Company Name Etymologies

The times they are a-changin’.

This post seems to be older than 19 years—a long time on the internet. It might be outdated.

List of company name etymologies:

This is a list of company names with their name origins explained. Some
origins are disputed.

  • Adobe – came from name of
    the river Adobe Creek that ran behind the house of founder John Warnock.

  • Apache
    It got its name because its founders got started by applying patches to code
    written for NCSA’s httpd daemon. The result was ‘A PAtCHy’ server — thus, the
    name Apache.
  • Apple – favourite fruit of
    founder Steve Jobs. He was three months late in filing a name for the business,
    and he threatened to call his company Apple Computers if his colleagues didn’t
    suggest a better name by 5pm. Apple’s Macintosh is named after a popular variety
    of apple sold in the US.
  • Canon – from Kwanon the
    Buddhist god of mercy. The name was changed to Canon to avoid offending
    religious groups.

  • Casio – from the name of its founder,
    Kashio Tadao who had set up the company Kashio Seisakujo as a subcontractor
  • Cisco – its not an
    acronymn but its the short for San Francisco.

  • Compaq – using Comp, for computer, and
    paq to denote a small integral object.
  • Corel – from the founder’s name Dr.
    Michael Cowpland. It stands for COwpland
    REsearch Laboratory.

  • Daewoo – the company founder Kim Woo
    Chong called it Daewoo which means "Great Universe" in Korean.

  • Exxon – a name contrived by Esso
    (Standard Oil of New Jersey) in the early 70s to create a neutral but
    distinctive label for the company. Within days of announcement of the name,
    Exxon was being called the "double cross company " but this eventually subsided.
  • Fuji – from the highest Japanese mountain
    Mount Fuji

  • Google – the name started as a jokey
    boast about the amount of information the search-engine would be able to search.
    It was originally named ‘Googol’, a word for the number represented by 1
    followed by 100 zeros. After founders – Stanford grad students Sergey Brin and
    Larry Page presented their project to an angel investor, they received a cheque
    made out to ‘Google’ !
  • Haier – Chinese 海尔
  • HP – Bill Hewlett and Dave
    Packard tossed a coin to decide whether the company they founded would be called
    Hewlett-Packard or Packard-Hewlett.
  • Hitachi – stands for "sunrise" in
  • Honda – from the name of its founder,
    Soichiro Honda

  • Honeywell – from the name of
    Mark Honeywell founder of Honeywell Heating Specialty Co. It later merged with
    Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company and was finally called Honeywell Inc. in
  • Hotmail – Founder Jack Smith got the
    idea of accessing e-mail via the web from a computer anywhere in the world. When
    Sabeer Bhatia came up with the business plan for the mail service, he tried all
    kinds of names ending in ‘mail’ and finally settled for hotmail as it included
    the letters "html" – the markup language used to write web pages. It was
    initially referred to as HoTMaiL with selective upper casing.

  • Hyundai – means "present time" in
  • IBM – started by an ex employee of National
    Cash Register. To one-up them in all respects he called his company
    International Business Machines.

  • Intel – Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore
    wanted to name their new company ‘Moore Noyce’ but that was already trademarked
    by a hotel chain, so they had to settle for an acronym of
    INTegrated ELectronics.
  • Kawasaki – from the name of its
    founder, Shozo Kawasaki

  • Kodak – Both the Kodak camera
    and the name were the invention of founder George Eastman. The letter "K" was a
    favourite with Eastman; he felt it a strong and incisive letter. He tried out
    various combinations of words starting and ending with "K". He saw three
    advantages in the name. It had the merits of a trademark word, would not be
    mis-pronounced and the name did not resemble anything in the art. There is a
    misconception that the name was chosen because of its similarity to the sound
    produced by the shutter of the camera.

  • Konica – it was earlier known as
    Konishiroku Kogaku. Konishiroku in turn is the
    short for Konishiya Rokubeiten which was the
    first name of the company established by Rokusaburo Sugiura in the 1850s.

  • LG – combination of two popular Korean brands
    Lucky and Goldstar.
  • Lotus – Mitch Kapor got the
    name for his company from ‘The Lotus Position’ or ‘Padmasana’. Kapor used to be
    a teacher of Transcendental Meditation technique as taught by Maharishi Mahesh
  • Microsoft – coined by Bill Gates
    to represent the company that was devoted to MICROcomputer SOFTware. Originally
    christened Micro-Soft, the ‘-‘ was removed later on.

  • Mitsubishi – name coined by
    founder Yataro Iwasaki in 1870. It means "three diamonds" in Japanese. The three
    diamonds also make up the company’s logo.
  • Motorola – Founder Paul Galvin
    came up with this name when his company started manufacturing radios for carss.
    Many audio equiptment makers of the era used the "ola" ending for their
    products, most famously the "Victrola" phonograph made by the Victor Talking
    Machine Company.

