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How 20 Top Companies You Know Well Got Their Names

You've probably heard the story of how you got your name at least once or twice (were you named after your great cousin, twice removed? The city where your parents met? Your mother's favorite romance novel character?). Well, people are not the only ones that come with interesting naming stories.


The Frisbie Baking Company's pie pans spurred the name of the popular flying toy, the Frisbee.

Founders of companies go to great lengths to come up with the quintessential company name, which can at times make or break them. There's a rumor, for instance, that Haagen-Daz ice cream became so successful so quickly because it had a "foreign sounding" name that added prestige.

So what's in a name? As you'll see in this list of how 20 well-known companies got their names, a lot more than meets the eye.

  1. Pepsi: Pepsi was named after dyspepsia (indigestion), which it was originally promoted to help relieve.

  2. Apple Computers: Founder Steve Jobs named the company after his favorite fruit -- apples -- and possibly for the time he worked in an apple orchard. The name was reportedly decided while he was down to the wire and three months late in filing a name for the company.

  3. Frisbee: Named for the Frisbie Baking Company, whose pie plates were the first version of the now popular flying toy.

  4. Google: Originally named Googol (1 followed by 100 zeroes) for the huge amount of information the search-engine would search. The founders then reportedly received their first funding check from an investor made out to "Google," and the name stuck.

  5. Adidas: Named for their German maker Adolph Dassler, who was called Adi by friends. Adi, plus the first three letters of his last name, makes Adidas.

  6. Hotmail: Hotmail was so named because it includes HTML (the language used to write Web pages), along with "mail." It originally included uppercase letters to show this: HoTMaiL.

  7. Mars: The Mars candy company was named for Forrest Mars, the company's founder.

  8. LEGO: The popular toys are named for the Danish phrase "leg godt," which means "play well."

  9. Hewlett Packard: Named for founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, who reportedly flipped a coin to decide whose name to list first.

  10. Reebok: Named for a type of African gazelle, the rhebok.


    LEGOs, anyone? LEGOs got their name from the Danish phrase "leg godt," or "play well.

  11. Microsoft: Bill Gates came up with Microsoft for MICROcomputer SOFTware (it originally had a hyphen: Micro-Soft).

  12. Sony: Named for "sonus," the latin word for "sound," and "sonny," the slang term referring to a bright youngster.

  13. McDonald's: Named for Richard and Maurice McDonald, who converted their barbecue drive-in with car hops into the world's first McDonald's in 1948.

  14. Arm & Hammer: Named for founder Armand Maccabee. Maccabee, a biblical Hebrew name, means "hammer" in English.

  15. Atari: In Japanese, "atari" describes a position in a board game where your opponent is in danger of being captured (similar to "check" in chess).

  16. eBay: The creator of eBay, Pierre Omidyar, had a Web consulting company called Echo Bay Technology Group. was already taken when he tried to register it, so he settled on instead.

  17. Lotus Software: Founder Mitch Kapor was a teacher of transcendental meditation, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He named his company for the position known as the "lotus position" or "Padmasana."

  18. Motorola: Named when founder Paul Galvin's company started making car radios. Many audio equipment makers used the "ola" ending to convey "sound" or "motion" (like the Victrola phonograph), so motorola was born.

  19. Nabisco: First named The National Biscuit Company, the company shortened its name to Nabisco in 1971.

  20. Starbucks: Named after Starbuck, a character in Herman Melville's novel, "Moby Dick."

Recommended Reading

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Expressions in Solitude

AdStart Identity Blog: List of Company Name Etymologies

What's in a Name?

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