The Origins of All 30 NBA Team Names

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Why is a team in Los Angeles nicknamed the Lakers, and what are the Jazz doing in Utah? Here's the story behind the nicknames of all 30 NBA teams.

Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta Hawks
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In 1948, the cities of Moline and Rock Island, IL, and Davenport, IA—collectively known as the Tri-Cities at the time—were awarded a team in the National Basketball League. The team was nicknamed the Blackhawks, who, like Chicago's hockey team, were named after the Sauk Indian Chief Black Hawk. When the team moved to Milwaukee in 1951, the nickname was shortened to Hawks. The franchise retained the shortened moniker for subsequent moves to St. Louis and finally Atlanta in 1968.

Boston Celtics

Kyrie Irving
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Team owner Walter Brown personally chose Celtics over Whirlwinds, Olympians, and Unicorns (yes, Unicorns) as the nickname for Boston's Basketball Association of America team in 1946. Despite the warnings of one of his publicity staffers, who told Brown, "No team with an Irish name has ever won a damned thing in Boston," Brown liked the winning tradition of the nickname; the New York Celtics were a successful franchise during the 1920s.

Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn Nets
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The New Jersey Americans joined the American Basketball Association in 1967 and moved to New York the following season. The team was renamed the New York Nets, which conveniently rhymed with Jets and Mets, two of the Big Apple's other professional franchises. Before the 1977-78 season, the team returned to New Jersey but kept its nickname. In 1994, the Nets were reportedly considering changing their nickname to the Swamp Dragons to boost its marketing efforts. The franchise relocated to Brooklyn in 2012.

Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets
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The three finalists in the name-the-team contest for Charlotte's 2004 expansion franchise were Bobcats, Dragons, and Flight. Owner Bob Johnson was fond of BOBcats, but some of the league's players were less than impressed. "It sounds like a girls' softball team to me," Steve Kerr told reporters at the time. "I guess it shows there aren't many good nicknames left to be had." Perhaps Kerr was right. Bobcats became the Charlotte Hornets in 2014, reuniting the city with its previous NBA franchise's original nickname.

Where did Hornets come from? In 1987, George Shinn and his ownership group announced that Spirit would be the nickname of Charlotte's prospective expansion franchise. Fans voiced their displeasure, and it didn't help that some fans associated the nickname with the PTL Club, a Charlotte-based evangelical Christian television program that was the subject of an investigative report by the Charlotte Observer for its fundraising activities. Shinn decided to sponsor a name-the-team contest and had fans vote on six finalists. More than 9000 ballots were cast and Hornets won by a landslide, beating out Knights, Cougars, Spirit, Crowns, and Stars. Afterwards, Shinn noted that the nickname had some historical significance; during the Revolutionary War, a British commander reportedly referred to the area around Charlotte as a "hornet’s nest of rebellion."

Chicago Bulls

Robin Lopez
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

According to the Chicago Bulls Encyclopedia, team owner Richard Klein was brainstorming nicknames for his new franchise in 1966 and wanted a name that portrayed Chicago's status as the meat capital of the world. Another theory is that Klein admired the strength and toughness of bulls. Klein was considering Matadors and Toreadors when his young son exclaimed, "Dad, that's a bunch of bull!" The rest is somewhat dubious history.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Lebron and Wade
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Fans voted Cavaliers the team nickname in 1970 in a poll conducted by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. The other finalists included Jays, Foresters, Towers, and Presidents. The Presidents nickname was presumably an allusion to the fact that seven former U.S. Presidents were born in Ohio, second only to Virginia. Jerry Tomko, who suggested Cavaliers in the contest, wrote, "Cavaliers represent a group of daring fearless men, whose life pact was never surrender, no matter what the odds." (Tomko's son, Brett, went on to become a Major League pitcher.)

Dallas Mavericks

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

A Dallas radio station sponsored a name-the-team contest and recommended the finalists to team owner Donald Carter, who ultimately chose Mavericks over Wranglers and Express. The 41 fans who suggested Mavericks each won a pair of tickets to the season opener and one of those fans, Carla Springer, won a drawing for season tickets. Springer, a freelance writer, said the nickname "represents the independent, flamboyant style of the Dallas people." That's certainly an apt description for current team owner Mark Cuban.

Denver Nuggets

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Denver's ABA team was originally known as the Rockets. When the team was preparing to move to the NBA in 1974, they needed a new nickname, as Rockets was already claimed by the franchise in Houston. Nuggets, an allusion to the city's mining tradition and the Colorado Gold Rush during the late 1850s and early 1860s, was chosen via a name-the-team contest.

Detroit Pistons

Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Pistons trace their roots to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where they were known as the Zollner Pistons. What's a Zollner Piston? A piston manufactured by then-team owner Fred Zollner, who named the club after his personal business. When the team moved to Detroit in 1957, Zollner dropped his name from the nickname but retained Pistons. The name was fitting for the Motor City.

