Sports shoe with the Nike logo

The secret histories behind 35 wellknown brand names

By James Wan

What you need to know (in a nutshell)

  1. The meanings behind 35 well-known brand names are finally explained in this article.
  2. Many brand names have interesting histories or meanings, such as Nike being named after the Greek goddess of victory and Fanta being created from the German word for imagination.
  3. Some brand names are derived from the founders’ names, such as Adidas being a portmanteau of the founder’s name Adolf (Adi) Dassler, while others are chosen for their connotations, such as Dasani being meant to evoke pureness and replenishment

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Ever heard the acronym Durex or wondered what Nike stands for? 7Brands’ infographic offers insights into these and other well-known brand names, such as their meanings and origins.

Nike targets those striving for triumph; its name is derived from the Greek goddess of victory.

The leader of Coca-Cola Germany’s meeting directed his staff to use their creativity and from this directive, Fanta was born.

Nintendo’s origin is disputed among fans, with one interpretation being ‘Leave luck to heaven’.

Samsung’ is derived from the Korean words ‘sam’, which means three, and ‘sung’ meaning star. It symbolises something that’s large in number and strong - hence the name ‘tristar’ or three stars.

In Greek mythology, Apollo gifted Pandora with music.

Hyundai, meaning ‘modernity’ in Korean, is renowned for its car production but also manufactures parts and equipment used by the aerospace, steel and engineering industries.

Nivea, Latin for “snow white”, is represented by the light hue of its skin cream.

The Cadillac brand was inspired by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, a French explorer and founder of Detroit. The name serves as an emblem for adventure and exploration.

Consumer research indicated that the fictitious name Dasani suggested cleanliness and renewal, yet after its ill-fated debut in Britain numerous people have jested it means ‘tap water which has been through a filter’.

Reebok was the name given to J.W Foster and Sons by its founder’s grandson, who found it in a South African dictionary for an antelope known as grey rhebok.

Aldi comes from combining Albrecht (Karl and Theo, the founders’ surnames) with Diskont - which is German for ‘discount’.

Trojan, America’s most popular condom brand name was inspired by the Trojans’ reputation for sexual prowess. Just don’t bring up computer malware!

Durex - The British condom brand abbreviated from Durable Reliable Excellence.

The origin of the name Starbucks is uncertain, with one tale proposing it was derived from Starbuck in Moby-Dick. Nevertheless, co-founder Gordon Bowker claims someone read “Starbo” on an old mining map and adapted that.

Jagermeister, meaning ‘master of hunters’ in German, has a hunting motif; its label displays an ode by a hunter and invokes Saints Hubertus and Eustace - patrons of huntsmen.

Lego is derived from the Danish phrase “leg godt” meaning ‘play well’.

Volkswagen, which means ‘People’s Car’ in German, was created to make the roads of Germany accessible for all.

Tresemme is said to be derived from Edna Emme, a renowned hairstylist. It’s also phonetically similar to the French phrase tres-aime meaning “much loved”.

Pantene - The Swiss shampoo brand magnified its essential ingredient, panthenol (pro-vitamin of B5), discovered by researchers in WWII.

Sony - A combination of the Latin word for ‘sound’ and a Japanese term referring to young, clever men that was adopted by its founders.

Contrary to the misconception, Adidas is not an acronym of ‘All Day I Dream About Sports’; rather it’s a combination of Adi (Adolf) Dassler’s name.

The name ”Virgin” for Richard Branson’s business was proposed by an employee as they were all inexperienced.

Reddit - A pun on ‘read it’, the website’s name has a coincidental link to Latin and means ‘render’ (‘submit for approval’), which is what Redditors do.

Gillette’s female counterpart is Venus, which is analogous to the Roman Aphrodite - the Greek goddess of love, sex and fertility.

PEZ originated from Pfefferminz, which is German for peppermint and was first flavoured as such. There are now over twelve flavours available to choose from.

George Eastman created ’Kodak’, a nonsensical word, to be used as the company’s trademark; his criteria for its selection were that it should have few letters, could not be misspelled and held no meaning. He also had an affinity for the letter K.

Kiichiro Toyoda founded Toyota, which underwent a name alteration in 1937. This was due to the meaning of toyoda being ‘fertile rice paddies’.

The umlauts in the American ice cream brand, Haagen-Dazs, were used to make it sound foreign and emphasize its quality.

De Spar (Dutch for ‘the spruce’) is an acronym of Door Eendrachtig Samenwerken Profiteren Allen Regelmatic (‘Through united co-operation everyone regularly profits’). This also explains the tree in their logo.

Volvo, a subsidiary of a ball bearing firm, gets its name from Latin’s “I roll”.

Nikon is derived from Nippon Kogaku, meaning Japanese Optical; this makes sense as the firm is renowned for its cameras.

Kalin, the founder of Etsy, told Reader’s Digest that he wanted an invented name and thus looked to foreign films for ideas. During one movie mishearing ‘eh si’ (Italian: ‘oh yes’) as ‘etsi’, the company was born.

Subaru, derived from Japanese to mean ‘unite’, alludes to the Greek myth of a cluster of stars said to be Atlas’ daughter - a titan in astronomy and navigation.

The name ’Lufthansa’ is derived from two German words – Luft (air) and Hansa (Hanseatic League, a trading alliance in Northern Europe between the 14th-16th centuries).

Verizon was formed from the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, combining “veritas” (Latin for the truth) with horizon symbolising integrity, respect, imagination and passion.