The Stories Behind The Names of 20 Tech Giants You Know

We are bombarded by so many different brand names every day, and if you spend your days in the Internet often enough, these names become second nature to you. A big part of the success of a product lies in its name; you want one that can define what you are selling, a name that rolls off the tongue and is easy to remember.

Have you ever wondered why the founders or makers decided to give their site, service or product that name? Why Ubuntu, or Etsy or Kindle? Well, we did some digging and found the reason behind the names of these famous tech brands.

We’re skipping the obvious, like Netflix, Pinterest and Facebook because you can’t get any simpler than that. But for the rest of them, let’s just say some names are easier to come up with than others.


The founder elected for something "exotic and different" and chose Amazon, pulling references between the big Amazon river and what he envisions his company to be – real big.


It was between status, jitter and twitch, but when the founders saw the definition for twitter as they moved down the dictionary entries, they knew they had found a winner – "short burst of inconsequential information, and chirps from birds".


Baidu was picked off the last line of an 800-year old classical Chinese poem which ended with the poet finding the woman he had been searching high and low for.

Literally, it is translated as hundreds of times, but in context, it meant a persistent search, for the ideal.


When the founders noticed a shift from blogging to tumblelogs: shorter posts bearing mixed media, they were inspired to call their platform Tumblr.


The site was a place for deviants to play with their creativity, producing deviations of artwork.


Kindle means ‘to light a fire’ and the Kindle e-reader was meant to rekindle the excitement of reading and gaining new knowledge.


They wanted a name to describe the act of ‘recording’ something ‘right here, right now’.


It rhymed with book. Yup.


Foursquare’s founder wanted a fun and playful name. He wasn’t kidding.

His first attempt at social networking was called Dodgeball.


Nokia started out as a wood pulp mill in the mid 1800’s.

Its second mill was built on a river called the Nokianvirta, and the Finnish company took part of the river’s name as its own.

For some brand names, they came to be because the original names were already taken. Names, such as:


Digg was supposed to be Diggnation, but ended up shortened to Dig.

Since the name was taken by Disney, they added another ‘g’ to turn it to Digg.


eBay was supposed to be a much longer name: Echo Bay Technology Group

After being shortened to Echo Bay, the founder had to change it to because, you guessed it, EchoBay was taken.


Originally Sky-Peer-to-Peer, it became Skyper but had to do away with the r since the name had already been taken.


Someone else had so the founders dropped an ‘e’ to keep the name.

It turned out pretty well for them since they spell flickr over the phone a lot, making the name stick out and easy to remember.


Square was Squirrel until its founder saw a POS system by a company called Squirrel System at the Apple cafeteria where he had lunch in.

Square was chosen as the card readers were in that shape, plus it referred to cleared payments – Are we square?

Then there is the third group, which borrowed words from foreign languages.


Ubuntu is a Zulu word that means "Humanity to Others", a pretty noble notion for open source software, and hence the perfect fit.


Sam was three and sung was stars. In Korean, the three points towards "big", "numerous" and "powerful".

Samsung has big ambitions.


Etsy meant "Oh, yes" in Italian, "and if" in Latin.

The founder picked it up from an Italian movie he was watching.


Jumla (in Swahili) means "All Together" or "As a Whole", and was chosen from thousands of suggestions.

The name was tweaked a bit for a phonetic alternative.


Wiki meant "quick" in Hawaiian and the word was actually a mash-up with part of the word encyclopedia.

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