20 Magical Facts About My Little Pony

My Little Pony—one of Hasbro's most recognizable and beloved toy lines—has been flying off shelves since it debuted in 1983. Here are a few things you might not have known about the toys, the TV shows they starred in, the Bronies they inspired, and their upcoming movie.

1. A REAL-LIFE PONY INSPIRED CREATOR BONNIE ZACHERLE.

As a child, Bonnie Zacherle and her family lived in Japan, where her father—an Army Colonel and a veterinarian—cared for all the quarantined animals entering and leaving the country. Zacherle particularly loved a chubby little Korean pack pony named Knicker. Sadly, when they left Japan, they couldn’t take Knicker with them. As Zachlere recounted about herself at My Little Pony Fair 2008, “Bonnie's father promised her some day, she would have a horse, or a pony, of her very own. By the time he retired from the Army, however, Bonnie was in high school. Her father said, ‘you can have a horse, but you'll have to get up early every morning and come home right after school to take care of the horse. Also, you won't be able to take vacations or go away to college.’ Or, have friends, in other words.”

Zacherle never got her horse, but Knicker would stick with her. “They were chubby because, I think because my pony was a little chubby,” she said, “and I think a lot of ponies get that way because they’re short in stature—they’re not long-legged thoroughbreds, you know.”

2. ZACHERLE PITCHED A HORSE TOY TO HASBRO FOR YEARS WITHOUT SUCCESS …

After getting her degree in illustration from Syracuse University, Zacherle worked at a greeting card company and soon found herself doing freelance design work for Hasbro in the evening. When the card company was sold in the late '70s, she left to join Hasbro full time. She pitched a horse toy—which she imagined would be cuddly, with a combable tail and mane—for three years, but was turned down every time. “My boss, and probably several others, shot it down, saying, ‘Bonnie, little girls aren’t like you. They like to cook and clean and iron,’” Zacherle said, “and I’m like, ‘You must be kidding me.’”

3. … UNTIL EVENTUALLY, A HIGHER-UP ASKED FOR A PONY TOY.

In 2014, Zacherle recalled that, a year after she had given up on her toy horse design, a friend of hers at Hasbro told her, “You know, Bonnie, our boss has this idea and it’s really the same as yours only it’s not a horse, it’s a pony. And he wants to make it big and have all these extra mechanical things in it.” Zacherle was asked to sketch a design for the pony.

4. MY PRETTY PONY DEBUTED IN 1981.

The more than 10-inch-tall toy was made of hard plastic and had a lever under the chin that made the toy’s ears wiggle, its eye wink, and its tail swish. My Pretty Pony was relatively successful, selling a couple million units.

5. A MARKETING EXECUTIVE’S WIFE SUGGESTED TWEAKS THAT LED TO MY LITTLE PONY.

After My Pretty Pony’s moderate success, Hasbro’s Vice President of Marketing brought one of the toys home to his wife and asked her to evaluate it—and she had some feedback. “She said, ‘Well, it’s good, I guess, but I think it should be small and soft, have combable hair, and [be] played with like a doll,’” Zacherle recalled. “So, consequently he took his wife’s advice—smartly—and came back to me and said, ‘Listen, I want you to make exactly the same toy, only shrink it down and make it soft and, you know, combable hair, and don’t change a thing about it.’ I didn’t even redraw it, I think I just shrunk the original drawings. ... So that’s how it got to be that small.” The new ponies were 5 to 6 inches tall and made of much more snuggly vinyl.

Hasbro filed a patent for My Little Pony in August 1981; it was granted two years later. There are three inventors listed: Zacherle, Charles Muenchinger, and Steven D. D’Aguanno. Muenchinger, a sculptor at Hasbro, turned Zacherle’s drawings into a physical form that could be reproduced; D’Aguanno was the General Manager of Research and Development at Hasbro at the time.

6. MY LITTLE PONY WAS INITIALLY SUPPOSED TO BE A GENDER-NEUTRAL TOY FOR PRESCHOOLERS.

The bright ponies we know and love were not what Zacherle initially had in mind. She envisioned toys that looked like real animals—“appaloosa, dappled grey, palomino, pintos”—and would be played with by preschool girls and boys. She created ponies that “were all exactly the same as the original My Pretty Pony, which was a palomino, and just shrunk down,” she said in 2015. “The colors came about when my friend, who was Marketing Director … said ‘Bonnie, what do you think of pink and purple?’ And I said, ‘Get out of my office!’ She said, ‘Little girls like pink and purple.’ I said, ‘I don’t care!’ […] I was a preschool toy designer and in preschool really it wasn’t girls or boys […] She said, ‘Well, why not wait to test it.’” Zacherle said OK, and, after testing, the company went with the bright colors.

