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How 30 famous companies got their names

Last updated on: August 22, 2013 10:48 IST

How 30 famous companies got their names

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Ever wonder why Narayana Murthy and co-founders named the IT bellwether Infosys or how Azim Premji thought of Wipro?

Many believe that Adidas is an acronym for All Day I Dream About Sports but its not true.

Here are fascinating stories of how 30 famous companies got their names.

Apple

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, co-founders of the company, wanted to beat Atari - a successful technology company at that time.

They chose Apple because it came before Atari alphabetically and would appear before the rival in the phone book.

Jobs, who had come back from an Oregon apple farm, thought the name was fun spirited and not intimidating.

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Image: Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Photographs: Norbert von der Groeben/Reuters

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Adidas and Puma

Adidas was founded in 1948 by Adolf Dassler. Earlier, he was running a company called Gebruder Dassler with his brother Rudolf. After World War II there was a rift between the brothers and they split the company.

Adolf Dassler, who was also called Adi, named his company Adidas on his name Adi Dassler. The brother named his company as Ruda based on his name but later rebranded it as Puma.

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Image: A woman walks past an Adidas shop at a shopping district in Beijing.
Photographs: Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters

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Adobe

The company name comes from Adobe Creek in Los Altos, California, which ran behind the houses the company's founders - Charles Geschke and John Warnock.

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Image: An Adobe logo and Adobe products are seen reflected on a monitor display.
Photographs: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

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Amazon.com

The company started as Cadabra but was later renamed Amazon after one of the largest rivers in the world the Amazon River.

The company founder Jeff Bezos wanted the name to represent the potential for a larger volume of sales.

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Image: View of the reception of Amazon Europe Holding Technologies in Luxembourg.
Photographs: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

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Audi

The name is based on the company’s founder August Horch. The translation for Horch is Audi in Latin, which means ‘listen’.

The four rings of the Audi logo, each represent one of four car companies that banded together to create the company, according to Wikipedia.

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Image: Burlesque artiste Dita von Teese of the US poses in front of the new model Audi TT car during its UK launch in London.
Photographs: Stephen Hird/Reuters

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Canon

The company was originally incorporated as Seikikogaku Kenkyusho which translates to Precision Optical Industry Co. Ltd. In 1947 the company renamed itself Canon based on its first 35mm camera the Kwanon.

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Image: Models pose with Canon's "EOS Kiss Digital X" SLR camera, at the Canon headquarters in Tokyo.
Photographs: Toshiyuki Aizawa/Reuters

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Coca-Cola

The name was derived from the coca leaves and kola nuts originally used as flavouring. The K in Kola was replaced with a C for marketing purpose.

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Image: A promotion lady holds a new 425 ml Coca-Cola bottle during an event.
Photographs: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

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eBay

The site was originally called as AuctionWeb and it belonged to the founder’s consulting firm Echo Bay Technology Group. When the founder, Pierre Omidyar, tried to register the domain name EchoBay, it was already taken. He shortened it to eBay.

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Image: Muralikrishnan B., eBay India's Country Manager, poses for a photo at the company's head office in Mumbai.
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters

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Facebook

The name stems from a directory used at American universities that consists of individual’s name and photographs. These directories are colloquially called facebooks or face books. These are given to students at the start of the academic year by university administrations.

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Image: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gestures while speaking to the audience during a media event at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
Tags: American

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The founders had originally named the search engine as BackRub because the system checked backlinks to estimate the importance of a site.

The name Google was an accidental misspelling of the word googol, which is a large number equivalent to ten raised to the power of hundred.

They wanted to name the service as googol to signify that the search engine was intended to provide large quantities of information.

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Image: The Google logo is seen on a door at the company's office in Tel Aviv.
Photographs: Baz Ratner/Reuters
Tags: BackRub

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HCL

The name stands for Hindustan Computer Limited, a company co-founded by Shiv Nadar.

Shiv Nadar used to jointly run a company called Microcomp Limited that manufactured scientific calculators. The promoters of Microcomp used money from this venture to start a computer manufacturing business. The company was called Hindustan Computer Limited.

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Image: People walk in front of the HCL Technologies Ltd office at Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi.
Photographs: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters

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IBM

The company was originally called Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company or C-T-R. The company’s president Thomas J. Watson, Sr. renamed the company as International Business Machines in 1924 to align its name with the growth and extension of its activities.

Under his leadership that company’s operations spread rapidly to markets such as Europe, South America, Asia and Australia. Watson felt that a new name was needed to reflect the growth and company’s expanding product lines.

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Image: A view of IBM headquarters at la Defense in Paris.
Photographs: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

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Infosys

The name is short form of information system.

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Image: Employees of Indian software company Infosys walk past Infosys logos at their campus in the Electronic City area in Bangalore.
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters
Tags: 1

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Lenovo Group

For 20 years since its incorporation, the company was called Legend. Yang Yuanqing, who had served as chairman, decided to rename the company when it was drawing up plans to expand outside China.

The original name of the company was quite common in other parts of the world. It became difficult for Lenovo to register its original name in many geographies and it changed its name.

The company retained ‘Le’ of Legend and added ‘novo’, a Latin word for 'new'.

