name. (The name also connates computer speed, by association with the acroynm for millions of instructions per second.)
  • Mitel - from Mike and Terry's Lawnmowers after the founders Michael Cowpland and Terry Matthews, and the company's original business plan.
  • MITRE - Massachusetts Institute of Technology Research Establishment
  • Mitsubishi - The name Mitsubishi (三菱) has two parts: mitsu means three and hishi (changing to bishi in the middle of the word) means water chestnut, and from here rhombus, which is reflected in the company's logo.
  • Motorola - Founder Paul Galvin came up with this name when his company (at the time, Galvin Manufacturing Company) started manufacturing radios for cars. Many audio equipment makers of the era used the "ola" ending for their products, most famously the "Victrola" phonograph made by the Victor Talking Machine Company. The name was meant to convey the idea of "sound" and "motion". The name became so recognized that the company later adopted it as the company name
  • Moxie Media -- named after "an exceptional English short haired pointer that belonged to Walt Crory, one of Moxie's founders".
  • Mozilla Foundation - from the name of the web-browser that preceded Netscape Navigator. When Marc Andreesen, founder of Netscape, created a browser to replace the Mosaic browser, it was internally named Mozilla (Mosaic-Killer, Godzilla) by Jamie Zawinski.
  • MVC - the name of the UK entertainment chain stands for Music and Video Club.
  • MRF- MRF, or Madras Rubber Factory, was founded by K M Mammen Mappillai in 1946, who started with a toy balloon-manufacturing unit at Tiruvottiyur, Chennai (then called Madras). In 1952, he began manufacture of tread-rubber and MRF became market leader in this segment within four years. In 1961, MRF began manufacture of tyres and became a leader in that segment too.

N - R

  • Nabisco - formerly The National Biscuit Company, changed in 1971 to Nabisco.
  • NCR Corporation - from National Cash Register. When owned by AT&T, the company's initials were (unofficially?) said to stand for AT&T's Network Computing Resource.
  • Nero - Nero Burning ROM named after Nero burning Rome.
  • Nestlé - named after its founder, Henri Nestlé, who was born in Germany under the name "Nestle", which is German (actually, Swabian diminutive) for "bird's nest". The company logo is a bird's nest with a mother bird and two young.
  • Netscape - named by first marketing employee Greg Sands, in a panic when the University of Illinois threatened to sue the new company for its original name, Mosaic. Netscape then paid Landor $50,000 to design a logo.
  • New Dragon - In Chinese mythology, dragons represent celestial and terrestrial power, wisdom, and strength. The company is named after this symbol.
  • Nike - named for the Greek goddess of victory.
  • Nikon - the original name was Nippon Kogaku, meaning "Japanese Optical".
  • Nintendo - Nintendo is composed of 3 Japanese Kanji characters, Nin-ten-do the first two of which can be translated to "Heaven blesses hard work"; do is a common ending for any store.
  • Nissan - the company was earlier known by the name Nippon Sangyo which means "Japanese industry".
  • Nokia - started as a wood-pulp mill, the company expanded into producing rubber products in the Finnish city of Nokia. The company later adopted the city's name.
  • Nortel - The Nortel Networks name came from Nortel (Northern Telecom) and Bay Networks. The company was originally spun off from the Bell Telephone Company of Canada Ltd in 1895 as Northern Electric and Manufacturing, and traded as Northern Electric from 1914 to 1976.
  • Novartis - after the Latin expression "novae artes" which means something like "new skills".
  • Novell - Novell, Inc. was earlier Novell Data Systems co-founded by George Canova. The name was suggested by George's wife who mistakenly thought that "Novell" meant "new" in French. Nouvelle is the feminine form of the French adjective 'Nouveau'. "Nouvelle" as a noun in French is "news".
  • o.b. - tampons, from German "ohne Binde", without sanitary towel.
  • Oracle - Larry Ellison, Ed Oates and Bob Miner were working on a consulting project for the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). The code name for the project was Oracle (the CIA saw this as the system to give answers to all questions or some such). The project was designed to help use the newly written SQL database language from IBM. The project eventually was terminated but they decided to finish what they started and bring it to the world. They kept the name Oracle and created the RDBMS engine. Later they changed the name of the company, Relational Technology Inc, to the name of the product.
