Big Brand Name Origins

Have you ever noticed how many famous brand names do not describe the product or company?

Test your naming knowledge right here – and send us others you may know about.



Starbucks Not as abstract as many people think. In Moby Dick, Capt. Starbuck liked his coffee.
Kinkos The founder’s nickname from school, because of his kinky red hair.
Motorola From Motor and Victrola – as originally they made car radios.
Xerox An abbreviation of the word xerography – their underlying original technology.
eBay Official story now differs, but we still think it was from strong East Bay connotations.
Volkswagen Literally “the people’s car” – a term supposedly coined by Adolf Hitler.
Nike Round about evolution from Phil Knight – the founder – as proposed by one of his employees. The name was drawn out of a hat full of other submissions. That particular employee apparently awoke in middle of the night and said it had to be Nike – Greek for Victory.
Hitachi The two characters used to write it mean “sun” + “stand.” By extension, it also could be translated “land of the rising sun.”
Nobel Prize The famous peace and science prizes, named after Alfred E. Nobel – who invented dynamite!
Google A variation on the mathematical term googol – a very, very, very big number.
Yahoo From the dictionary, when founders were looking for names like YACC (Yet Another C Compiler) – a very inside story for Unix hackers. Dictionary says it means a slightly crazy cowboy.
BMW Of course they are initials. But in this case for words that are almost unpronounceable in English – Bayerische Motoren Werke.
Oracle Code name of their first big government project.
Snapple One of their original flavors: Spice N Apple.
Chevrolet Ironically, one of America’s greatest car companies is named after a man born in Switzerland, who only had a short association with the car company and never lost his French accent.
Tiffany & Co. This famous jewelry brand is not named after a lady, but rather Charles Tiffany, one of the founders. It used to be called Tiffany & Young.


See also Famous Name Changes.  Yes, many famous brands started life with different names.


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