A Look Behind the Names of the World’s Most Famous Companies & Schools

People often ask us where we got our name Colibri Boston. Explaining our story to clients and business partners made me realize there’s a little treasure hidden beneath a name: founders’ dreams, aspirations, or historical legacy.

Analyzing those names is like opening a time capsule and reaching into your company or school roots.

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Below we present the story behind our name and the names of some of the world’s most famous companies and schools. We challenge and invite our colleagues and partners to share their stories.

Hummingbird Colibri Boston International Students Colibri Boston

Colibri Boston provides faculty led trips abroad for high schools and colleges, and camps in the center of Boston for international students. Inspired by the color and energy of the hummingbird, in Latin and other Roman languages known as colibri, we thought it beautifully symbolized our students who travel the world, bringing with them all the colors and flavors of their native culture.  The word libri also means “book,” and with that extra touch our name was born.

Similar to ours is the story behind Reebok.

The company took its name from the African-Dutch word for the type of antelope rhebok. The rhebok antelope is a gracious and fast runner and the name is meant to evoke speed and grace.

reebok-logo  Rhebok

Jeff Bezos wanted a name that starts with A so his company can top any alphabetical list. He named his company Amazon after the world’s largest river hoping it would impact the size of his company. Well, he is almost there.

amazon+logo2 Amazon river

Many think that Harvard University was named after its founder John Harvard. Yet, this is one of the three famous Harvard legends. While the school was indeed named after John Harvard, he neither founded the school nor attended the College. He was the first major benefactor to the University, donating half his estate and library. Harvard University was officially founded by a vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Colibri Visit Harvard Harvard, John

Founder of Ikea Ingvar Kamprad combined the first two letters of his name I. and K. with the first letters of Emtaryd and Agunnaryd –the farm and village that he comes from.


Phillips Academy Andover and Phillips Exeter are the two top college prep schools in the United States that count Mark Zuckerberg and several presidents among their alumni. Their founders were members of one family. Samuel Phillips founded Phillips Andover and three years later his uncle established its famous rival Phillips Exeter.


Sony is derived from sonus, the Latin word for sound. There is also a slang expression “sonny boy,” which in 1950’s Japan described a “smart, presentable young man.”

Sony_store_  Lego

Lego combines Danish words for let godt, which means “play well.”

The Virgin America brand is a result of a joke made by a friend of Richard Branson who said, ”We are complete virgins in business.” When Branson launched Virgin Atlantic people thought that nobody would fly on a plane named Virgin. Today it is one of the most desirable airlines.

Google takes its famous name from googol -mathematical term for number 1 followed by 100 zeros.

Google 2 VIRGIN

Pepsi- Cola got its name from the word dyspepsia, which means indigestion. The company’s founder Caleb Bradham believed his drink was a healthy refreshment, aiding in digestion.

Pepsi cola

Inspired to tell us your story? Join the challenge.


2 thoughts on “A Look Behind the Names of the World’s Most Famous Companies & Schools

  1. ArtLifting sells beautiful artwork created by homeless and disabled individuals. We have already helped 5 formerly homeless individuals gain housing. “ArtLifting” is a combination of uplifting + art.

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