Car names can seem very random and strange indeed, however most of them have secret meanings that you could never guess. We’re taking a look at the literal translations of popular car names to delve a little deeper into the brands…
The literal translation of Citroen is Lemon, however the company name was somewhat of a coincidence, given that the founder’s surname was Citroën. The word is taken from dutch, and despite being a potential PR nightmare, naming the brand ‘lemon’ hasn’t had a detrimental effect for Citroën.
You might expect the brand name ‘Ferrari’ to mean something sexy and exciting, however in actual fact it means ‘blacksmith’ in Italian. Whilst the name might be a touch underwhelming, it does make sense that a car famed for its craftsmanship should be named after the craftsman himself. This luxury car shares a name with its founder Enzo Ferrari.
Audi is a classic german car, renowned for its reliability, luxury and attractive looks. However, when August Horch the founder of Audi went to put his name to his creation he realised that something didn’t sound quite right. Instead of going ahead with it and naming the brand ‘Horch’, which means ‘listen’ in German, he wanted something that was more exciting. After translating his name into a few languages, he liked the Latin version of ‘listen’ - Audi.
The word Honda actually means ‘main rice field’ in Japanese. Although the manufacturer doesn’t have anything to do with rice growing, it’s thought that the name was picked due to its universal resonance across Asian cultures.
The word Hyundai means ‘modern’ and stands to prove that the car manufacturer is an innovative purveyor. The word itself is the Korean 現代, which means “modernity.” This fits nicely with the brand’s slogan ‘New Thinking’ and has stayed true to the company's ability to keep up with the times.
Isuzu means ‘50 bells’ and was the inspiration behind some of the companies older models. In the 50s they had a few cars called the ‘Bellel’ and the ‘Bellet, both Roman derivatives of the Roman number for 50 and the word ‘Bell’.
The word Kia means rise out of Asia and is apt for the company that comes from Asia. The ‘Ki’ part of Kia means to arise out of and the ‘ah’ represents Asia, therefore giving the final meaning. Kia boomed in the 1990s when they rose out of Asia to hit the American market.
Mazda has a mythical meaning, and links to Ahura Mazda, the god of wisdom, intelligence and harmony. This god has origins in both East and Western civilisations however most notably Mazda comes from the earliest civilisation in West Asia.
Mercedes can be translated from Latin to mean favour, pity or mercy. The original meaning of ‘merces’ in Latin was ‘reward’, however there are many different takes on this word. For example, the Spanish would know it as part of the official title of the Virgin Mary - ‘Maria de las Mercedes’.
Mitsubishi means 3 diamonds and relates to the shape of their logo. Mitsu means three whereas hishi means water chestnut, which holds connotations of a diamond shape in Japanese culture.
Funnily enough, the word Porshce doesn’t mean something extravagant and exciting as you might guess. Instead, it means Small Sausage or Pig. The name is rather funny, however it wasn’t chosen for its meaning. The founder - Ferdinand Porsche gave his surname to the brand.
This name means ‘twin dragons’ and refers to a well-known Korean myth in which two dragons waited 1000 years to fly to heaven. They received a magic jewel that allowed them to take a long journey in order to reach heaven and are therefore a symbol of luck, courtesy and Asian culture.
Sources & References
For more on the origins of the names, see here.
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