Golden State Warriors

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Warriors, named after the 1920s team that played in the American Basketball League, won the championship in the inaugural 1946-47 season of the Basketball Association of America. The Warriors moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco after the 1961-62 season and retained their nickname. When the team relocated across the Bay to Oakland in 1971, they were renamed the Golden State Warriors.

Houston Rockets

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets originally called San Diego home. Rockets was chosen via a name-the-team contest and was a reference to the city's theme, "A City In Motion." Liquid-fueled Atlas rockets were also being manufactured in San Diego. When the team moved to Houston in 1971, it made perfectly good sense to keep the name, as Houston was home to a NASA space center.

Indiana Pacers

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

According to Michael Leo Donovan's book on team nicknames, Yankees to Fighting Irish: What's Behind Your Favorite Team's Name, the Pacers' nickname was decided upon in 1967 by the team's original investors, including attorney Richard Tinkham. The nickname is a reference to Indiana's rich harness and auto racing history. Pacing describes one of the main gaits for harness racing, while pace cars are used for auto races, such as the Indianapolis 500.

Los Angeles Clippers

Harry How/Getty Images

When the NBA's Buffalo Braves moved to San Diego in 1978, the owners wanted to rebrand the team with a new nickname. They settled on Clippers, a popular type of ship during the 19th century. San Diego had been home to the Conquistadors/Sails of the ABA during the 1970s. Donald Sterling bought the Clippers during the 1981-82 season and relocated them to his native Los Angeles in 1984. He lost all respect in San Diego but kept the Clippers name.

Los Angeles Lakers

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

How many natural lakes are there in Los Angeles? The short answer: Less than 10,000. When a pair of investors relocated the Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League to Minneapolis before the 1947 season, they sought a name that would ring true with the team's new home. Given that Minnesota is "The Land of 10,000 Lakes," they settled on Lakers. When the Lakers moved to Los Angeles before the 1960 season, their nickname was retained, in part because of the tradition the team had established in Minnesota.

Memphis Grizzlies

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

When Vancouver was awarded an expansion franchise in 1994 to begin play the following season, the team's owners had tentative plans to name the team the Mounties. The Royal Mounted Canadian Police and fans alike objected, so team officials resumed their search for a name. The local newspaper sponsored a name-the-team contest, which club officials monitored before choosing Grizzlies, an indigenous species to the area, over Ravens. When the team relocated to Memphis before the 2001-02 season, FedEx was prepared to offer the Grizzlies $100 million to rename the team the Express, but the NBA rejected the proposal.

Miami Heat

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

In October 1986, the owners of Miami's expansion franchise selected Stephanie Freed's Heat submission from more than 20,000 entries, which also included Sharks, Tornadoes, Beaches, and Barracudas.

Milwaukee Bucks

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Despite Wisconsin’s hunting tradition, the most popular entry in the contest to name Milwaukee’s NBA franchise wasn’t Bucks. It was Robins. The judges overruled the public and decided on a more indigenous (and much stronger) name. The choice could have been much worse: Skunks was among the other entries.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The ownership group for Minnesota's prospective franchise chose Timberwolves through a name-the-team contest in 1986. The nickname beat out Polars by a 2-1 margin in the final vote, which was conducted in 333 of the state's 842 city councils. Tim Pope, who was one of the first fans to nominate Timberwolves, won a trip to the NBA All-Star Game. Pope submitted 10 nicknames in all, including Gun Flints. "I thought a two-word name would win," he told a reporter. The most popular entry in the contest was Blizzard, but the team wanted a nickname that was more unique to its home state. "Minnesota is the only state in the lower 48 with free-roaming packs of timber wolves," a team official said.

New Orleans Pelicans

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Soon after Tom Benson purchased the New Orleans Hornets in 2012, the team announced they were going to change their name. According to Marc J. Spears, they "considered the nicknames Krewe (groups of costumed paraders in the annual Mardi Gras carnival in New Orleans) and Brass," but settled on Pelicans—after the brown pelican, Louisiana's state bird.

New York Knicks

J Pat Carter/Getty Images

The term "Knickerbockers" referred specifically to pants rolled up just below the knee by Dutch settlers in the New World during the 1600s. Many of these settlers found homes in and around New York City, where a cartoon drawing of Father Knickerbocker became a prominent symbol of the city. In 1845, baseball's first organized team was nicknamed the Knickerbocker Nine and the name was evoked again in 1946 when New York was granted a franchise in the Basketball Association of America. Team founder Ned Irish reportedly made the decision to call the team the Knickerbockers—supposedly after pulling the name out of a hat.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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When the Seattle SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season, fans voted on potential nicknames from an original list of 64 possibilities. Thunder was chosen over Renegades, Twisters, and Barons, and the name was extremely well received. The team set sales records for the first day after the nickname was revealed. "There's just all kinds of good thunder images and thoughts, and the in-game experience of Thunder," team chairman Clay Bennett told reporters. The SuperSonics had been named for the Supersonic Transport (SST) project, which had been awarded to Boeing. The company has a large plant in the Seattle area.

