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Ever wondered how great names like Nike, Mercedes and Google come from? Did they just pop out of nowhere? Or was there a premeditated strategy behind their evolution? I remember reading this great quote by Thomas C. Haliburton

“Nicknames stick to people, and the most ridiculous are the most adhesive.”

That is exactly the case with famous brands like Yahoo, Google, Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Their names have such a connotation that they stick to our minds with ease and simplicity. But how to determine which name would be ideal for your company? There are many styles of naming a company. Some famous brands are named after their owners while others are suggestive in nature. Following are 8 universal style in which a company name is shaped:


1 .Actual Names:

The most common style of naming a company is after the name of a real person. The real person might be the owner/founder of the brand, son/daughter of the owner or maybe a celebrity liking. But the name is real and genuine and not made-up. For example:

• Ford – Named after founder, Henry Ford.

• Mercedes -  First name of the daughter of Emil Jellinek, engineer of the car.

• Boeing – Named after founder William Boeing

• Dell – Named after founder Michael Saul Dell

• Getty Images – Named after founder Mark Getty


2 .Invented Names:

Another creative style of shaping a company name is by inventing a word that sounds pleasant and catchy. One of the reasons for fabricating a name is to sound foreign (known as foreign branding). Another reason could be that the made-up word is a common term and memorable. For example:
• CISCO – Not an abbreviation but short for San Francisco

• Haagen-Dazs – Made-up name to give it a foreign sound, has no meaning

• Meebo – No documented history behind the name.

• Dr. Pepper –Not named after a real doctor, just a made-up character.

• Yahoo! – Founders liked the meaning of the word. "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle” is not an acronym but a backronym

3 .Analogies and Metaphors:

One of the most trendy styles of coming up with a corporate name is using metaphors and analogies. Analogy is basically a term that bears resemblance, one way or another, to your business nature. Although the name itself might have no relation to your business, but it would clearly explain your business purpose. For example:
• Apple – Told to be the favorite fruit of Steve Jobs or for the time he worked at an apple orchard.
• Caterpillar - A company photographer resembled tractor’s movement to a caterpillar.

• Adobe - From the Adobe Creek that ran behind the house of co-founder John Warnock.

• Fuji – Named after Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan

• Virgin – Suggestion from a student saying “the company was virgin at business”.

4 .Abbreviations:

One of the most convenient ways of naming a company is by abbreviating the name. It is beneficial of your corporate name is lengthy and also increases the level of recall of the brand. Some acronyms are pronounced individually while others are pronounced as a single word. Like my blog acronym GDB (Graphic Design Blog) is pronounced G, D, B separately. Other examples include:
• FCUK – French Connection United Kingdom

• ESPN -Entertainment and Sports Programming Network

• BMW - Bayerische Motoren Werke

• DKNY – Donna Karan New York

• bebo - Blog Early, Blog Often

5 .Conjunctions:

When you are running out of a single word to name your company with, try using a conjunction. Mixing two words together to form a new word is helpful especially when your business nature is extensive to describe. Examples are:

• Microsoft - Microcomputer + Software
• Intel - Integrated Electronics
• Netscape - Net+ Landscape
• Skype – Sky + Peer-to-Peer
• Wikipedia - wiki + encyclopedia

6 .Derived:

Sometimes company names are formed out of a long and protracted strategy. The decision makers of the name use terms of different origins to connote their business to it. Popular terminologies include words derived from Greek, Latin and other mythical jargon. For Example:
• Nike – Named after the Greek goddess of victory.

• Xerox – Derived from the Greek xeros (dry) and graphos (writing)

• Volvo – From the Latin word volvo, which means "I roll"

• Starbucks – Named after Starbuck, a character in Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick

• Coca-Cola – Derived from the coca leaves and kola nuts used as flavoring

7 .Word Jumble:

When words are not enough to express your business nature, try combining a few numbers as well. It adds more attraction and ease to the company name. Moreover, using numbers work as a contraption. Like for the term “three” one can use the digit “3” instead to shorten the name. Some examples are:
• 3Com – Network technology producer; the three coms are computer, communication, and compatibility

• 7-Eleven – Convenience stores; renamed from "U-Tote’m" in 1946 to reflect their newly extended hours, 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m

• 3M – From the company’s original name, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company

• 7-UP – A subsidiary brand of Pepsi Co.
• 20th Century Fox - Merger of William Fox’s Fox Film and Twentieth Century Pictures.