7. THERE WERE SIX ORIGINAL PONIES.

A G1 Buttercup in the Flatfoot pose. Image courtesy of eBay.

Snuzzle, Butterscotch, Blue Belle, Minty, Blossom, and Cotton Candy were produced in 1982. They were made in what’s now known as the “Flatfoot Pose”—so named because they were the only My Little Ponies to have flat rather than concave feet—with heads facing forward and down. The pose wasn’t used again after that first year.

8. THE TOY ALMOST DIDN’T GET RELEASED.

When My Little Pony made its Toy Fair debut, it didn’t exactly make a splash. “The sales floor said, ‘Pony didn't do enough.’ They couldn't sell it!” Zacherle recalled in 2008. “The director of marketing, whose wife was the one who said that she needed to be small, stuck to his guns and his wife's intuition and did not drop pony from the line—and it was this close.” But when My Little Pony was rolled out to the public, it was “an instant success,” Zacherle said. “She galloped off the shelves, striking a chord with girls throughout the U.S. and abroad.”

9. THERE WERE SEVERAL LINES OF PONIES, WHICH COLLECTORS CALL “GENERATIONS.”

Generation 1

—which included several different poses—ran from 1983 to 1992, and while they started with just six characters, Hasbro was constantly expanding the characters and types of ponies available: Soon, there were unicorns and sea ponies, pegasus ponies and flutter ponies, sparkle ponies and glow 'n show ponies (which glowed in the dark), so soft ponies (which were fuzzy) and scented ponies, secret surprise ponies, which had a secret compartment containing a surprise, and Drink ‘n Wet baby ponies, which came with diapers that revealed patterns when the toys wet themselves.

Hasbro’s imprint Kenner, which they had purchased in 1991, produced the G2 ponies, which ran from 1997 to 2003. These ponies—which are skinnier than their predecessors—are not popular with collectors. The ponies released as part of G3 (2003-2009) more closely resembled the G1 ponies. In 2009, the dramatically-redesigned G3.5 ponies debuted; the line was available until 2010. The current generation, G4, was released in 2010 and includes ponies from the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic animated series.

Hasbro has released 600 ponies in the United States.

10. RARE PONIES CAN GO FOR A LOT OF MONEY.

According to Collectors Weekly, Hasbro didn’t just release My Little Ponies in stores; they also sent out mail-order ponies. (One, a Rapunzel Pony, went for as much as $800 four years ago.) The company also released its molds to companies all over the world. Summer Hayes, author of several collectors guides, told Collectors Weekly that in 2012, “collectors discovered a whole separate line of Ponies that were produced in Venezuela that we never knew about. Someone found a stash of mint-in-box '80s Venezuelan Ponies, and of course, they went on eBay and sold them to collectors. We don’t know everything. I’m sure we’ll get to a point where there’s no new information, but it seems like every couple of years we find a new country or a new variation.” A Greek version of a G1 pony in a rare pose is currently available on eBay for $750.

11. THE FIRST MY LITTLE PONY TV SPECIAL DEBUTED IN 1984—AND IT WAS CO-PRODUCED BY MARVEL.

Founded in 1978 with Hasbro as its main client, the ad agency Griffin Bacal didn’t just make commercials—it also created an animation studio called Sunbow Productions to produce TV specials, full-length movies, and TV shows based on Hasbro toy lines. Sunbow partnered with the animation arm of Marvel to create cartoons for G.I. Joe, Transformers, and, yes, My Little Pony. The first special, called My Little Pony when it was first released in April 1984, was later rebranded Rescue at Midnight Castle. The second special, Escape from Catrina, aired in March 1985. The success of the specials led to a greenlight for the very first My Little Pony movie.

12. MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE WAS MARVEL’S FIRST DOMESTIC THEATRICAL FILM.

My Little Pony: The Movie

, which featured the voice talents of Cloris Leachman, Rhea Perlman, Danny DeVito, Tony Randall, and Madeline Kahn, was released in June 1986. It debuted more than a month before Willard Huyck’s Howard the Duck, making My Little Pony Marvel Studio’s first domestic theatrical film.

But its debut was not exactly auspicious: Critics panned the film—the Los Angeles Times said watching the movie was like “being immersed in cotton candy for an hour and a half: The sticky-sweet cuteness is piled on so thickly that adults leave the theater checking their teeth for new cavities. … [T]he real theme song of 'My Little Pony' is the ring of the cash register, as Hasbro attempts to turn unwitting young viewers into customers. The sugary cuteness of the Little Ponies masks a corporate greed as cold and sharp as a razor blade”—and it grossed just $5,958,456 at the box office domestically.