  • Oreo - Originally, Oreos were mound-shaped; hence the name "oreo" (Greek for "hill").
  • Osram - from osmium and wolfram.
  • Outsource Marketing - Outsource Marketing was formed to better integrate marketing strategy, planning and management for mid-market companies through marketing outsourcing.
  • Pepsi - Pepsi derives its name from (treatment of) dyspepsia, an intestinal ailment.
  • Petrobras - Brazilian oil company, one of the largest in the world, its named is a contraction of Petrol and Brasil.
  • Philips - Royal Philips Electronics was founded in 1891, by brothers Gerard (the engineer) and Anton (the entrepreneur) Philips.
  • Pixar - Action (verb) of making pixels in Spanish. According to "The Second Coming of Steve Jobs" book by Alan Deutschman, Ed Catmull and John Lassetter were looking for a sticky name and came up with "Pixer", but they thought it sounded better in Spanish: Pixar. The company was founded after Steve Jobs bought the computer graphics division from Lucasfilm for $10 million.
  • PMC-Sierra - PMC from "Pacific Microelectronics Centre", a research arm of BC Tel, and "Sierra" from the company that acquired it, Sierra Semiconductor, presumably so named because of the allure of the Sierra Nevada mountains to members of a California-based company.
  • Pontiac - Pontiac or Obwandiyag (between 1712 and 1725 – 1769), was a Native American Ottawa war leader, remembered for his participation in a struggle against British occupation of the Great Lakes region that bears his name: Pontiac's Rebellion.
  • Psion - UK company named by its founder, South Africa-born Dr David Potter, from Potter Scientific Instruments Or Nothing.
  • Q8 - The acronym for these gas stations sounds like Kuwait, i. e. the letter Q followed by the number 8. It's the abbreviation for the Kuwait Petroleum International.
  • Qantas - From its original name, Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Services.
  • Quark - named after an atomic particle. The term quark originates from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce.
  • QVC - Quality, Value and Convenience
  • RAND - Research ANd Development.
  • RCA - from the initials Radio Corporation of America.
  • Red Hat - Company founder Marc Ewing was given the Cornell lacrosse team cap (with red and white stripes) while at college by his grandfather. People would turn to him to solve their problems, and he was referred to as 'that guy in the red hat'. He lost the cap and had to search for it desperately. The manual of the beta version of Red Hat Linux had an appeal to readers to return his Red Hat if found by anyone.
  • Reebok - another spelling of rhebok (Pelea capreolus), an African antelope.
  • Repsol - means nothing at all. It is only an euphonic construction, perhaps using the letters of petrol and la s of Spain.
  • Rolls-Royce - In 1884 Frederick Henry Royce started an electrical and mechanical business, making his first car, a "Royce", in 1904. He was introduced to Charles Stewart Rolls on the 4th of May of that year, and the pair entered into a partnership in which Royce would manufacture cars, to be sold exclusively by Rolls. A clause was added to the contract, stipulating the cars would be called "Rolls-Royce".
  • RSA Security - formed from the first letters of the last names of its founders Ronald Rivest, Adi Shamir and Len Adleman.


  • SAAB - founded in 1937 in Sweden as "Svenska Aeroplan aktiebolaget" (Swedish Aeroplane Company) abbreviated SAAB.
  • Sabre - Semi-Automatic Business Research Environment.
  • Samsonite - Samsonite was launched as a brand in 1941, receiving its name from the Biblical character Samson, renowned for his strength.
  • Samsung - meaning three stars in Korean.
  • Sanyo - The Japanese translation is disputed, although the Chinese name is "三洋" (literally, "Three Oceans")
  • SAP - "Systems, Applications, Products in Data Processing", formerly "SystemAnalyse und Programmentwicklung" (German for "System analysis and program development"), formed by 4 ex-IBM employees who used to work in the 'Systems/Applications/Projects' group of IBM.
  • SCO - from Santa Cruz Operation. The company's office was in Santa Cruz, California. It eventually went bankrupt and split to form Tarantella. The remaining part of SCO was purchased by Caldera Inc (a spin off of Novell) and Caldera changed its own name back to SCO.
