The marvelous Wikipedia has a collection of the origins of company names. A few that I found interesting (all quoted from the Wikipedia page):
- adidas – from the name of the founder Adolf (Adi) Dassler.
- Cisco – short for San Francisco. It has also been suggested that it was “CIS-co” — Computer Information Services was the department at Stanford University that the founders worked in.
- Debian – project founder Ian Murdock named it after himself and his girlfriend, Debra.
- eBay – Pierre Omidyar, who had created the Auction Web trading website, had formed a web consulting concern called Echo Bay Technology Group. “Echo Bay” didn’t refer to the town in Nevada, the nature area close to Lake Mead, or any real place. “It just sounded cool,” Omidyar reportedly said. When he tried to register EchoBay.com, though, he found that Echo Bay Mines, a gold mining company, had gotten it first. So, Omidyar registered what (at the time) he thought was the second best name: eBay.com.
- Esso – from the initials S.O. (Standard Oil of New Jersey).
- Lotus – Mitch Kapor got the name for his company from ‘The Lotus Position’ or ‘Padmasana’. Kapor used to be a teacher of Transcendental Meditation technique as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
- Lycos – from Lycosidae, the family of wolf spiders.
- Novell – Novell, Inc. was earlier Novell Data Systems co-founded by George Canova. The name was suggested by George’s wife who mistakenly thought that “Novell” meant “new” in French. Nouvelle is the feminine form of the French adjective ‘Nouveau’. “Nouvelle” as a noun in French is “news”.
- Nintendo – Nintendo is composed of 3 Japanese Kanji characters, Nin-ten-do the first two of which can be translated to “Heaven blesses hard work”; do is a common ending for any store.
- Red Hat – Company founder Marc Ewing was given the Cornell lacrosse team cap (with red and white stripes) while at college by his grandfather. People would turn to him to solve their problems, and he was referred to as ‘that guy in the red hat’. He lost the cap and had to search for it desperately. The manual of the beta version of Red Hat Linux had an appeal to readers to return his Red Hat if found by anyone.
- Six Apart – company co-founders Ben and Mena Trott were born 6 days apart (in September 1977).
- Smart – Swatch + Mercedes + Art
- Sprint – from its parent company, “Southern Pacific Railroad INTernal Communications”. Back in the day, pipelines and railroad tracks were the cheapest place to lay communications lines, as the right-of-way was already leased or owned.
- Starbucks – named after Starbuck, a character in Herman Melville’s whaling novel, Moby-Dick.
- Volvo – From the Latin word “volvo”, which means “I roll”.
- Zend – an combined acronym from the names of Zeeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans, the two founders of Zend Technologies (http://www.zend.com).
For those who might wonder, silverorange is named after its founder, Sir. Herbert Silver Bertrand Orange, III, Esq.