The surprising origins of brand names

Many common company names once started as acronyms for longer—sometimes cheeky—organization monikers. Do you know where these brand names come from?


Consumers are exposed to anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 brand mentions per day. Yet when it comes to the brands you are most familiar with, you might not know the simplest things about them.

Consider M&Ms. They’re the small chocolate candy many consumers have eaten since childhood. M&Ms are ubiquitous—but until recently, I never thought about what the “M” might stand for.

Here are some brands that are mostly known by acronyms or initialisms. (Definitions courtesy of Wikipedia.) Do you know their origins?

1. Aflac — American Family Life Insurance Company

2. AT&T — American Telephone & Telegraph

3. CAPTCHA — Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart

4. Cisco — an abbreviation for San Francisco

5. COMPAQ — Compatibility and Quality

6. CVS Pharmacy — Consumer Value Stores

7. eBAY — Echo Bay Technology Group

8. eos — Evolution of Smooth

9. Epcot — Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow

10. ESPN — Entertainment and Sports Programming Network

11. FIAT — Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Italian automobile factory of Turin)

12. IKEA — Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd (the initials of the company’s founders and the name of his hometown)

13. Intel — Integrated Electronics

14. LG — Lucky Goldstar (combination of two popular Korean brands)

15. M&Ms — Mars & Murrie’s (the last names of the candy’s creators)

16. Mattel – a combination of the founders’ names, Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler

17. NERF — Non Expandable Recreational Foam

18. OPI — Odontorium Products, Inc.

19. PAM — Product Arthur Meyerhoff

20. Pepsi — named after pepsin, a digestive enzyme

21. Smart car — Swatch Mercedes Art

22. Sprint — Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Communications

23. TASER — Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle

24. TIME magazine — The International Magazine of Events

25. WD-40 — Water Displacement-40th attempt

26. YAHOO — Yet Another Hierarchical Official Oracle

How many of these did you know, PR Daily readers? Do you have any others to add to the list?

A writer and editor from Austin, Texas, Laura Hale Brockway is also a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her work at

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