8 .Playing with words:

On rare occasions company name just don’t come out as they were originally intended to be. Deliberately or accidentally the company plays with words and a new name is born. Sometimes, they are changed because another company already exists by that name. Sometimes a mistake or typo creates another word that generates more attraction. I’d like to call this the ‘twist of fate’ technique.
• Google – An originally accidental misspelling of the word googol.

• - "Digg" was used instead of "Dig" because the domain name "" was previously registered.

• Reebok – Alternate spelling of rhebok (Pelea capreolus), an African antelope.

• Harpo Productions – Production Company founded by Oprah Winfrey. Harpo is Oprah backwards.

• Adidas - Mixing up the founders name (Adolf (Adi) Dassler).
Which of these 8 ways you would use to name your brand or company? Does any other interesting way clicks your mind…let’s add to the list, it’ll be fun!!

  1. Jessica Lee On October 1st, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Very interesting! Thank you for another great post! Where do you find all this info? I’m just curious… Do you just do your own research? I’ve been regularly reading your posts, and some of them are about things that I probably would have never known unless I read your blog…which is why I keep coming back to your blog. :)

  1. Chike On October 2nd, 2010 at 4:44 am

    Great article!! I used a foriegn (Japanese ) name for mine.

  1. Maarten Lodewijk On October 3rd, 2010 at 4:08 am

    Doesn’t apple also refer to the apple of Isaac Newton? Meaning that apple is the “Source of knowledge”.
    ( )

  1. Jeremy Garrison On October 3rd, 2010 at 10:38 am

    This is cool to know I see how company do it now.

  1. inspirationfeed On October 3rd, 2010 at 10:54 am

    This article is awesome, never knew many of the meanings.

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  1. Sean McCambridge On October 3rd, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Great post. It’s fun to see the roots of so many names.

    A couple of things:

    -”Xerox – derived from the Greek xeros (dry) and graphos (writing)” — I don’t see where graphos appears in that.

    -20th C. Fox logo isn’t there — I just see a Getty Images logo.

    But great post nonetheless. Found it on design Follow.

  1. Smashing Buzz On October 4th, 2010 at 1:46 am

    productive article. thanks

  1. Graphic Design Toronto On October 4th, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Adidas: All Day i dream about Sports :)

  1. Subsidie On October 5th, 2010 at 3:38 am

    Some very nice examples. I agree that the most ridiculous names stick the best, also smaller names in my opinion.

  1. order button designer On October 5th, 2010 at 10:28 am

    inspirationfeed : I totally same experienced with u, never know about this facts!

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  1. kelsey @ sonicprint & direct mail On October 13th, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    wow this was a very interesting read. thanks!

  1. Magento Themes On October 26th, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    This is a great article for naming a company.thanks so much for providing such informative article.Most of the time it will be a problem how to name a country it will reduce the time.
    thanks for cute information.

  1. Tricks to Creating a Name « Zoom Creates Blogs On November 4th, 2010 at 3:51 pm

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  1. Lee Agosila On December 13th, 2010 at 10:22 am

    thanks for this wonderful post!, i add this site to my lists!

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  1. Sonam Bareda On January 26th, 2011 at 2:00 am

    Great Information…will be very useful for making logo’s ….Thx.

  1. Tim Mahoney On April 26th, 2011 at 8:47 am

    As Jessica said - it would be interesting to know where all the info came from. Cool article, though. Thanks!

  1. 15 Famous Brands That Don’t Sell What They Tell! « Joe The Flow On June 5th, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    [...] are several ways of naming a company. Some brands use the actual names of the product that they sell, while others use the name of the [...]

  1. da_ec On October 8th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Very interesting. i thought some of those names are meaning much when they set up the company. turns out that it’s all coincidences. Cool !

  1. Joshua Parkhurst On January 27th, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    So interesting to know! Kinda makes me feel more confident about my business name!

  1. AimBin On March 14th, 2012 at 6:29 am

    I have read this article….. a good one… but I have also found some interesting material at

    regarding history behind naming brands… Thought you people might like it…

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