How 17 famous companies got their quirky names

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

  • Have you ever wondered how today’s famous companies got their names? We tracked down the etymologies of 17 of the world’s largest and most oddly named companies.
  • Each of their names has a fascinating origin story or a hidden meaning.
  • LEGO, for example, is the combination of two Danish words that translate into “play well.”

Amazon

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Jeff Bezos reportedly wanted a name that began with “A” so it would appear near the top of an alphabetical list. He thought the world’s largest river was an apt name for what he hoped could be its biggest business.


Pepsi

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Originally named Brad’s Drink after inventor Caleb Bradham, Pepsi-Cola got its name in 1898 from the word “dyspepsia,” which means indigestion, meant to represent Bradham’s belief that it was a healthy, digestion-aiding cola.


Canon

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Originally called “Kwanon” for a Buddhist goddess, the company changed its name to Canon in 1935 to appeal to a worldwide audience.


Ikea

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Founder Ingvar Kamprad formed this name by combining his initials, I.K., with the first letters of Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd, the farm and village where he grew up.


Yahoo

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Yahoo is both an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle” and an imaginary species described as rude, noisy, and violent in Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels.”


Skype

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Whittled down from the original name of “Sky Peer-To-Peer” to “Skyper,” the “r” was eventually dropped to create the current name.


Lego

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

LEGO combines the Danish words “leg got,”or “play well.”


Spotify

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Cofounders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon were brainstorming names when Ek misheard an idea as Spotify. Embarrassed by its randomness, they now say the name stems from the words “spot” and “identify.”


WD-40

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

After 39 failures in the lab, the popular water-displacing spray was developed. Hence “Water displacement perfected on the 40th try.”


Oracle

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

This name started as the code for a project that cofounders Larry Ellison and Bob Oats worked on for the CIA. It was a database that was supposed to be able to answer any question about anything.


Google

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

The internet giant takes its name from “googol,” the mathematical term for the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros.


Sony

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

The name is derived from “sonus,” the Latin word for sound and a slang expression “sonny boy,” which in 1950s Japan described “smart, presentable young men.”


Starbucks

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

The coffee giant took its name from the first mate in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” in an effort to evoke “the romance of the high seas and the seafaring tradition of the early coffee traders.”


Blackberry

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

This name was coined in 1999 because the keys on the device resembled the drupelets on the fruit.


Reebok

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

An alternative spelling of “rhebok,” the Afrikaans-Dutch word for a type of antelope, this name is meant to evoke speed and grace.


Haagen-Dazs

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Haagen Dazs was strategically chosen by its founders to sound Danish and “convey an aura of the old- world tradition and craftsmanship,” but has no meaning in the language.


Virgin

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

One of Richard Branson’s colleagues famously suggested this by remarking, “we’re complete virgins at business.”