13. MY LITTLE PONY 'N FRIENDS, THE TOY LINE’S FIRST TV SERIES, DEBUTED IN 1986.

The show, which premiered in September 1986, ran for two seasons. Each half-hour episode featured one segment of Pony tales and one segment of “Friends”—i.e., other Hasbro toys. The Glo Friends featured Glo Worms; MoonDreamers featured a line of dolls of the same name; and Potato Head Kids was about, you guessed it, Mr. Potato Head's family. Breckin Meyer voiced one of the characters.

It wasn’t MLP’s only show—My Little Pony Tales, which followed the very teenage-girl-like adventures of the ponies Starlight, Sweetheart, Melody, Bright Eyes, Patch, Clover, and Bon Bon, debuted in 1992. It aired for one season and then in syndication. There were also a number of direct-to-DVD MLP specials released from 2003 to 2009.

14. MICHAEL BAY’S TRANSFORMERS MOVIES DIRECTLY LED TO MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC.

The first live-action Transformers movie, which was released in July 2007, made a boatload of money for Hasbro. Later that year, the Los Angeles Times reported that the company “wants to turn more of its line of toys into concepts for movies … after this summer's blockbuster Transformers generated $702 million in worldwide ticket sales, making it one of the most successful toy-based movies in history.” The company hired Lisa Licht, formerly of 20th Century Fox, to be General Manager of Entertainment and Licensing and, in May 2008, reacquired the rights to its Sunbow-produced shows (which belonged to TV-Loonland). Global License reported in June 2008 that “Hasbro is working on a new entertainment component for 2009” for the My Little Pony franchise. This was likely Friendship is Magic.

15. FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC CREATOR LAUREN FAUST APPROACHED HASBRO ABOUT MAKING A LINE OF DOLLS.

In 2008, Lauren Faust—then known for The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends—approached Hasbro with an idea for a line of dolls called Galaxy Girls. “I met with Hasbro Studios’ Lisa Licht to pitch one of my original concepts to her as a potential animated series, a show based on my ‘Galaxy Girls’ characters,” Faust told Animation World Network in 2011. (“I actually never wanted it to be a show,” Faust later said in a 4chan Q&A, “but the folks who make toys want shows before the[y] invest.”) After Faust told Licht about her background and showed her some drawings, Licht did something Faust didn’t expect: She pulled out a My Little Pony: The Princess Promenade DVD. “[She] asked me if I liked My Little Pony, which happened to be my absolutely favorite toy of my childhood,” Faust said. “From what I understand it was completely on the fly—it had just occurred to her at that moment from seeing my Galaxy Girls material that I might be a good fit for My Little Pony. She asked me to look at some DVDs and see if I could come up with some ideas where to take a new version of the franchise.”

Faust had loved the toys, but not the shows, as a child. She agreed to conceptualize a My Little Pony show, even though she was skeptical. “Shows based on girls’ toys always left a bad taste in my mouth, even when I was a child,” she wrote on Ms. in 2010. “They did not reflect the way I played with my toys. I assigned my ponies and my Strawberry Shortcake dolls distinctive personalities and sent them on epic adventures to save the world. On TV, though, I couldn’t tell one girl character from another and they just had endless tea parties, giggled over nothing and defeated villains by either sharing with them or crying—which miraculously inspired the villain to turn nice. Even to my 7-year-old self, these shows made no sense and couldn’t keep my interest.”

Instead, Faust wanted her ponies to be three-dimensional characters that experienced more action and adventure than typically seen on shows for girls.

16. FAUST CREATED A “PITCH BIBLE” TO SHOW PROOF OF CONCEPT.

To bring her concept to life, Faust quickly got to work on what would become a more than 40-page-long pitch bible. She hired artists to create backgrounds and help to develop the look of the characters and world and did all of the writing herself. After she presented the initial version of the pitch bible—which included character designs and descriptions, as well as locations and world dynamics—Hasbro hired the production studio Studio B, which placed Jayson Thiessen as supervising director. They made a two-minute short, and Friendship of Magic was greenlit to series.

After that, Faust told Equestria Daily, “I was able to hand-pick my writing team (with Hasbro and Hub’s approval), most of whom I'd worked with on Powerpuff or Foster’s. The rest of the artistic team was put together by Studio B and Jayson Thiessen. ... Voice actors and composers were all auditioned, Jayson and I endorsed our picks and Hasbro and the Hub made the final calls. There were only a couple picks we disagreed on, but obviously, it all worked out great.”

