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How Famous Business Names Originated

Have you always wondered the history behind the naming of some famous brands? Well this post if for you then.

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Naming your start-up business is no easy task. You want the name to be easy to remember, but also unique so it’s synonymous with your business only and not driving business to a competitor. So let’s look at how some of the most famous businesses named their companies.


Top fast-food brand, Wendys is the world’s third-largest hamburger fast-food chain just behind Burger King and the leader, McDonalds. However, it’s iconic in its’ own right Wendys was the first to introduce the salad bar. Just think how many restaurants near you now have a salad bar.

Foundered by Dave Thomas in 1960 his first restaurant opened in Columbus, Ohio in 1969. So what you’re all wanting to know is how did it get its name? Wendys was named after Dave Thomas’s daughter. Most naming is at some level personal and this successful franchise is a good example of just how personal the naming of the brand was for its founder.


Walmart generates the most annual revenue (over $500 billion) and it’s held the number one spot for over a decade. But has it always been known as Walmart or were its beginnings more humble?

The answer is yes. Sam Walton the founder of the business named his first store Walton’s Five and Dime (5 & 10) back in 1950 and it wasn’t until 1962 that the name changed to Walmart. If you break the name down you get ‘Wal’ that must be after Walton as in Sam Walton the founder and ‘Mart’ as in the market. It’s a catchy name Walmart, and it’s unique too and clearly, it’s a winner as the business is a huge success more so in the USA but also with a good footing in other countries too like Canada and Mexico and as far away as Australia.

Not all business names have a personal story some are just plucked out of thin air, or so it seems, here’s a couple worth mentioning:


Richard Branson’s Virgin brand is an interesting choice of name and brand for a business, but there’s a good reason behind it. Richard Branson is a Serial Entrepreneur and a creator. He’s flown by the seat of his pants with all his startups with zero formal training nor much in the way of business education, however, there’s no doubting his success. He is a billionaire so however he’s done it, Virgin has worked out very well.

So where did that name come from? It’s thought to have been mentioned in a conversation with a friend in saying: “we’re complete virgins at business”. Well, that might have been true in all their ventures some failed while most not only survived they thrived and there’s no mistaking that name wherever it’s used.


Like a lot of successful brands, it may be used now more as a ‘verb’ as in virgin it, though other brands are more known as verbs now like e.g. Google – most of us have at some time said: “just google it”.

Talking of the name: Google – where did that come from? It turns out it’s play on a mathematical term as in “googol,” which is 1 with 100 zeros after it. So arguably it’s the misspelling of “googol”.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a name for your startup is likely to keep you awake at night. Take some inspiration from businesses that have been in your position and somehow work out a business name that would last the distance. Many businesses do change their name too so if the one you’ve chosen isn’t working don’t be afraid to change it. Or if for some reason you need to rebrand, do it as it happens to be a good marketing ploy to improve a damaged reputation.