Here's what 15 of the most popular brand names really mean

You're wearing your favorite Nike sneakers and Lululemon pants when you head to the mall to do some shopping at the Gap. On your way there you grab a latte at Starbucks.

After a few good hours of shopping, you head to Panera to meet a friend for lunch. You Venmo her for the meal and then you both decide dessert is in the cards: Next stop, Häagen-Dazs.

All these brands are staples in our lives. But do you have any idea what their names actually mean? We're here to help.

Click through for the meaning behind 15 brand names:

What 15 brand names really mean
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What 15 brand names really mean
Panera is a portmanteau of the words "pan" and "era."

According to Panera's Facebook page, the sandwich chain's name "has Latin and Spanish roots."

In Spanish, "pan" means bread and "era" means age or time. So put together, Panera means "age of bread."

Ron Shaich, the founder of Panera, also told Fortune the name comes from the Latin word for breadbasket. 

Adidas isn't an acronym for "All Day I Dream About Soccer."

If you, like me, thought Adidas stood for "All Day I Dream About Soccer," you're wrong. Turns out it, the athletics apparel brand is named after its founder Adolf Dassler, who started making sport shoes when he came back from serving in World War I, according to the LA Times. The name combines his nickname, Adi, and the first three letters of his last name. 

Lululemon means nothing at all. And it's intentionally hard to pronounce.

Lululemon founder Chip Wilson came up with the yoga wear brand's name because he thought Japanese people wouldn't be able to pronounce it. 

He wrote in 2009:

It was thought that a Japanese marketing firm would not try to create a North American sounding brand with the letter “L” because the sound does not exist in Japanese phonetics. By including an “L” in the name it was thought the Japanese consumer would find the name innately North American and authentic.

In essence, the name “lululemon” has no roots and means nothing other than it has 3 “L’s” in it.  Nothing more and nothing less.

ASOS is an abbreviation of AsSeenOnScreen.

The British online retailer was founded as AsSeenOnScreen in 1999 and lived at The abbreviation ASOS — which, by the way, is pronounced ACE-OSS — quickly caught on and the website was shortened to

Soylent gets its name from a sci-fi novel.

Soylent — that meal replacement drink that's a Silicon Valley favorite — got its name from the science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room!, which is about how population growth depletes the world's natural resources. In the book, soylent is a blend of soybeans and lentils.  

Gap refers to the generation gap between adults and kids.

The first Gap store opened in 1969 with the goal of selling good jeans. The name referred to the generation gap between adults and kids. 

Wawa is named after an area of Pennsylvania.

The convenience store chain's name means two things: 1) It's the name of the area in Pennsylvania where the company's first dairy farm was located. 2) It's a Native American word for a Canada Goose (the one pictured in the company's logo).

Häagen-Dazs may sound Danish, but it's completely made up.

Reuben Mattus, a Jewish immigrant from Poland, named his ice cream company Häagen-Dazs as a way to pay tribute to Denmark, according to an interview with the Jewish news publication Tablet Magazine. But the name doesn't actually mean anything.

“The only country which saved the Jews during World War II was Denmark, so I put together a totally fictitious Danish name and had it registered,” Mattus said. “Häagen-Dazs doesn’t mean anything. [But] it would attract attention, especially with the umlaut.” 

JCPenney is named after its founder whose name is just too good to be true.

With a name like James Cash Penney, it's as if the retail founder was born to make money.   

Nike is the Greek goddess of victory.
Gatorade was developed for the Florida Gators.

A team of doctors at the University of Florida developed the sports drink for the Florida Gators football players who were struggling to play in the heat.  

Venmo was inspired by a dead language.

Andrew Kortina, founder of digital payments app, writes on Quora:

"When we were brainstorming names, one of the roots we were exploring for inspiration was the Latin, vendo/vendere, 'to sell.' As soon as we said venmo, we liked it because it was short and made for a good verb: 'Just Venmo me for dinner.'"

Under Armour decided to use the British spelling because it made a better phone number.

The name Under Armour came about somewhat accidentally, according to the Washington Post's interview with CEO Kevin Plank. Plank said he had landed on the name Body Armor, but couldn't get the name trademarked. He told the Post:

"I was a bit dejected, but I had lunch plans that afternoon with my oldest brother, Bill. So, I show up to pick him up, knock on the door, and he looks down at me the way only an older brother can look at a younger brother, and he asks, “How’s that company you’re working on, uhh. . .Under Armor?” 

So how did Under Armour end up with that weird spelling?

"The reason we added the 'U' in 'Armour' is that I was skeptical at the time about whether this whole internet thing would stick," Plank told The Post. "So I thought the phone number 888-4ARMOUR was much more compelling than 888-44ARMOR. I wish there was a little more science or an entire marketing study behind it, but it was that simple."

Starbucks is named after a character in Moby-Dick.

In an interview with The Seattle Times, Starbucks co-founder Gordon Bowker told the story of how they arrived at the name. At first, they were going through a list of words beginning with "st" because they thought those were powerful. 

"Somebody somehow came up with an old mining map of the Cascades and Mount Rainier, and there was an old mining town called Starbo," he said. "As soon as I saw Starbo, I, of course, jumped to Melville's first mate [named Starbuck] in Moby-Dick." 

J. Crew's name set it up to compete with Ralph Lauren's Polo line.

According to Forbes, "The name Crew was picked to compete with Ralph Lauren’s Polo label and [founder Arthur] Cinader added the J because he thought it added [cachet]."

Makes sense. Polo and crew are both pretty preppy sports. 


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