  • Mozilla Foundation
    From the name of the web-browser that succeeded Netscape Navigator. When Marc
    Andreesen, founder of Netscape,
    created a browser to replace the Mosaic browser, it was internally named Mozilla
    (Mosaic-Killer, Godzilla).

  • Nabisco – Formerly The National
    Biscuit Company, changed in 1971 to Nabisco.
  • Nikon – the original name was
    Nippon Kogaku, meaning "Japanese Optical".

  • Nintendo – Nintendo is composed of
    3 Japanese Kanji characters, Nin-ten-do which can be translated to "Heaven
    blesses hard work"

  • Nissan – the company was earlier known
    by the name Nichon Sangio which means
    "Japanese industry".
  • Nokia – started as a wood-pulp mill, the
    company expanded into producing rubber products in the Finnish city of Nokia.
    The company later adopted the city’s name.

  • Novell – Novell, Inc. was
    earlier Novell Data Systems co-founded by George Canova. The name was suggested
    by George’s wife who mistakenly thought that "Novell" meant "new" in French.

  • Oracle – Larry Ellison
    and Bob Oats were working on a consulting project for the CIA (Central
    Intelligence Agency). The code name for the project was called Oracle (the CIA
    saw this as the system to give answers to all questions or some such). The
    project was designed to help use the newly written SQL database language from
    IBM. The project eventually was terminated but Larry and Bob decided to finish
    what they started and bring it to the world. They kept the name Oracle and
    created the RDBMS engine. Later they kept the same name for the company.
  • Red Hat – Company founder Marc
    Ewing was given the Cornell lacrosse team cap (with red and white stripes) while
    at college by his grandfather. People would turn to him to solve their problems,
    and he was referred to as ‘that guy in the red hat’. He lost the cap and had to
    search for it desperately. The manual of the beta version of Red Hat Linux had
    an appeal to readers to return his Red Hat if found by anyone.
  • Sanyo – The Japanese translation is disputed,
    although the Chinese name is "三洋" (literally, "Three Oceans")

  • SAP – "Systems, Applications,
    Productss in Data Processing", formed by 4 ex-IBM employees who used to work in
    the ‘Systems/Applications/Projects’ group of IBM.

  • SCO – from Santa Cruz
    Operation. The company’s office was in Santa Cruz, California. It became the
    eventually licensor for Unix (via Unix Systems Labs and then Novell), and
    eventually went bankrupt. The assets were purchased by Caldera Inc (itself a
    spin off of Novell) and Caldera changed its own name back to SCO. It is this SCO
    which has sued IBM and others, asserting its ownership of the copyright to Unix
    source code.
  • Siemens – founded in 1847 by
    Werner von Siemens.
  • Sony – from the Latin word ‘sonus’ meaning
    sound, and ‘sonny’ a slang used by Americans to refer to a bright youngster.
  • Subaru – from the Japanese name for
    the star cluster known to Westerners as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. This star
    cluster features on the company’s logo.

  • SUN – founded by 4 Stanford
    University buddies, SUN is the acronym for Stanford University Network.
  • Suzuki – from the name of its founder,
    Michio Suzuki

  • Tesco – Founder Jack Cohen, who from
    1919 sold groceries in the markets of the London East End, acquired a large
    shipment of tea from T. E. Stockwell and made new labels by using the first
    three letters of the supplier’s name and the first two letters of his surname
    forming the word "TESCO".
  • Toshiba – was founded by the merger
    of consumer goods company Tokyo Denki (Tokyo Electric Co) and
    electrical firm Shibaura Seisaku-sho (Shibaura Engineering

  • Toyota – from the founder’s name
    Sakichi Toyoda. Initially called Toyeda, it was changed after a contest for a
    better-sounding name. The new name was written in eight Japanese letters, a
    number that is considered lucky in Japan.
  • Xerox – The inventor, Chestor Carlson,
    named his product trying to say `dry’ (as it was dry copying, markedly different
    from the then prevailing wet copying). The Greek root `xer’ means dry.

  • Yahoo – the word was invented by
    Jonathan Swift and used in his book Gulliver’s Travels. It represents a
    person who is repulsive in appearance and action and is barely human. Yahoo!
    founders Jerry Yang and David Filo selected the name because they considered
    themselves yahoos. However, Yahoo! today claims a sort of backformed acronym —
    Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.
  • 3MMinnesota Mining and Manufacturing
    started off by mining the material corundum used to make sandpaper.

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Update: Fixed misformed URLs