Although I've never had the courage to start a business (yet), I find entrepreneurship and business very fascinating.
Coming up With a Great Business Name by Looking at Other Companies’ Names
A good business name is like a giant advertising billboard that's always in front of potential customers. It's one of the best ways to ensure your business has a chance to succeed. There is no easy way to come up with perfect names for companies, but having a big say in the naming can be a key factor. Be very careful about letting someone else do all the work. Starting a business takes passion, and coming up with a list of possible name ideas that matter to you and the future of your startup shouldn't be left in anyone's hands but yours.
I love companies with interesting names, but what I love more is learning how they came up with that name. If you know that, then coming up with a name for your company that is different and unique can be a bit easier. That's what this article is all about. Now, I know you're likely to recognize some of the names below, but I'd also be willing to bet that there will be many that you don't recognize. What you'll find are names that either currently belong to a company or have belonged to a business in the past. Most will have explanations on how the name was given, but business names that sound cool will be included even if I can't find out their story.
Some Examples of Cool Business Names
3M: This shortened name comes from the original, which was Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing.
7-Eleven: The name refers to the hours the store is open.
Adobe Systems: Inspired by Adobe Creek that ran behind the home of co-founder John Warnock.
Aflac: First letter from each word of previous name, which was American Family Life Assurance Company; the duck commercials also play an equally important role in the promotion of the company.
Akamai: The company’s name means "smart" or "clever" in Hawaiian.
Alcoa: Aluminum Company of America.
Alibaba Group: Asked a waitress what she knew about Alibaba and she said "Open Sesame", which in the story opens a secret door to a treasure room.
Amazon: Jeff Bezos said that the river was the inspiration for naming his company. The Earth's biggest river; the Earth's biggest selection.
Amgen: The original name of the company was Applied Molecular Genetics.
Ant Farm: A company that provides entertainment marketing and advertising.
Apple: The favorite fruit of the co-founder Steve Jobs, which also worked at an apple orchard.
Arby’s: From the initials of the Raffel Brothers, which were the founders.
Arm & Hammer: From the old logo of the Vulcan Spice Mills which was based on the arm and hammer of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking.
Bacardi Limited: Named after the founder Don Facundo Bacardi Masso.
Batesville Casket Company: It’s roots can be traced back to 1884 where John Hillenbrand produced handmade wooden caskets. The company was founded in Batesville, Indiana and is still headquartered there. Bought by Hillenbrand Industry in 1906 and still owned by them.
Berkshire Hathaway: This was a textile company at first formed by the merger of Berkshire Fine Spinning and Hathaway Manufacturing. Mr. Buffet purchased the business and then converted it into a holding company.
BIC: This pen company was named after Marcel Bich (one of its founders) who dropped the letter "h" to avoid mispronunciation.
Black Isle Studios: When coming up with names for movie companies the world is really at your doorstep, as the choices are endless and the name doesn't have to have anything to do with the film industry unless you want it to.
Bridgestone: Named after founder Shojiro Ishibashi. Ishibashi means “bridge of stone”.
Caterpillar: In 1925 Best Tractor merged with Holt Tractor. Someone made the comment that when the tracks were moving they resembled a caterpillar crawling.
Cheesecake Factory: Although you can order more that just cheesecake now, make no mistake, the entrepreneur decided upon this name for one reason and one reason alone - they wanted to make and sell cheesecakes.
Coca-Cola: From the coca leaves and kola nuts used to make the beverage. The creator made the K into a C because it looked better as a logo.
Comcast: From communications and broadcast.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store: A restaurant where the atmosphere fits the name; they even have rocking chairs on their porch.
Crayola: From the French word “craie”, meaning “stick of chalk” and “ola” meaning “oily”.
Criterion: Keeps lesser known movies relevant by putting them out on updated media with lots of special features. The word means "a principle or standard by which something is judged".
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eBay: Originally part of Echo Bay Technology; EchoBay.com wasn't available as a domain name so the name was shortened to the one we know today.
