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Why Did They Name it That?

Posted on Mon, July 27,2015 @ 9:38 AM

At sometime in just about everyone’s life, we are asked to help name something. It might be a pet, a child, a bicycle, a car, an event, a new product or even a new company.

The name we choose might be creative or gibberish, but often the story behind the name is as good as or better than the name itself.

“My mom overheard the doctor in the delivery room and thought, ‘wow, that sounds pretty,’” said Ashley-Fontanelle, in explaining how she got her name.

In all seriousness, just researching company names gives one an idea of the thought and motivation (and often, work) that goes into naming an entity today. Below, we highlight a few well-known companies by naming convention “categories” to share insights into how they arrived at their identities.

First in listings
It wasn’t long ago that phone books and other print directories were how businesses were found, and numerous companies named themselves to be near the top of the list.

Your very own ABC Signup was named with directories (especially online) in mind and to give an idea of what the product did and how it simplified registration management. AAMCO, while also a quasi-acronym for Anthony A. Martino Company, was named for its founder with alphabetical order benefits in mind.

And Apple, per Steve Jobs, got its name “Partially because I like Apples a lot and partially because Apple is ahead of Atari in the phonebook and I used to work at Atari.”

The list of acronym-based company names, government agency names, sports leagues and so on goes on long past this blog’s word count or attention span. Here are three company names that most folks wouldn’t guess were actually acronym-based.

  • GEICO is the shortened, almost acronym for Government Employees Insurance Company.
  • Yahoo! Is actually an acronym for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.
  • Sprint is shortened from Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Communications.

Some companies just stumble upon their name. Spotify’s Swedish founders, for instance, were kicking around names and one of the suggestions was misheard as “Spotify,” which ultimately stuck.

Literal origins or evolutions
A lot of names just make sense, even though many of us wouldn’t know it until reading up on the topic.

AMC theatres, for example, stands for American Multi-Cinema, as the company pioneered multi-screen cinemas. Tire manufacturer Bridgestone is named after founder Shojiro Ishibashi, whose last name translates to bridge of stone. Skype, founded in Estonia, was originally named Sky-Peer-to-Peer, then shortened to Skyper, then to Skype.

Here’s two more, for kicks. Ebay was initially part of the Echo Bay Technology Group, but the URL was taken, so they simply shortened it. Hasbro is a shortened version of Hassenfeld Brothers, its two founders.

Foreign language
Many common brands in the U.S. are products of a foreign language. This includes numerous Japanese technology firms and icons such as Volkswagen (German for people’s car) and Lego (which comes from the Danish words leg godt, which means to play well).

A number of popular names arose from more humble beginnings.

Amazon, for example, was originally incorporated in 1994 as Cadabra (because the retail site would be “like magic”) but went online in 1995 with the name Amazon to represent the world’s biggest river – and to get away from a name that could be misheard as “cadaver.”

Nike was founded as Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964 to represent the blue ribbon one wins for finishing first. In 1978, it was renamed to Nike after the Greek goddess of victory.

And in 1946, when its new business hours changed to 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., U-Tote’m changed its name to 7-11.

Not all names were forged from a think tank, divine inspiration, a Latin root word or deliberate misspelling to attain an available URL.

Adobe was simply named for the creek which ran behind the company co-founder’s house. Sharp is named after the firm’s first product, the ever-sharp pencil. Wendy’s was named after founder Dave Thomas’ daughter Melinda (she was nicknamed Wendy), and Starbucks was named after the first mate in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Back story
Some names get a little more interesting when you know the back story.

Take IBM, for instance. Its founder, Tom Watson, Sr., sought to trump his former employers, National Cash Register, by naming his company International Business Machines (since shortened to the IBM acronym). The Virgin name associated with so many of Richard Branson’s businesses was suggested by a friend, who claimed they were “complete virgins at business.” And Google represents a deliberate misspelling of the word Googol, which in turn represents the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes (to convey the huge amount of data the site intended to make available).

False origins
If you heard that Arby’s was named for the enunciation of the initials for roast beef, or that Adidas was an acronym for “All Day I Dream About [fill in the blank],” you heard wrong. Arby’s does stand for the initials “RB,” as in its founders, the Raffel Brothers. And Adidas simply incorporates (and shortens) the nickname and surname of its German founder, “Adi” Dassler.

Those are a few of the more interesting company name “back stories” we’ve run across. If you have a naming story you would like to share related to your organization or programs, feel free to post it in the Comments section below. If you would like more information about registration software and ABC Signup, please email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Some of the information sources used for this article include,, and




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