Orlando Magic

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

When the Orlando Sentinel sponsored a name-the-team contest for Orlando's prospective expansion franchise, Challengers—an allusion to the space shuttle that crashed in 1986—was the most popular suggestion. Other entries included Floridians, Juice, Orbits, Astronauts, Aquamen, and Sentinels, but the panel of judges, including Orlando team officials who reviewed the suggestions, decided to go with Magic. The name is an obvious nod to the tourism-rich city's main attraction, Disney World.

Philadelphia 76ers

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The Syracuse Nationals were relocated to the City of Brotherly Love in 1963 and the team was renamed the 76ers, an allusion to the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia in 1776.

Phoenix Suns

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

General manager Jerry Colangelo, only 28 at the time, settled on a name for his expansion franchise using a name-the-team contest in 1968. Colangelo chose Suns over Scorpions, Rattlers, and Thunderbirds, among the other suggestions included in the 28,000 entries. One lucky fan won $1,000 and season tickets as part of the contest, which included such obscure entries as White Wing Doves, Sun Lovers, Poobahs, Dudes, and Cactus Giants.

Portland Trail Blazers

Steve Dykes/Getty Images

In 1970, Portland was granted an expansion franchise in the NBA and team officials announced a name-the-team contest. Of the more than 10,000 entries, Pioneers was the most popular, but was ruled out because nearby Lewis & Clark College was already using the nickname. Another popular entry was Trail Blazers, whose logo is supposed to represent five players on one team playing against five players from another team.

Sacramento Kings

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Kings' royal lineage stretches all the way back to the founding of the National Basketball League's Rochester Royals in 1945. The Royals retained their nickname after a move to Cincinnati in 1957 and became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings (soon dropping the Omaha) through a name-the-team contest in 1972. The name remained unchanged when the franchise relocated to California in 1985.

San Antonio Spurs

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A group of San Antonio investors purchased the Dallas Chaparrals from the American Basketball Association in 1973 and decided to hold a public contest to rename the team. Five thousand entries with over 500 names were submitted. After reconsidering their first decision to call the team the Aztecs (several teams already used that name), the judges (investors and local press representatives) settled on Spurs. It may have just been a coincidence that one of the team's main investors, Red McCombs, was born in Spur, Texas.

Toronto Raptors

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The ownership group of Toronto's prospective expansion team conducted extensive marketing research across Canada in 1994 and held a nationwide vote that helped team officials come up with a list of potential nicknames. Raptors, which Jurassic Park helped popularize the year before, was eventually chosen over runners-up Bobcats and Dragons.

Utah Jazz

Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz
Getty Images

No, Utah isn't known for its Jazz. The team originated in New Orleans in 1974 and club officials decided to keep the name after relocating to Salt Lake City in 1979. The Jazz nickname was originally chosen through a name-the-team contest, which produced seven other finalists: Dukes, Crescents, Pilots, Cajuns, Blues, Deltas, and Knights. Deltas would've translated to Salt Lake City rather well (the airline of the same name has a hub there), while Cajuns may have been even worse than Jazz.

Washington Wizards

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In the early 1990s, Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin was becoming frustrated with the association of his team's nickname and gun violence. After Pollin's friend, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated, Pollin decided to take action and announced his plans to rename the team. (Though Dan Steinberg of D.C. Sports Bog wrote a very detailed history of the name change, and called into question the impact Rabin's death had on the decision.)

A name-the-team contest was held and fans voted on a list of finalists that included Wizards, Dragons, Express, Stallions, and Sea Dogs. Not long after Wizards was announced as the winning name before the 1997-98 season, the local NAACP chapter president complained that the nickname carried Ku Klux Klan associations. Previous nicknames for the franchise when they were still in Chicago include Packers and Zephyrs.

This post was originally published in 2009.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Sony

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $169 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

50 Famous Company Acronyms All Spelled Out

There’s more to creating a successful company than simply coming up with a catchy name. While brand names can be incredibly effective at enhancing a company’s public image and building customer recognition, they don’t always describe exactly what the company does or its history.

Instead of choosing descriptive names, many organizations choose to be known by simple acronyms or abbreviations so that they are easy to remember in the minds of consumers. While you might know all of the brands and companies on this list, do you know what all those letters actually stand for?

1. BMW

The white and blue BMW logo
Jacques Demarthon, AFP/Getty Images

You may know a BMW better as a Bimmer (yes, that is the official way you spell it). But if you’ve ever wondered what the luxury German car’s name stands for, it’s Bayerische Motoren Werke in German, which translates to "Bavarian Motor Works" in English.

The company was originally founded in Munich, Germany in 1916—when its main business was manufacturing airplane engines. Though the brand is booming today, that wasn’t always the case. In the late 1950s, it was on the brink of bankruptcy and almost sold out to Daimler-Benz—the parent company of Mercedes, their biggest competitor.