ESPN: Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.
Etsy: The founder wanted a meaningless word for branding purposes, so he watched a lot of foreign movies and wrote down ideas.
Facebook: These books were once given to new students to help them get to know each other better.
Ferrari: From founder Enzo Ferrari.
Fossil Group: This watch company’s name came out of the nickname of the founder’s father.
Fruit of the Loom: The name was inspired by paintings of fruit done by the daughter of a customer. The company made the name official in 1871, making it one of the world's oldest trademarks.
Fuddruckers: This hamburger joint’s name was inspired by a fake airline called Fudpucker Airlines, which was a made-up company aviation nerds have joked about for decades.
Ghostbusters: This may be a fictional company, but if it were a real one, you couldn't ask for a more precise name for a company. The logo they came up with looks awesome as well.
Ghost House Pictures: This movie production company was founded by Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert way back in 2002.
Gilead Sciences: From a name used in the bible. Instances where people and places were called Gilead.
GoDaddy: Wanted to change name from Jomax Technologies in 1999, so employees had a brainstorming session and came up with “Big Daddy”. That domain was taken, so the idea grew into “Go Daddy”. The founder Bob Parsons liked it because it made people smile.
Google: After the word googol, which means 1 followed by one hundred 0’s. Originally misspelled, but stuck with because google.com was unregistered.
Hain Celestial Group: A food company best known for it's tea, thanks to the purchase of Celestial Seasonings a few years ago.
Hallmark: Goldsmiths used the word as a “mark of quality”. The founders liked the fact that “hallmark” not only referenced quality, but also included his family name in it.
Happy Madison Productions: Its founder Adam Sandler came up with the name of the company from two of his successful movies Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison.
Hasbro: Derived from the Hassenfeld Brothers, which founded the company.
Hooters: This company name has a double meaning, referring to the owl on the logo and female breasts. The controversy does help it stay in the news somewhat... free advertising?
Hospira: Inspired by the words hospital, spirit, inspire and the Latin word spero (which means hope). The employees felt that these words should always present in healthcare.
Illinois Tool Works: A boring name and origin made more interesting because of quality products, smart management and longevity.
J.C. Penny: From the founder James Cash Penney.
Jim Henson’s Creature Shop: Named after the founder Jim Henson.
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Kenworth: Company name derived from its founders Harry Kent and Edgar Worthington.
Kickstarter: The definition of kick-start is to cause something to start quickly or to give something new energy. I can see why the founders chose the name.
Kool-Aid: Before it was called Kool-Aid, it was called Fruit Smack and came as a liquid concentrate. The name changed when the company figured out how to remove the liquid, leaving only the powder.
Kratos Defense & Security Solutions
Las Vegas Sands: A pretty self-explanatory business name, but I'm willing to bet it took a while to come up with because it's quite clever.
Lego: In Latin lego means “I put together”, but the company claims the name came from “leg godt”, which is Danish for “play well”.
Lycos: From the family of wolf spiders known as Lycosidae.
Magnum Hunter Resources Corp
Mars: The maker of Milky Way, M&M’s, Snickers, Uncle Ben’s Rice, Pedigree pet foods and more got its name from the founder of the company, Franklin Clarence Mars.
Microsoft: Bill Gates came up with this company name by what the company did, which was microcomputer software.
Mondelez International: Sometimes you can learn from bad business names. This American company wanted a name more "worldly", but with such great products like Nabisco, Chips Ahoy!, Ritz and Cadbury, it makes me scratch my head as to why they chose the name they did. You can't relate the name to the products.
Monster Beverage: The name demonstrates the kick you get after consuming the drink itself. The logo plays as key a role as the name itself.
Nabisco: Originally called The National Biscuit Company and changed to Nabisco in 1971.
Nike: In ancient Greece Nike was a goddess who personified victory.