17. HER PONIES WERE INSPIRED BY GENERATION 1 TOYS—AND THE CHARACTERS SHE CREATED AS A CHILD.

When it came time to create her ponies, Faust looked to the past: Specifically, to the G1 ponies she’d loved playing with as a child. Rainbow Dash was based on Firefly; Glory and Sparkler inspired Rarity; Posey inspired Fluttershy; a Pegasus pony inspired Pinkie Pie; Ember inspired Apple Bloom; Majesty inspired Celestia; and Twilight inspired Friendship Is Magic’s Twilight Sparkle. Faust imbued her ponies with the personalities she’d given them as a child, too: “I had played with the toys for most of my childhood, and I literally referenced the characterizations and stories I made up for myself when I was little,” she told Equestria Daily. “The characters you see in the show were based entirely on the personalities I gave certain toys ... I used to say that my own inner 8-year-old was my personal focus group.” Each of the Mane 6 ponies is imbued with a different characteristic: According to New York magazine, “Applejack represents honesty; Rarity, generosity; Fluttershy, kindness; Rainbow Dash, loyalty; and Pinkie Pie, laughter. Twilight herself possesses the magic that binds them together. In Equestria, this friendship is a superpower; it safeguards the world. And it is a superpower wielded entirely by females.”

18. HASBRO HAD PLENTY OF SAY IN ELEMENTS ON THE SHOW THAT COULD BECOME TOYS.

Though Faust had a lot of creative control, the team behind Friendship is Magic had to work closely with Hasbro on elements that had the potential to be toys. “Hasbro’s input came mostly when a location had potential to be a playset,” Faust told Equestria Daily. “Rarity’s Carousel Boutique was revised a few times. There were also times when they were working on a toy they wanted to have featured in the show. The hot air balloon was introduced this way. Often they’d ask for a location beforehand, like a schoolhouse, so we could design it first. They were pretty great about letting us decide how to use these locations in context of the story so it didn’t just seem to come out of nowhere.”

“It has been a challenge to balance my personal ideals with my bosses’ needs for toy sales and good ratings,” Faust wrote on Ms. “I do my best to incorporate their needs in an acceptable way, so when we are asked to portray a certain toy or playset, my team and I work to put it in a place that makes sense within the story. There is also a need to incorporate fashion play into the show, but only one character is interested in it and she is not a trend follower but a designer who sells her own creations from her own store. We portray her not as a shopaholic but as an artist.”

Faust served as the Executive Producer for the first season, but by the second season she had become a consulting producer and had left before the third season premiered. Though neither Faust nor Hasbro commented on her departure, Longreads noted that it may have had a little something to do with the spin-off show Equestria Girls, “which turned the adventurers of My Little Pony into ultra-skinny, status-obsessed high-school girls who are one thousand percent about combing hair and changing clothes. In order to effect this transformation, the ponies leap through a mirror into an alternate universe.” In 2014, Faust told New York magazine, “It's very painful for me. I poured my heart and soul into My Little Pony. I left the show, but I kind of feel like it was taken away from me.” After Faust became consulting producer, Thiessen took over as showrunner.

19. NO ONE EXPECTED THE BRONIES.

Friendship is Magic

was a success from the moment it debuted, pulling in 325,000 viewers on average, according to Variety. But it wasn’t just popular with the 6- to 11-year-old girls it was intended for: It’s also attracted a significant following among adult men who call themselves “Bronies” who really, truly, earnestly love the show and its characters. (According to most sources, “brony” is a portmanteau of “bro” and “pony,” but some dispute that; some adult female fans of the show, meanwhile, call themselves “Pegasisters.”) And no one expected that. “It was weird,” Ashleigh Ball, who voices Applejack and Rainbow Dash, told The Daily Beast. “Because it wasn’t the intention of the series. It wasn’t for adult men. It was for little girls. But everyone involved in the series, from Hasbro to the studio, everyone, has really learned to embrace it.”

“This might be a little short-sighted on my part, but I just assumed that any adult man who didn’t have a little girl wouldn’t even give it a try,” Faust told WIRED. “The fact that they did and that they were open-minded and cool enough and secure in their masculinity enough to embrace it and love it and go online and talk about how much they love it—I’m kind of proud.”

Even celebs are fans of the ponies: Weird Al Yankovic made a cameo as a pony named Cheese Sandwich in a 2014 episode, and Andrew W.K. is a confessed Brony (he identifies with Pinkie Pie).

20. A NEW MY LITTLE PONY MOVIE IS COMING THIS YEAR.

Based on Friendship is Magic

, the movie will feature the “Mane 6” characters and the people who voice them—Tara Strong, Andrea Libman, Tabitha St. Germain, and Ashleigh Ball—as well as a number of celebrities lending their voices to new characters. Emily Blunt, Kristin Chenoweth, Taye Diggs, Uzo Aduba, Sia, Liev Schreiber, Michael Peña, and Zoe Saldana have all signed on to voice characters. The movie will be released in October.

This article originally ran in 2016.

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)

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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.