  • Saudi Aramco - Originally it was ARAMCO (Arabian American Oil Company). However, when the Saudi government purchased it in 1988, its name Aramco was known all over the world and even more in Saudi Arabia. So it was changed to Saudi Aramco without regard to the original meaning of the acronym ARAMCO, which is not related to the current full official name: "Saudi Arabian Oil Company."
  • SEAT - Means Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo (Spanish Corporation of Private Cars).
  • SEGA - "Service Games of Japan" (SeGa) Founded by Marty Bromley (an American) to import pinball games to Japan for use on American military bases.
  • Seiko - According to Seiko's official company history, titled "A Journey In Time: The Remarkable Story of Seiko" (2003), Seiko is a Japanese word for "exquisite", "minute", or "success".
  • Seisint - Seismic Intelligence.
  • SGI - from Silicon Graphics Inc.
  • Sharp - Japanese consumer electronics company named from its first product, an ever-sharp pencil.
  • Shell - Royal Dutch Shell was established in 1907, when the Royal Netherlands Petrol Society Plc. and the Shell Transport and Trading Company Ltd. merged. The Shell Transport and Trading Company Ltd. had been established at the end of the 19th century, by commercial firm Samuel & Co (founded in 1830). Samuel & Co were already successfully importing Japanese shells when they set up an oil company, so the oil company was named after the shells Samuel & Co were importing.
  • Siemens - founded in 1847 by Werner von Siemens and Johann Georg Halske: the company was originally called Telegraphen-Bau-Anstalt von Siemens & Halske.
  • Six Apart - company co-founders Ben and Mena Trott were born 6 days apart (in September 1977).
  • Slashdot - Slashdot is the parody of a URL. While registering the domain, Slashdot-creator Rob Malda wanted to make the URL silly, and unintelligible when spoken aloud. (http://slashdot.org gets pronounced as aitch tee tee pee colon slash slash slashdot dot org)
  • Smart - Swatch + Mercedes + Art
  • Sony - from the Latin word 'sonus' meaning sound, and 'sonny' a slang word used by Americans to refer to a bright youngster, "since we were sonny boys working in sound and vision", said Akio Morita. Sony was originally called Tokyo Tsoshiu Kogyo Kabushika Kaika. Sony was chosen as it could be pronounced easily in many languages
  • Sorcim - Early personal computer manufacturer named "micros" backwards.
  • Sperry - company founded by Elmer A Sperry, which took over Univac. It was eventually taken over by Burroughs, with the combined company being called Unisys.
  • Spoke - company founded by Ben Smith, Chris Tolles and others. In a meeting with Chris Tolles, Ben Smith, Erik Straser of MDV and Tim Connors of USVP where the company was being called SPO for Sales Process Optimization. SPO was just not going to do as a company name given the potential connotations. Erik suggested Sales Process Optimization and Knowledge Enablement which became Spoke. Spoke was often thought to refer to the connections between people.
  • Sprint - from its parent company, Southern Pacific Railroad INTernal Communications. Back in the day, pipelines and railroad tracks were the cheapest place to lay communications lines, as the right-of-way was already leased or owned.
  • Starbucks - named after Starbuck, a character in Herman Melville's whaling novel, Moby-Dick.
  • Stellent - coined from a combination of the words STellar and excELLENT. Derisively referred to as the combination of STupid and repELLENT by some.
  • Subaru - from the Japanese name for the constellation known to Westerners as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. Subaru was formed from a merger of seven other companies, and the constellation is featured on the company's logo.
  • Sun Microsystems - its founders designed their first workstation in their dorm at Stanford University, and chose the name Stanford University Network for their product, hoping to sell it to the college. They didn't.
  • SuSE - from Software und System-Entwicklung (Software and system development).
  • Suzuki - from the name of its founder, Michio Suzuki
  • Swicofil - company founded by René Hess and Beda Ricklin in September 1995. Swicofil stands for Swiss Company for Yarns (in French). The founders were former export members of Viscosuisse, which was later named as Rhodia Filtec. Main business of Swicofil to provide customers with any type of yarn and fiber specialities.