2. L.L. Bean

A man surrounded by LL Bean boxes.
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Founded in 1912, L.L. Bean is one of the oldest retail store chains in the United States. This company is named for its founder, Leon Leonwood Bean. While Bean founded the company in his home state of Maine, it has since grown into a sprawling retail empire, with locations across the United States as well as Canada.

Until the present day, L.L. Bean has retained its reputation for providing high quality outdoor gear. What’s more, its original location in Freeport, Maine, remains open to this day—complete with an indoor trout pond and freshwater aquarium.

3. CVS

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

When it was founded in 1963, CVS originally stood for Consumer Value Stores. While it may now be widely known for being one of America’s largest pharmacy chains, CVS did not originally provide pharmaceutical services in its stores. This is because the company was originally established for the purpose of selling health and beauty products. Only in 1967 did CVS take the leap of faith and begin setting up locations with pharmacy departments. In 1969, CVS was sold to Melville Corporation, and in 1996, it officially became known as CVS Corporation.

4. YKK

As the world’s largest zipper manufacturer, you've probably had many items of clothing that feature zippers with the YKK branding throughout your life. But have you ever stopped to think about what YKK stands for? In Japanese, that would be Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha, which translates to Yoshida Manufacturing Corporation in English. The first word is the last name of the founder, Tadao Yoshida, who established YKK in Tokyo, Japan all the way back in 1934.

5. A&W

Scott Olson, Getty Images

If you’ve ever spent any time in the state of Kentucky, you’ve no doubt heard of this all-American restaurant franchise—and more than likely eaten there. Founded in Lodi, California, in 1919, the A and W of A&W represent the last names of this fast-food franchise’s founders, Roy Allen and Frank Wright. With its headquarters currently located in Lexington, Kentucky, A&W is beloved for its scrumptious burgers, draft root beer, and root beer floats. Today, there are more than 1200 A&W locations spread out across the United States and Canada.

6. M&M'S

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Whether you prefer the classic milk chocolate or peanut versions or newer flavors such as pretzel or hazelnut, you’ve probably indulged in your fair share of M&M’s from your local convenience store. M&M’s stands for Mars and Murrie, the last name of company founders Forrest Mars, Sr. and Bruce Murrie. Having been founded approximately 80 years ago, these colorful candies filled with semi-sweet chocolate have enjoyed a long and respected reputation, becoming popular in more than 100 countries across the globe.

7. 3M

Koen van Weel, AFP/Getty Images

While 3M may be a multinational conglomerate corporation today, it started out as a humble mining venture back in 1902. Established in the city of Two Harbors, Minnesota, 3M was the brainchild of business partners John Dwan, Hermon Cable, Henry Bryan, and William A. McGonagle. Originally called the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, the company’s legal name was changed to 3M Company in 2002. Simply put, this updated name is an abbreviation of its former moniker—which proved more suitable given the company’s expansion into other industries such as electronics, energy, and health care.

8. HSBC

Miguel Medina, AFP/Getty Images

With its total assets exceeding a whopping $2.7 trillion, HSBC is one of the largest banks in the world today. But just where does this investment bank’s name come from? While this multinational corporation’s headquarters may be in London today, HSBC actually stands for Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.

Having first opened branches in Shanghai in 1965, HSBC decided to become a group holding company in 1991, when it also decided to establish its headquarters in London. Today, this banking giant has more than 3900 offices in 65 countries around the world.

9. TCBY

TCBY
iStock

Opened by Frank D. Hickingbotham in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1981, TCBY grew to become one of America’s most beloved chains of soft-serve frozen yogurt stores. With more than 470 locations across the United States, TCBY stands for The Country's Best Yogurt. While this name might seem to have been conceived in order to reflect the company’s vision, it actually came about due to a dispute over the company’s original name. Previously named This Can't Be Yogurt, TCBY was sued by a rival frozen yogurt chain, I Can't Believe It's Yogurt!, which was founded four years before TCBY. Hence the name change.

10. KMART

Kmart
Scott Olson, Getty Images

One of the largest store chains in the United States, Kmart was founded in 1899 by budding Pennsylvania-born entrepreneur Sebastian Spering Kresge. Originally known as the S. S. Kresge Corporation, the company changed its name to Kmart in 1977. As you probably guessed, Kmart is not, in fact, a place to shop for Ks; the K is for Kresge. Today, you can pop into any Kmart for a wide variety of toys, furniture, bedding, technology, sports gear, and more.

11. DSW

DSW
Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/Getty Images

As a product of Designer Brands Inc., this American fashion retailer has gone through several changes in ownership. Founded in 1969, the company was originally called Shonac Corporation. Fast forward to 2004 and the company was acquired by Retail Ventures. While it already had several brick-and-mortar stores, the company launched its e-commerce website in 2008, called DSW. This name simply stands for Designer Shoe Warehouse. In addition to name-brand shoes and fashion accessories, some of DSW’s stores have in-store nail salons. Today, the company’s corporate name is simply Designer Brands.