Pandora Media: It means “all gifted” in Greek. As everyone knows, Pandora was very curious, and the company wanted a name that celebrated curious people who liked the experience of discovering new music.
Patagonia: Named after mountainous regions found in Chile and Argentina in which the founder spent time in.
Pier 1 Imports: A great name for a store that doesn't do as great as a lot of others.
Public Storage: A very spot-on name for a company that stores all the stuff that people don't have room for at their homes.
QVC: Quality, Value and Convenience.
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Raytheon: A defense company whose name means “light of the gods” in Greek.
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
Rotten Tomatoes: The name was inspired from the practice of audiences throwing rotten tomatoes when they were shown a poor performance.
Ruby Tuesday: Inspired by the song "Ruby Tuesday", which was a popular song by the Rolling Stones in the restaurants' start-up days.
Safeskin: This maker of surgical gloves has a very practical name that tells exactly what its product does.
Samsonite: This make of tough luggage was named after the biblical character, Samson, who was known for his strength.
Sealed Air: Named after the “sealed air” found in it’s number one product, Bubble Wrap.
Sony: From the Latin word sonus, which means “sound”. The fact that the name can be pronounced easily in many languages played a huge role in choosing it.
Spotify:The founders were doing a brainstorming session trying to come up with a name one day and one suggestion was misheard as “Spotify”. When it was realized that there were no Google results for the word, the duo immediately registered the name.
Starbucks: Named after a character in Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
Syfy: Was originally called the Sci-Fi channel. The name was changed because in it’s current form it could not be trademarked. Initially, people hated the change, but quickly grew to accept it.
Taco Bell: Named after its founder Glen Bell.
TCBY: Originally called “This Can’t Be Yogurt”, but a lawsuit forced the company to create different wording, “The Country’s Best Yogurt”.
Tumblr: Tumblelogs (a variation on blogs that focused on shorter posts and also used mixed media) were starting to gain a foothold when Tumblr was created. The founder Dave Karp wanted to be the first and best platform for tumblelogs, so the name seemed to fit.
Twitter: Found in a dictionary. The definition was “chirps from birds” and “a short burst of inconsequential information”, which is what the company did.
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A Good Business Name Needs A Good Logo
Your business logo will be equally as important as the name of your business as it will be the thing that gets people to notice your company. Spend just as much time coming up with a good logo as you did coming up with a good name. If you decide to hire someone to develop a logo, be sure to be vocal about what you like and don't like (and the reasons). In short, work with them in every step of the process.
More Existing Company Name Ideas to Inspire Your Company to Greatness
Under Armour: Kevin Plank originally wanted to call his company Heart, then Body Armor; both were denied trademarks. His brother one day asked him how his company idea was coming along, “uhh… Under Armor?”. He immediately filed a trademark using a U in the spelling (because he thought the phone number 888-4ARMOUR looked better than 888-44ARMOR.
Unequal Technologies: A company that has taken body armor materials used by soldiers and adapted it for use by athletes. The name is obviously a play on better materials and tech beat out the average.
Vineyard Vines: The Vineyard part of the name came from the founders spending their summers at Martha's Vineyard, while the Vines part of the name represented to them the idea of the choking necktie part of a business suit often required in a lot of their work environment.
Volkswagen: German for “people’s car”.
Voodoo Doughnut: Sometimes a cool name for your company comes out of brainstorming, plain and simple. Mix and match words until something sticks.
Warby Parker: One of the founders decided to go to an exhibit at the New York Public Library showcasing the work of Jack Kerouac. In one of his books there are two characters whose names were “Warby Pepper” and “Zagg Parker”. The company went through over 2,000 names and took almost 6 months to come up with the name they have today.
WD-40: Water displacement perfected on the 40th try.
Wells Fargo: The bank chain’s name is from its two founders, Henry Wells and William Fargo.
Wendy’s: The founder Dave Thomas named the company after his daughter’s nickname; here real name was Melinda.