T - Z

  • Taco Bell - named after founder Glen Bell.
  • TAM - Brazilian airline company (the second largest in the country). Abbreviation of Transportes Aéreos Marília, because its origins are in the city of Marília, state of São Paulo, where it began as a air taxi founded by Rolim Amaro. Marília, on the other hand, is a woman's name, taken from the poem Marília de Dirceu written by Thomaz Antonio Gonzaga, an 18th century Brazilian poet.
  • Taxan - made-up name chosen partly because Takusan is a Japanese word for 'many' or 'much' and was considered propitious, but mainly because the head of the company in the US at the time, Tak Shimizu, was known by everyone as Tak-san.
  • Tesa - the name of the secretary was Elsa T'smer
  • Tesco - Founder Jack Cohen, who from 1919 sold groceries in the markets of the London East End, acquired a large shipment of tea from T. E. Stockwell and made new labels by using the first three letters of the supplier's name and the first two letters of his surname forming the word "TESCO".
  • THX - From the name of the technology's inventor and the audio technology of a 'crossover' amplifier: Tomlinson Holman Crossover. This may be a backronym, as the technology is owned by George Lucas's company, and he directed THX-1138.
  • Toshiba - was founded by the merger of consumer goods company Tokyo Denki (Tokyo Electric Co) and electrical firm Shibaura Seisaku-sho (Shibaura Engineering Works).
  • Toyota - from the founder's name Sakichi Toyoda. Initially called Toyeda, it was changed after a contest for a better-sounding name. The new name was written in katakana with eight strokes, a number that is considered lucky in Japan.
  • TVR - Formed from the first name of the company founder TreVoR Wilkinson
  • Umbro - Umbro was founded in 1924 by the Humphrey (`Umphrey) Brothers, Harold C. and Wallace.
  • Unisys - made-up name for the company that resulted from the combination of two old mainframe computer companies, Burroughs and Sperry [Sperry Univac/Sperry Rand]. It "united" two incompatible ranges. Unisys was briefly the world's second-largest computer company, after IBM.
  • Varig - Largest international Brazilian airline, its name is an abbreviation of Viação Aérea Rio Grande do Sul, because it was founded in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
  • Verizon - A portmanteau of veritas (Latin for truth) and horizon.
  • Volkswagen - Translates into "people's car", which was a project of Ferdinand Porsche in the 1930s and 40s; to produce a car which was affordable for the masses - the "Kraft-durch-Freude-Wagen" (or "Strength-Through-Joy car", from a nazi social organization) which later became known as the "Beetle")
  • Volvo - From the Latin word "volvo", which means "I roll". It was originally a name for a ball bearing being developed by SKF.
  • Waitrose - Upmarket supermarket in the UK originally named after the founders: Wallace Waite, Arthur Rose and David Taylor. The "Taylor" was later dropped.
  • Wang - from the founder's name, An Wang, the inventor of core memory.
  • Williams-Sonoma - Founded by Chuck Williams in Sonoma, California.
  • Xerox - The inventor, Chestor Carlson, named his product trying to say `dry' (as it was dry copying, markedly different from the then prevailing wet copying). The Greek root `xer' means dry.
  • Yahoo! - a "backronym" for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle. The word Yahoo was invented by Jonathan Swift and used in his book Gulliver's Travels. It represents a person who is repulsive in appearance action and is barely human. Yahoo! founders David Filo and Jerry Yang selected the name because they jokingly considered themselves yahoos.
  • Yoplait - In 1965, "Yola" and "Coplait", decided to merge, becoming "Yoplait". The logo they chose was a six-petalled flower, each petal representing one of the six main co-operatives that founded the company.
  • Zend - a contraction derived from the names of Zeeev Suraski and Andiand Gutmans, the two founders of Zend Technologies.
  • Zuse - pioneering German computer company named after its founder, Konrad Zuse (1910-95). He built his first computer in his parents' living room at the end of the 1930s. Zuse was taken over by Siemens AG. The name is now echoed by SuSE (Software und System-Entwicklung: "Software and system development").
source: Wikipedia (Under the GNU Free Documentation License)

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