12. JCPENNEY

JCPenney
Drew Angerer, Getty Images

JCPenney was founded by James Cash Penney. With a name like that, he was destined to go into the world of business. While Penney originally operated multiple dry goods stores in Colorado and Wyoming, he decided to purchase all of these stores and unite them under the JCPenney banner.

From his headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, Penney set out to create a department store empire. Today, with more than 840 locations in the United States and Puerto Rico, JCPenney is best known for its home decor, bedding, clothing, and jewelry collections.

13. FIAT

FIAT logo
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Established in 1899 in the famed city of Turin in Northern Italy, the FIAT automotive company is one of the most esteemed vehicle manufacturers worldwide. FIAT originally stood for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, which translates, appropriately, to "Italian automobile factory of Turin." Since its birth, FIAT has taken the motor world by storm, releasing classic models such as the 1932 Balilla Spider, the 1952 Fiat 8V, and the 1972 Dino 2400 Coupé. Today, the FIAT holding company—Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—includes automotive brands such as Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Maserati, and Ram Trucks in its lineup.

14. TASER

TASER
Fred Dufour, AFP/Getty Images

While you’ll probably be familiar with the widely used self-defence device, you might not have realized that the device is actually named after its manufacturer. Founded in 1991, TASER International was established with one goal in mind: To provide everyday people with the tools they need to protect themselves from harm. The name TASER comes from Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, a 1911 science fiction novel by Victor Appleton that imagined an electric gun. Naturally, this name was used because the device from the book served as the inspiration for the real-life TASER.

15. SMART CAR

Smart car
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

Designed with great handling and fuel efficiency in mind, you might be surprised to learn that the Smart in this case is not actually a synonym for intelligent. Instead, the smart in Smart Cars is short for Swatch Mercedes Art. This name came about because this line of compact vehicles is the product of a collaboration between Swatch and Mercedes-Benz, or more accurately Mercedes’s holding company Daimler AG. Today, vehicles belonging to this German automotive brand are available across Asia, Europe, Australia, and North and South America.

16. ZIP CODE

packages
iStock

While it might be a plain-looking five-digit number, the establishment of the ZIP Code was actually instrumental in revolutionizing the United States Postal Service (USPS). The "ZIP" in this name stands for Zone Improvement Plan.

Conceived in 1963, the ZIP Code was introduced in order to provide towns, cities, and other districts across the country with distinct identification numbers. This was done in order to improve the efficiency and reliability of the USPS. Nearly 50 years later, the ZIP Code system continues to be successfully used for package deliveries today.

17. USA PATRIOT ACT

American flag
iStock

Considering that this act was written into law in order to defend the United States against terrorist attacks, one might think that the “Patriot Act” is a fitting name for this statute. You might be surprised to learn, however, that the entire name is an acronym. This acronym stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." While its full name might not be easy to remember, the consequences of the Act—such as the tapping of phone lines—have been far-reaching across the nation.

18. EOS

Sebastian Reuter, Getty Images for OuterInsight

Established in 2006, this diverse beauty and skincare company rose to prominence thanks to its delightful spherical lip balms. Since becoming a popular brand, eos—which is short for Evolution of Smooth—expanded its product offerings to include lotions, shaving creams, and other beauty and skincare products. Celebrated for designing colorful, minimalist packaging targeted at women, several celebrities have been known to endorse this brand, including Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus.

19. MAC

MAC Cosmetics store
Andreas Rentz, Getty Images

Established in 1984, Canadian makeup brand MAC (stylized as M·A·C) stands for Make-up Art Cosmetics (saying MAC Cosmetics is technically redundant). This is largely due to the fact that it was founded by makeup artist and photographer Frank Toskan and salon owner Frank Angelo with the goal of creating cosmetics that photographed well. Today, M·A·C is a subsidiary of the Estée Lauder Companies.

20. P.C. RICHARD & SON

Refrigerators in a P.C. Richard & Son
Mario Tama, Getty Images

This is the largest chain of private, family-owned appliance, electronics and mattress stores across the United States. P.C. Richard & Son has a rich and extensive history, having been founded in Brooklyn, New York in 1909. Quite plainly, this store was named after its founder Peter Christian Richard. Coincidentally, Richard’s son A.J. was born that very same year. With A.J. spending his childhood helping out at the store before deciding to join the business full time, his father decided to add “& Son” to the store’s name in honor of A.J.

21. REI

an REI store
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images

REI is an acronym for Recreational Equipment, Inc. Founded in 1938 by Lloyd and Mary Anderson in Seattle, Washington, the store was named for the couple’s goal of providing outdoor enthusiasts with high-quality climbing gear at reasonable prices. While this franchise has grown to include more than 165 locations today, its success is not just limited to the retail sector. In 2006, REI launched the Outdoor School, a series of one-day outings as well as in-store classes.