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Image: Lenovo Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Yang Yuanqing (R) speaks while attending a news conference on the company's annual results.
Photographs: Bobby Yip/Reuters

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Microsoft

The company’s co-founder, Paul Allen, came up the name which is a combination of two words microcomputer and software.

Initially it was hyphenated as ‘Micro-Soft’. Later the company dropped the hyphen.

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Image: People visit the Microsoft booth at the 2013 Computex exhibition at the TWTC Nangang exhibition hall in Taipei.
Photographs: Pichi Chuang/Reuters

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Nikon

The company was founded as Nippon Kogaku Kogyo Kabushikigaisha, which translates to Japan Optical Industries Corporation.

It was later renamed Nikon merging Nippon Kogaku (meaning Japan Optical) and Ikon - a brand by Zeiss, according to Wikipedia.

In fact, Zeiss had even complained that Nikon violated its trademarked camera and that’s why some of the company’s products were sold as Nikkor.

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Image: Models pose with Nikon Corp's camera Nikon 1 J1 at its unveiling ceremony in Tokyo.
Photographs: Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters

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Nokia

The company gets its name from the town of Nokia situated on the bank of  Nokianvirta River in Finland.

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Image: People visit the Nokia area at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Photographs: Albert Gea/Reuters

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Oracle

The name of the company comes from the code name of a CIA project, which the founders had all worked on while at the Ampex Corporation.

Started by Larry Ellison, Bob Miner and Ed Oateshad, the company was initially called Software Development Laboratories.

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Image: The company logo is shown at the headquarters of Oracle Corporation in Redwood City, California.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

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Pepsi

The inventor of the soft drink Caleb Bradham initially sold it as Brad's Drink. He wanted to create a drink that aids digestion and boost energy.

He later renamed the drink as Pepsi Cola. It was called so based on the digestive enzyme pepsin and kola nuts used in the recipe.

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Image: Bottles of Pepsi cola are seen in a display at PepsiCo's Investor Meeting event in New York.
Photographs: Mike Segar/Reuters

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Qualcomm

The name is short form of Quality Communications.

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Image: People sit next a Qualcomm stand at the Mobile World Congress at Barcelona.
Photographs: Albert Gea/Reuters
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Reebok

The name comes from the Afrikaans spelling of rhebok, a type of African antelope or gazelle.

Reebok was first incorporated as J.W. Foster and Sons based on the founder’s name Joseph William Foster.

According to Wikipedia, Foster’s grandsons renamed the company as Reebok in the United Kingdom, having found the name in the dictionary that was a South African edition and carried this spelling.

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Image: A customer enters the Reebok outlet store in Stoughton, Massachusetts.
Photographs: Brian Snyder/Reuters

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Skype

The name Skype is derived from the expression sky peer-to-peer, which was shortened to Skyper and then to Skype.

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Image: A page from the Skype website is seen in Singapore.
Photographs: David Loh/Reuters

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Sony

The name comes from Latin word sonus which means sound. It’s founders Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka also thought it’s apt because of the English world ‘sonny’.

The founders considered themselves to be "sonny boys", a word Japanese borrowed from English to describe smart and presentable young men, according to Wikipedia.

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Image: The logo of Sony Corp. is seen at an electronics store in Tokyo.
Photographs: Toru Hanai/Reuters

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Starbucks

The company’s name is based on a character in Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick.

Originally the company was to be called Pequod, a whaling ship in Moby-Dick. The co-founders, Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl, rejected the name and instead named it after the chief mate on the whaling ship.

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Image: A Starbucks drink is seen on a table in New York's Times Square.
Photographs: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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Twitter

The founders were looking for a word that captures the whole buzzing of phone in a person’s pocket when someone updates their status.

The first name they came up with was twitch but they didn’t like it. After looking up in the dictionary they came across the word twitter that means “a short burst of inconsequential information” and they immediately liked it, as that’s what the service represented.

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Image: A Twitter page is displayed on a laptop computer in Los Angeles.
Photographs: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
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Virgin

The name Virgin, according to Branson (in his autobiography), arose from Tessa Watts, a colleague of his, when they were brainstorming business ideas.

She suggested Virgin - as they were all new to business - like "virgins".

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Image: Virgin Group head Richard Branson (L) and explorer Chris Welch stand on the crows nest of the Cheyenne, a 38m (125 ft) catamaran at a news conference in Newport Beach, California.
Photographs: Alex Gallardo/Reuters

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Vodafone

The name is combination of the words voice, data and telephone.

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Image: A worker replaces fluorescent lights on a Vodafone billboard in New Delhi.
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters
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Volkswagen

In German, Volkswagen means people’s car.

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Image: A model poses with the new Volkswagen's "Vento" during its launch in New Delhi.
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters

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Walmart

The name comes from its founder Sam Walton. The company was incorporated as Wal-Mart Stores (Wal-Mart hyphenated) to represent Walton’s Mart and later the hyphen was dropped.

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Image: Two people walk outside a Wal-Mart store in Mexico City.
Photographs: Edgard Garrido/Reuters

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Wipro

The name is acronym for Western India Palm Refined Oil the company started by Azim Premji’s father Mohamed Hasham Premji.

It was set up as a manufacturer of vegetable ghee, vanaspati, and refined oils.


Image: Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro Ltd., smiles during a news conference in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.
Photographs: Jagadeesh N.V/Reuters

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