The Origin of Brand Names

The science behind brand names 

The History of Branding 

The origin of brand names and the concept of branding dates back to ancient times. The first recorded brand name is often attributed to “Stella Artois,” a beer brand established in 1366. This early example of branding demonstrates the timeless importance of a name in establishing identity and trust.

The journey of brand naming across different industries offers a fascinating glimpse into the history and evolution of consumer culture. Let’s delve deeper into some notable early brands in various sectors:


  • Ford (1903): Named after its founder, Henry Ford, this brand revolutionised the automotive industry with the introduction of assembly line production.
  • Mercedes (1902): Originally a product name, Mercedes became synonymous with luxury and quality in the automotive world. The name was adopted from Mercedes Jellinek, the daughter of businessman Emil Jellinek who was an influential figure in the early days of the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft.

Food and Beverages

  • Coca-Cola (1886): Derived from its two key ingredients at the time, coca leaves and kola nuts, Coca-Cola has become one of the most recognised and iconic brands globally.
  • Heinz (1869): Founded by Henry John Heinz, this brand became synonymous with quality and purity, especially known for its “57 varieties” slogan.

Clothing and Apparel

  • Levi’s (1873): Founded by Levi Strauss, this brand became famous for its durable denim jeans, a staple of American fashion.
  • Burberry (1856): Established by Thomas Burberry, it initially focused on outdoor attire and later became renowned for its iconic trench coat and check pattern.


  • Cartier (1847): Founded in Paris by Louis-François Cartier, the brand quickly gained fame for its exquisite jewellery and watches, becoming synonymous with luxury.
  • Tiffany & Co. (1837): Known for its luxury jewellery, particularly diamond and sterling silver pieces, Tiffany & Co. established its brand with a focus on elegance and high-quality craftsmanship.

Miscellaneous Consumer Goods

  • Colgate (1806): Initially a starch, soap, and candle business, Colgate established itself early in the field of oral hygiene products.
  • Singer (1851): The Singer brand became a household name for sewing machines, symbolising innovation and reliability in home appliances.


These early brands set the foundation for the origin of brand names and modern marketing in brand development. Their names, often derived from founders, key ingredients, or product characteristics, have become deeply ingrained in consumer consciousness, transcending their origins to symbolise trust, quality, and heritage across various industries.


Linguistic origins

this is 12 yellow post it notes, all have ? on them and one has a lightbulb

Deciding a name can be tricky


Similar Structures in World-Famous Brands

Many of the world’s biggest brands share common structural elements in their names. Consider how “Google,” “Apple,” and “Amazon” all possess a certain rhythmic quality, often with strong vowel sounds that are easy to remember and pronounce globally. This is no accident but a calculated effort to create a universal appeal.

Linguistic Roots: Latin, German, and Greek

Linguistic, the origins of brand names are as diverse as the products they represent. Latin, for instance, gives us “Audi” (from “audire,” meaning “to listen”), while German roots are evident in “Adidas,” named after its founder, Adolf “Adi” Dassler. Greek origins appear in “Nike,” named after the Greek goddess of victory.

The Power of Metaphoric Brand Names

Metaphoric brand names use imagery to convey the essence of the brand. “Red Bull,” for instance, conjures images of energy and strength, aligning perfectly with the brand’s energetic image. “Apple,” too, is metaphorical, symbolising knowledge and discovery.

Eponymous Brands: To Be or Not to Be?

Eponymous brands, named after their founders or significant figures, are a classic choice. Brands like “Ford” and “Disney” carry the legacy of their founders’ names. However, this approach can sometimes limit the brand’s narrative to the persona of the individual.

Neologisms: Creating New Meanings

Neologisms involve inventing entirely new words. “Spotify,” a blend of “spot” and “identify,” is a prime example. These names are unique and memorable, giving brands a fresh identity.

Toponymous Brands: A Sense of Place

Toponymous brands, derived from geographical locations, like “Cisco” (from San Francisco) or “Adobe” (from Adobe Creek), anchor the brand to a specific place, often indicating their origins or inspirations.

Adjectives and Nouns: Descriptive and Concrete

Using adjectives or nouns for brand names can be both descriptive and catchy. “Sharp” portrays the brand’s cutting-edge technology, while “Amazon” suggests vastness and diversity. These names are straightforward yet powerful.

Brand Name Taxonomy

Brand name taxonomy is an intricate field, combining elements from linguistics, marketing, and psychology to craft names that resonate. The choice between using neologisms, eponyms, or metaphoric names hinges on the brand’s desired image and the message they wish to convey.

When crafting a brand name, understanding the nuances of semantics, sonics, and symbolism can greatly enhance the brand’s appeal and memorability. Each of these aspects plays a unique role in how a brand is perceived and experienced by consumers.

Semantics: The Meaning Behind the Name

  • Semantics refers to the meaning conveyed by words and phrases. In brand naming, semantics involves choosing a name that not only reflects the essence of the brand but also resonates with the target audience.
  • Example: Google, derived from ‘googol’ (a mathematical term for a 1 followed by 100 zeros), reflects the brand’s mission to organise vast amounts of information. The name is semantically rich, suggesting scale, vastness, and infinity.

Sonics: The Sound and Rhythm of a Name

  • Sonics in brand naming pertain to the sound and rhythm of the name when spoken aloud. A well-chosen sonic structure can make a brand name more memorable and engaging.
  • Example: Coca-Cola’s rhythmic and alliterative sound makes it not only easy to pronounce but also gives it a musical quality that enhances its memorability.

Symbolism: Evoking Images and Associations

  • Symbolism in brand naming involves using names that evoke certain images, feelings, or associations. Symbolic names can be powerful in creating a strong brand identity and emotional connection with consumers.
  • Example: Nike, named after the Greek goddess of victory, symbolises winning, athleticism, and excellence. The name evokes a powerful symbolic association that aligns with the brand’s identity.

Integrating Semantics, Sonics, and Symbolism

  • The most effective brand names often seamlessly integrate semantics, sonics, and symbolism. This integration ensures that the name is meaningful, sonically pleasing, and evokes the desired associations or emotions.
  • Example: Apple – The name is semantically simple, symbolises knowledge and innovation (evoking the biblical story of Adam and Eve and the apple), and has a crisp, clear sonic quality. This integration has helped Apple become a globally recognised brand, synonymous with innovation and simplicity.

In the world of branding, understanding and applying the principles of semantics, sonics, and symbolism can significantly enhance the effectiveness of a brand name. These elements work together to create names that are not just labels but powerful tools for brand storytelling and customer engagement.



Inqdrop Branding Agency

Jim Boulton Owner of Inqdrop


In a recent live chat, I had the opportunity to discuss the origin of brand names and the nuances of brand naming with Jim Boulton from Inqdrop, a renowned name branding agency. Jim emphasised the importance of a name in capturing a brand’s essence and setting the tone for its future growth and perception. You can watch the very interesting chat in the video above.


The origin of brand names is a fascinating blend of creativity, strategy, and linguistic expertise. From the ancient beginnings to modern neologisms, the journey of brand naming reflects the evolving landscape of commerce and culture. As we continue to witness the emergence of new brands, the significance of a well-chosen name remains as relevant as ever. At Miles Marketing we partner with experts like Inqdrop to give our customers the very best services. Do you need a new brand name? or a name for a product? If so contact us today.




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