Wham-O: This toy maker with products like the Slip ‘N’ Slide, slingshot and Hula Hoop was named after the sound made by slingshots hitting their marks.
Williams Sonoma: Founded by Chuck Williams in Sonoma, California.
Wizards of the Coast: The company was named after a guild of wizards from a Dungeons & Dragons campaign that the founder was playing.
Wolverine World Wide
Yum Brands: This business name may be a bit simple, but is spot on as far as describing the company as it owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
Zippo: The founder George G. Blaisdell liked the sound of the word zipper and went through variations of it until he came up with one he liked.
Zynga: This games company was named after the founders pet dog, Zinga.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2016 Don
Feel free to share any and all thoughts related to coming up with a good business name.
Don (author) from Tennessee on June 25, 2020:
To come up with a name for any business you first need to clearly define what your business does and then start making a list of words associated with that... the perfect business name will make itself known.
Ramnarine Maharaj on June 24, 2020:
a name for a health business
Don (author) from Tennessee on May 27, 2020:
How about something like the "Helpful Hammer" You could even match the color of the hammers you use and the one on your business card.
Need help on May 25, 2020:
any ideas on name for handyman
Don (author) from Tennessee on January 03, 2020:
Sweet Intimates actually sounds like a pretty cool name for a women's underwear brand. Good idea, but don't forget to look into getting a trademark for the name.
Nancy on January 02, 2020:
Do you think sweet_intimates will be nice for ready to wear brand?
Don (author) from Tennessee on July 05, 2019:
If your painting style is somewhat wild and colorful, you could go with a name like Beach Candy; if more conservative something like Sunburn might make a good name. Remember, a business name doesn't have to include what you do, but it doesn't hurt either.
Cara Freeman on July 05, 2019:
Looking for catch names for painting service. Not sure if it matters but we live at beach and do most jobs near the ocean so thought this could be incorporated but I am struggling finding something Catchy
Don (author) from Tennessee on May 03, 2019:
"Scrubbers" or Spotless Wonders" are two suggestions that popped into my head immediately. Sitting down and coming up with something that will make your company different from all the other janitorial services should give you a jump-start in coming up with a good name your business that people won't forget.
Tedi miles on May 02, 2019:
Looking for unique name for commercial cleaning business
Kristine Stephenson on October 06, 2017:
I would like to receive your opinion/feedback to give me an insight with a good business name.
I was not sure if Ecotrends is really an eye-catching title for customers to buy imported Unique Bamboo flooring, window shutters and travertine tiles for house renovations or new homes.
Should I call EcoTrends Innovations or EcoYoin ( Economic Your Inspiration).
Any Suggestions is welcome
Don (author) from Tennessee on September 10, 2017:
I'd go with the plural version, "Evie's Empire" as it sounds better when you say it out loud.
Yemi A. on September 09, 2017:
which is better for a company name....Evie's Empire or Evie Empire
Bobby on April 20, 2017:
@Sheradine... why not just CleanSweep?.. you've probably chosen something else already though... but just thinking...
Sheradine on January 12, 2017:
I started a business called 2 Broke Cousins cleaning services. (we are 2 single mums and cousins, however, my cousin has since left to go get married). I want to change the name. I'm thinking something along the lines of.... Brooming clean sweep, Making a clean sweep, Brooming clean services. I wanted something catchy and fun. My logo will need to change too.
Chevie on December 21, 2016:
I didn't see any biotech companies on here. Most of these businesses have names that are so clinical, it would be nice to have one that is easy on the tongue, if you know what I mean.
I'd love to know the name origins of some healthcare and biotech companies.
Davies on June 29, 2016:
It seems like a lot of businesses can't go wrong with using the founder's name in them, but all names don't fit with all company descriptions, do they? For example, take the fictional companies "Wayne Enterprises" or "Stark Industries"; they are kind of generic but do sound good. Something like "Cherry Industries" (I know someone who's last name is Cherry.) doesn't sound as good.