22. H&M

Sean Gallup, Getty Images

As one of the largest fashion retailers in the United States, you might be surprised to learn that H&M is not in fact an American retail giant, but Swedish. The company started in 1947 as women's fashion retailer Hennes, Swedish for "Hers." In 1968, they acquired hunting apparel and fishing equipment retailer Mauritz Widforss and the name became Hennes & Mauritz. In 1974, it was simplified to just H&M. Since its latest branding evolution, the H&M Group has grown to include more than 5000 stores spanning 74 countries.

23. IBM

Alexander Koerner, Getty Images

Founded in Endicott, New York, in 1911 as the Computing Tabulating Recording Company, IBM has constantly evolved in order to remain competitive in an ever-changing market. While this company originally focused on manufacturing commercial scales and tabulators, it shifted its focus to more advanced tabulating tools, thus calling for a name change.

The technology company formally changed its name to IBM, which stands for International Business Machines, in 1924. Since then, it has been at the forefront of producing printers, keyboards, personal computers, and nowadays, innovation through the IBM Cloud and AI technology.

24. D.A.R.E.

Lance Cpl. Samantha Foster, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Established in 1983, D.A.R.E. is an educational program dedicated to teaching students how to resist drugs, avoid gang membership, and prevent themselves from becoming involved in violent behavior. Its name is an acronym for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. It also works as part of the motto "D.A.R.E. to resist drugs and violence," which was emblazoned on T-shirts that became a fad in the '90s.

25. GEICO

Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

No matter where in the United States you travel to, you’re bound to come across the GEICO Gecko at some point, whether or billboards, posters, or television ad campaigns. This charming gecko is the mascot of GEICO, an auto insurance company headquartered in Maryland. While it may seem odd, GEICO stands for Government Employees Insurance Company. Why? Well, when GEICO first started, it was targeted to U.S. government employees and military personnel. Today, GEICO is one of the largest auto insurers in America, catering to more than 15 million policyholders.

26. NECCO

Established in 1901, NECCO was one of the longest-operating candy manufacturers in the United States. While it may now be defunct, NECCO was one of the most influential confectionary companies of the 20th century. Its name stands for the New England Confectionery Company, which refers to the company’s proud roots in Revere, Massachusetts. Sweethearts Conversation Hearts, the Clark Bar, Haviland Thin Mints, and, of course, NECCO Wafers are just some of NECCO’s flagship products that took America by storm.

27. FAO SCHWARZ

FAO Schwarz
Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

Founded in Baltimore, Maryland in 1862, few toy stores in the United States have a more esteemed reputation than FAO Schwarz. The German-born American entrepreneur Frederick August Otto Schwarz founded the legendary toy store, naming it after himself in the process. While America’s oldest toy store closed its doors in 2015, it announced its revival in 2017 to the delight of its many adoring fans. FAO Schwarz has made a grand return to New York City where you can visit it at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

28. DHL

DHL truck
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

Experts in courier services and express mail, DHL delivers more than 1.3 billion parcels each year. While it may now be a division of the German logistics company Deutsche Post DHL, this shipping and transportation company has American roots, having been founded in San Francisco in 1969. DHL is named for its founders: Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom, and Robert Lynn. Today, DHL owns five subsidiaries, including several cargo airlines, that make their courier services even more efficient.

29. JBL

JBL iPod speaker
William B. Plowman, Getty Images

If you’ve ever been in the market for high-quality audio equipment such as loudspeakers, radios, or even headsets, chances are you’ve come across your fair share of JBL merchandise. The speaker company was founded in 1946 by James B. Lansing, during which time its full name was James B. Lansing Sound, Incorporated. After a legal dispute about their name, the company decided to go by "JBL." This move proved to be a great marketing choice, as JBL is still cherished for the role it played as the sound provider for iconic music festivals such as Woodstock in 1969.

30. ALF

Amazon

Having spawned plenty of toys, clothing, and other fan merchandise, this popular character from the ‘80s came from the 1986 sitcom ALF. This series follows Gordon Shumway, an extraterrestrial being whose nickname is an acronym for Alien Life Form. Upon crash-landing his spaceship into the garage of the Tanner family home, Gordon is offered the chance to live as a guest among this hospitable family. During his time on earth, ALF makes many observations about the bizarre behavior of human beings.

31. UPS

Scott Olson, Getty Images

Right up there with the likes of FedEx and DHL is UPS, a global shipping and logistics services company. Founded in 1907 as the American Messenger Company, this business was the creation of James Casey and Claude Ryan. Specializing in package delivery to retail stores, this business’s largest client was none other than the United States Postal Service. After merging with another company, the business’s name was changed to Merchants Parcel Delivery, before ultimately becoming UPS in 1919. UPS stands for United Parcel Service. (The company's full name is United Parcel Service of America.)

