If you take a moment and look around, you’ll realize that we are literally walking billboards for some of the world’s biggest brands. We drink brand-name beverages, dress head to toe in designers labels, and occupy our time with brand-name technology and toys.
Yet many of us have no idea what those brand names actually mean. Read on to find out the true meaning behind the names of 30 of the world’s most recognizable brands…
Originally, Caleb Davis Bradham called his mixture of sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil, and nutmeg “Brad’s Drink.” A few years later, however, Bradham changed the name to “Pepsi-Cola.” He believed his drink aided indigestion, or dyspepsia, and took part of the word for his digestion drink.
Adidas doesn’t actually stand for “All Day I Dream About Soccer.” In reality, the brand is named after founder Adolf Dassler. After serving in WWI, he started making shoes and combined his nickname, Adi, with the first three letters of his last name.
Panera was chosen for loosely translating to “age of bread.” In Spanish, “pan” means bread and “era” means time or age. According to the sandwich chain’s founder, Ron Shaich, the name was also inspired by the Latin word for breadbasket.
Gap first opened its doors in 1969 and sold jeans. They picked the name as a reference to the generation gap between kids and adults.
Simply enough, the department store chain was actually named after its founder, James Cash Penney.
John F. Queeny founded the agrochemical company in 1901. He named the company after his wife, Olga Monsanto Queeny.
At first, CEO Kevin Plank was set on naming the company Body Armour, but couldn’t get the name trademarked. Soon after, his older brother accidentally called the company Under Armour, and the name stuck. Plank also chose to use the British spelling of ‘Armour’ because he was skeptical about how successful the Internet would be and thought that spelling made a better phone number.
While brainstorming with other graduate students at Stanford University, someone came up with the name “googolplex” as it is the largest named real number ever created. Someone then accidentally spelled the word wrong (google instead of googol) and it stuck.
Founder Amancio Ortego wanted to name the company Zorba after the 1964 film: Zorba the Greek. However a bar near the first store was called Zorba, so Ortega chose the closest word he could think of, which was Zara.
Founder Hans Wilsdorf set out to find a name that could be pronounced in every language. He came up with a list of over a hundred names by combining random letters, but Wilsdorf claims he settled on Rolex after “a genie” whispered the name in his ear while riding a horse-drawn omnibus in London.
IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad combined his initials, IK, with first letters of Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd, which were the farm and village in southern Sweden where he grew up.
Founder Arthur Cinader wanted to compete with Ralph Lauren’s Polo label so he chose another preppy sport (crew), and just added the letter “J” because he thought it made it sound more prestigious.
The meal-replacement drink got its name from the science-fiction novel, Make Room! Make Room! In the book, the population is sustained by a bland artificial food made of soybeans and lentils that they call soylent.
Nike’s first employee, Jeff Johnson, came up with the name Nike, from the Greek goddess of victory, to replace the company’s original name, Blue Ribbon Sports.
McDonald’s got its name from brothers Dick and Mac McDonald, who started the original burger restaurant. Raymond Kroc then set up franchises of the restaurant and bought rights to the McDonald’s name.
At first, the online store was called AsSeenOnScreen. Soon after, people started abbreviating the name to ASOS, so the British company decided to officially shorten its name to ASOS.
Founder Chip Wilson picked the name for his Canadian yoga and athletic apparel company because there were so many “L’s” in the word. “It was thought that a Japanese marketing firm would not try to create a North American sounding brand with the letter ‘L’ because the sound does not exist in Japanese phonetics. By including an ‘L’ in the name it was thought the Japanese consumer would find the name innately North American and authentic,” Wilson explained in 2009.
The toy company got its name from the Danish words “Leg Godt,” which translates to: play well. Lego also means “put together” in Latin, however, the company claims they had no idea when choosing the word.
Co-founder Jon Warnock found inspiration for the name of his company in his backyard. According to Warnock, the creek that ran behind his home was called Adobe Creek.
Originally, the drink was intended to be medicine and the name came from the two main ingredients: coca leaves and cola berries.
Originally, the camera company was called Kwanon, which was the name of the Japanese Buddhist of mercy, Bodhisattva. It was later changed to Canon to be accepted by customers from around the world.
The online auction and marketplace was originally called Echo Bay. Unfortunately, the domain echobay.com was already taken so the name was shortened to eBay.
The German personal care brand was inspired by the Latin word Niveus, which translates to “snow white.”
Wawa is actually the name of the area in Pennsylvania where the company’s first dairy farm was located. It is also the Native American word for Canada Goose, which is why the company has the animal in the logo.
Häagen-Dazs is actually a completely made up word intentionally designed to sound Danish. According to founder Reuben Mattus, a Jewish immigrant from Poland, he wanted to pay tribute to Denmark in the name of his ice-cream company since it was the only country that saved Jewish people during WWII.
Venmo was inspired by the Latin word vendo/vendere, which means “to sell.” The company settled on Venmo because it was short and could be used by users as a verb.
A University of Florida team of doctors developed the sports drink for the Florida Gators because the football team needed a drink that could help them play in the intense heat.
After Bell Atlantic and GTE merged, the company created a new name by mixing “veritas,” a Latin word meaning truth, and the word “horizon,” which signified the future.
Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezoz went through several name ideas before ultimately settling on Amazon after the world’s largest river.
According to Gordon Bowker, co-founder of Starbucks, they knew from the beginning that they wanted their name to start with the letters s and t. At one point, someone suggested the name Starbo, which was the name of an old mining town. “As soon as I saw Starbo, I, of course, jumped to Melville’s first mate [named Starbuck] in ‘Moby-Dick,’” Bowker told The Seattle Times.