A rose by any other name would smell as sweet… but a Lego by any other name probably wouldn’t sell quite as well. Branding and marketing are often about saying as much as you can in limited space, and nowhere is that more true than in a company name. The right sequence of letters makes an ordinary household product exotic or an overpriced commodity accessible. Sometimes, it stirs up an entire legal quagmire by becoming a transitive verb. So, what’s in a name? As it turns out, quite a bit.


Stack of multi-color Lego arranged in a rainbow pattern
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Depending on your age and night vision, Lego is either the creative toy that sparked your childhood creativity or a modern-day torture device for your feet. In spite of its capacity to pierce your supple flesh, the Danish toy also has a knack for rolling off the tongue – “Lego.” But what on Earth does it mean? Lego is simply a derivation of the Danish phrase for play good: “Leg godt.”


eBay headquarters and sign in Silicon Valley, California
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Remember the last time you tried to register an email account and 68 other users happened to have had your same taste for pop-cultural references or even your last name and first initial? If it’s any consolation, you are not alone. As business picked up for the burgeoning site Auctionweb, founder Pierre Omidyar officially changed the name to Echobay after his consulting firm. Unfortunately that domain name was already taken, so Omidyar had to shorten it — hence, eBay.


Reebok sign and logo outside of a bright retail store in Chonburi, Thailand
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Something about your running shoes signifies freedom and elegance. At the end of a long shift or a hard day, heading out for a jog takes you back to something primal and liberated – even if you're huffing and puffing and soaking your t-shirt to the last thread. What else signifies freedom and elegance? Antelope, which are what the name Reebok is derived from. The Afrikaans word for “antelope” is “rheebok.”


Up close view of Pepsi can and ice-filled glass against a blue and red backgrond
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Depending on who you ask, Pepsi is either the only acceptable soft drink or the bane of humanity. As it turns out, the Coke-Pepsi rivalry extends back to the origins of the brand. When Pepsi-Cola was founded in 1904, Caleb Davis Bradham sought to offer a healthier beverage without the stimulants present in Coca-Cola. Originally sold in a drug store in North Carolina as “Brad’s Drink,” Bradham went for a rebranding when the business took off. “Pepsi” was derived from the word “dyspepsia,” which means “indigestion”; the name was meant to suggest that the drink had medicinal properties that might aid digestion. Pepsi wasn’t just a soft drink. It was a lifestyle.


Apple store logo on a glass retail building in Frankfurt, Germany
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Steve Jobs was known for his meticulous approach to design. He was so tuned in to the minutiae of perfectionism that an entire generation of technology was forever revolutionized, forging an empire in the process. You would imagine that such a man would put tremendous thought into the name of his company.

And you would be entirely mistaken. After visiting an apple farm during one of his stints on a fruitarian diet, Jobs decided to name his company Apple because it sounded fun and approachable. That’s it. That’s the end of the story.


Up close view of white Häagen-Dazs sign outside of a retail store in Shanghai, China
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The name Häagen-Dazs conjures up images of rosy-cheeked Danes churning butter in sun-kissed fields with happy cows roaming on the horizon. It’s the kind of imaginary place where you would go to get straight to the source of creamy, painstakingly-crafted tubs of decadent ice cream. As it turns out, it was a mom-and-pops shop in the Bronx, and the name means approximately nothing. "Häagen-Dazs" is a made-up word to make the ice cream sound foreign and luxurious.