The Origins Behind 12 Names We All Know

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Trivial Diversions

The Origins Behind 12 Names We All Know

The Origins Behind 12 Names We All Know

Some brand names are results of very thought-out and carefully crafted meaningful words while others are merely chosen because they sound good. Here are 12 names that will always be remembered, no matter how they were created.

1. Audi

The German car manufacturer got its name from a Latin translation of its founder’s surname, Horch. August Horch had already founded Horch AG, another car brand, in the late 1800’s.


2. Canon

Canon was originally named Seikikōgaku kenkyūsho. Thankfully, it was later shortened to Canon Inc. after the Buddhist enlightened being, Guanyin, short for Guanshiyin, which means “observing the sounds of the world”, or taking pictures.

3. Ebay

Formally known as AuctionWeb (boring), the e-commerce company’s founder Pierre Omidyar brainstormed ideas for a new name when he smelled success after circumstantially selling a broken laser pointer to a broken laser pointer collector. Echo Bay, his computer consulting company, was the name he initially hoped to use, but later shortened to eBay, which it stuck.

4. Samsung

The number 3 resonates with energies of optimism, power, and inspiration. Coincidentally, Samsung is the Korean word for “tristar”, or “three stars” whose ‘hanja’ symbol symbolizes “big, numerous, and powerful.”

5. BIC

Another namesake brand, Bic was named after its founder Frenchman Marcel Bich. Marcel dropped the “h” in the name to avoid potentially inappropriate pronunciations in English, as you might’ve done so already.


6. Reddit

Not necessarily as in the past tense of read it. Reddit loosely translates to render in Latin, which means to present for consideration, an appropriate name for a site where members submit online content which is voted upon and deemed worthy of being read.

7. Etsy

You’d think this eBay spinoff of cute handmade stocking stuffers had an equally quirky origin for its name. Founder Rob Kalin admitted: “I wanted a nonsense word because I wanted to build the brand from scratch. I was watching Fellini’s 8 ½ and writing down what I was hearing. In Italian, you say ‘etsi’ a lot. It means ‘oh, yes.’ And in Latin, it means ‘and if.'”


8. Sony

This clever combo of a name derived from the Latin word sonnus, meaning sound and the English slang word sonny, meaning boy or son. Japanese founders Akio and Masaru considered themselves to be “sonny boys”, a term by Japan that connoted smart and presentable young men.

9. Volkswagen

One of the few names without Latin roots, the German word Volkswagen translates to “people’s car”, or a car that is meant to be driven by, and only by, people.

10. Starbucks

“Sundollars” was the runner up when picking a name for the future’s most successful coffeehouse house, but the winner’s story adds a better twist. Co-founder Gordon Bowker explains:

“…there was an old mining town called Starbo. As soon as I saw Starbo, I, of course, jumped to Melville’s first mate [named Starbuck] in Moby-Dick. But Moby-Dick didn’t have anything to do with Starbucks directly.”


11. Taco Bell

The history of this name isn’t as interesting as how the restaurant itself came to be. Namesake and founder Glen Bell befriended proprietors of a very popular Mexican spot in southern California called the Mitla Cafe by becoming a regular customer. After winning their confidence and invited to visit behind the scenes, Bell learned how their famous tacos were made and used what he learned to open a stand he named Taco-Tia, which later made way for El Taco, and then eventually Taco Bell. Glen made sure people always knew what he was selling.

12. Amazon 

Ironically and totally unintentionally at the end of the list, Amazon was the chosen name for the online store because it starts with an”A”, an advantage its founder found preferential due to the high chances of Amazon being at the top of an alphabetized list. Jeff Bezos originally incorporated the site as “”, but it sounded too much like “cadaver”, so he settled for a name that meant exotic and different, instead of dead body.

Related topics brands, names, origins
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