32. E.L.F.

Shantel Jang, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Founded by Joseph Shamah and Scott Vincent Borba in 2004, e.l.f. Cosmetics is known for its cruelty-free products as well as its support of PETA’s no fur campaign. This makeup brand's name isn't referring to the mythical creature—e.l.f. is an acronym for eyes, lips, face. While this name might seem fairly basic, it certainly is descriptive, given e.l.f.’s wide range of products, including bath and skin-care products, mineral-based makeup, glosses, blushes, mascaras, and so much more. Since its inception, e.l.f. has developed a stellar reputation for its stylish yet affordable beauty products.

33. PAM

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If you consider yourself to be a fairly decent chef in your spare time, then you’ve probably coated your frying pans with this well-known cooking spray. Introduced in 1961, this canola oil-based spray is one of the most popular cooking and baking products in American households, as well as in many other countries. But the cooking spray isn't named after a person. Rather, PAM serves as an acronym for Product of Arthur Meyerhoff, the founder of PAM Products, Inc.

34. BJ'S

Jeff Fusco, Getty Images

BJ’s Wholesale Club is one of America’s favorite membership-only warehouse clubs, with 200 locations across the country. This company was started in 1984, by the now-defunct discount department store chain Zayre in Massachusetts. The new company’s first president, Mervyn Weich, decided to name BJ’s Wholesale Club in honor of his daughter, Beverly Jean Weich. This wholesale warehouse chain is loved for its wide variety of products, ranging from electronics to furniture, toys, clothing, and sporting goods, as well as its many special benefits offered to its members.

35. CAPTCHA

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When signing into an online account or registering for a new service, you’ve probably encountered those challenges that require you to type in words that appear in an image or click on specific images. The reason for these seemingly time-wasting exercises is to distinguish human computer users from bots. So, the next time that you are required to type in a code for security purposes, remember that its name stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.

36. AFLAC

Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images

When it comes to the supplemental insurance game, few brands are more recognizable than AFLAC. This is primarily due to the talking duck that features so prominently in both its advertising campaigns as well as its logo. This marketing effort clearly paid off, as AFLAC is currently America’s largest provider of supplemental insurance. The American Family Life Insurance Company of Columbus was founded in 1955, later altering the name to the American Family Life Assurance Company, and the acronym Aflac was adopted in 1989.

37. O.P.I.

Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for ELLE Magazine

Founded in Calabasas, California in 1981, this nail polish giant started out as a small dental supply company, called Odontorium Products Inc. After operating the company on his own, George Schaeffer partnered up with entrepreneur Suzi Weiss-Fischmann (who then became OPI’s artistic director) and biochemist R. Eric Montgomery to create a nail acrylic system that proved to be a hit with local nail salons. This saw the company evolve into a highly-respected nail polish brand, which they then rebranded as OPI Products (stylized as O·P·I)—thus keeping the original name’s initials while creating a suitable name for this budding new retail operation.

38. L.E.I.

l.e.i. jeans
Walmart

Girls who grew up in the '90s and '00s will remember the denim label l.e.i. (which still exists). Founded in 1989, l.e.i., which was marketed exclusively to teens and young adults, stands for Life Energy Intelligence. This brand continues to live by its sworn statement—namely, to provide teenage girls with stylish clothes and a "hint of attitude". The brand's clothing is sold at Walmart along with an array of online stores. Since its inception, its product range has been rapidly expanded to include jewelry, sunglasses, handbags, and lingerie.

39. HTC

HTC Vive VR headset
Tomohiro Ohsumi, Getty Images

This consumer electronics giant was founded in Taiwan in 1997. HTC began as an original design manufacturer of laptop computers, mobile phones, and some of the world’s first touchscreen and wireless handheld devices. As a pioneer in its field, HTC was the first company to release a smartphone running on the Android operating system—the HTC Dream. While HTC is frequently cited as standing for High Tech Computer Company (yes, there's only one "C" in the initialism), many people can point out the coincidence of the co-founder’s name being HT Cho.

40. WWE

John Cena with WWE background
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Plenty of people have fond memories of watching the many bone-crunching WWE wrestling matches on TV, along with indulging in merchandise such as the WWE video games and action figures. WWE is a pretty straightforward initialism of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., however this was not always the name of the world’s most popular entertainment-based wrestling franchise.

At its inception, the WWE was actually established as the WWF—the World Wrestling Federation. The name was changed in 2002, when the wrestling corporation lost a lawsuit with the World Wildlife Fund over the WWF trademark. The lawsuit aside, the WWE was also glad to change its name so that its new branding could focus on the “entertainment” aspect of its programming.

41. WWF

paper lantern with WWF logo
Filippo Monteforte, AFP/Getty Images

We now come to the WWE’s former namesake—the world’s leading organization in wildlife conservation and the protection of endangered species. Founded in 1961, the WWF, with its iconic giant panda logo, stands for World Wildlife Fund in the U.S. and Canada. In other markets, it stands for World Wide Fund for Nature. The WWF, which is Involved in more than 3000 conservation and environmental projects in 100-plus countries, is currently the world’s largest conservation organization. Some of its groundbreaking campaigns include Earth Hour and the Debt-for-Nature Swap.

42. ESPN

People arrive at the Invictus Games Orlando 2016
Chris Jackson, Getty Images for Invictus Games

Established in 1979, ESPN was founded by sports director Bill Rasmussen and his son Scott, along with Ed Egan. Broadcasting from its studios in Bristol, Connecticut, ESPN broadcasts live sporting events from across the United States and the world. The company’s full name is Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. In addition to live sports, ESPN has achieved widespread popularity over the years thanks to its groundbreaking journalism and behind-the-scenes footage, along with talk shows such as its flagship show, SportsCenter. Today, you can enjoy ESPN on a variety of platforms, including their website, streaming services such as Hulu, and the video streaming subscription service ESPN+.

43. LG

LG logo
Pau Barrena, AFP/Getty Images

Founded in 1985, the LG Corporation is a South Korean electronics manufacturer that has grown to become one of the largest multinational conglomerate corporations worldwide. Back in its early days, LG used to stand for Lucky-Goldstar, seeing as this corporation was formed as a merger between two pre-existing companies—Lak Hui and GoldStar Co. Ltd. Today, the company’s name seems to stand for "Life's Good"—the brand’s world-famous slogan. In addition to manufacturing premium quality electronics and appliances, LG has become a sponsor for a multitude of major sporting events, ranging from Formula One to the Copa America soccer tournament.

44. UNICEF

Unicef banner
iStock

An initiative of the United Nations, the UNICEF nonprofit agency was established with the goal of providing humanitarian aid to children across the world. UNICEF is an acronym for United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. As its mandate changed, this agency became the United Nations Children's Fund. Today, UNICEF’s operations range from providing treatment to children and mothers with HIV, improving sanitation, providing emergency relief in times of natural disasters, and promoting education in underdeveloped areas across the globe.

45. NBC

NBC logo
Michael Nagle, Getty Images

Founded in 1926, NBC is recognized globally by its colorful peacock-inspired logo. Aside from its distinctive branding and famous headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, NBC also happens to be the oldest existing television network in the United States. The NBC name is short for National Broadcasting Company. NBC continues to be revered for its world-class programming, ranging from comedy classics such as Saturday Night Live, Friends, and Seinfeld to modern hits such as America's Got Talent and The Blacklist.

46. ABC

ABC logo
Mario Tama, Getty Images

While it might sound like the start of the alphabet song, ABC’s name has a far different meaning. This multinational broadcasting company, which happens to be a property of Walt Disney Television, has been in business since 1927—one year after the establishment of its programming rival, NBC. ABC is an abbreviation of American Broadcasting Company. As one of America’s leading broadcasting companies, ABC has gained traction with its wide variety of daytime talk shows such as The View along with long-running primetime series such as Grey's Anatomy and Modern Family.

47. CBS

CBS headquarters
Andrew Burton, Getty Images

Founded in 1927 as a radio network, CBS entered the realm of television broadcasting in 1947, which amazingly makes it one of America’s younger broadcasting networks. CBS is an abbreviation of the company's former full name: Columbia Broadcasting System. In 1974, it became known as simply "CBS."

Headquartered in the CBS Building (also known as Black Rock) in New York City, this broadcasting giant offers an unbeatable assortment of programming, ranging from primetime television to popular talk shows, holiday programming, and of course, CBS News.

48. CNN

CNN building
David McNew, Newsmakers

Founded in 1980, this groundbreaking news network aired the first ever 24-hour news channel in television history, as well as becoming the first all-news TV channel in the United States. CNN, which stands for Cable News Network, took cable television by storm, eventually expanding its new coverage to other platforms such as its wildly popular website and its YouTube channel. Beyond breaking news, CNN also has its own film division, called CNN Films, which is focused on producing informative documentaries.

49. H&R BLOCK

H&R Block
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Established in 1955, this American tax preparation company was the product of two brothers hailing from Kansas City, Missouri. In addition to being a tax preparation giant in the domestic market, H&R Block also operates in several other countries, such as Australia and Canada. This company has expanded dramatically in recent years, following its strategic alliance with accounting software company Xero and its partnership with Walmart. Having been founded by brothers Henry W. Bloch and Richard Bloch, the origins of this company name is fairly obvious.

50. YMCA

 gym scene showing gymastics, climbing, and Indian club swinging being practiced. Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) gymnasium, Longacre, London, wood engraving, c. 1888. Opened by the Prince of Wales on June 16, 1888.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Often referred to as simply the Y, the YMCA was founded as the Young Men's Christian Association in London in 1844 with the goal of creating a space where Christian men could better develop their "body, mind, and spirit" with Christian values in mind. The idea gained popularity rather quickly, and YMCAs began popping up all around the world. Today, more than 64 million people take advantage of the organization's many services. While the YMCA organization itself is now headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, it operates facilities in 120 countries around the world.