Why is Amazon called Amazon? How did Amazon get its name? Before Amazon became the world’s largest online shopping site, there were several different contenders for names—and if you type some of them, you’ll still get to the Amazon homepage!
In the online shopping days when we can even order groceries in our PJs, it’s hard to remember a world without Amazon. But amazon.com almost never existed—or at least with that name.
At first, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos called his e-commerce company (at that point just a bookseller) Cadabra Inc. The name was a play off “abracadabra” to show how magical online shopping was. But after a lawyer misheard the name as “cadaver,” Bezos figured he should rebrand, according to Mashable.
A bit of brainstorming led Bezos to relentless.com—a name he and his wife were crazy about, according to Business Insider. Friends told him Relentless sounded unfriendly, but Bezos still bought the domain name in 1994. To this day, if you type relentless.com into your browser, you’ll go straight to the Amazon homepage. Seriously, try it! (Just don’t add these items you shouldn’t buy online to your cart) Same goes for browse.com and awake.com, two other names Bezos considered.
Why is Amazon called Amazon?
In the time before Google Search ruled the internet, being at the top of alphabetical lists still mattered. That’s what led Bezos to awake.com and another name, “Aard.”
Eventually, Bezos settled on the name we all know—Amazon.com. As the story goes, he was looking through the dictionary and liked “amazon” because it sounded “exotic and different.” Amazon is not only the name of a rainforest, but also the largest river in the world. Bezos said he planned to make Amazon the biggest bookstore in the world.
Bezos felt that branding was incredibly important for his company, especially as an online company. The rest is history, and now millions of people buy everything from tech products to household items from a website. The original purpose of the company—books—is still a massive arm, but Amazon does so much more nowadays.
Did Amazon’s name play into its success? It’s hard to know for sure, but a good name certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s entirely possible we could all be buying portable battery packs from Cadabra.com and reading eBooks on our Cadabra Wand eReaders.
What Was Amazon’s First Name?
It’s hard to imagine Amazon not being called “Amazon,” but that wasn’t the first name chosen by CEO Jeff Bezos. After moving to Seattle, Washington in 1994, Bezos incorporated the company with the name “Cadabra, Inc.”
According to Brad Stone’s book “The Everything Store,” “Cadabra” was a reference to “abracadabra,” to suggest using the store would work like magic. The Cadabra name didn’t stick around for long, though.
Just a few months later, after a lawyer misheard the name as “cadaver,” Bezos decided to find a new name. At first, Bezos and his wife wanted relentless.com, but it sounded too unfriendly. Awake.com and browse.com were also in consideration—all three still redirect to Amazon.
Bezos turned to the name of earth’s largest river
It was in the mid-’90s when Bezos and his then-wife, MacKenzie Tuttle, started exploring other possibilities. They registered the domain names Awake.com, Browse.com, and Bookmall.com. They also registered the domain name Relentless.com and kept it (if you type that into your browser today, you’ll be redirected to Amazon.com).
Bezos then started paging through the “A” section of the dictionary. At the time, website listings were alphabetized, so he wanted a word that started with “A.” When he landed on the word “Amazon,” the name of the largest river on the planet, he decided that was the perfect name for what would become earth’s largest bookstore.
Stone writes that Bezos “walked into the garage” — Amazon’s makeshift office at the time — “and informed his colleagues of the company’s new name. He gave the impression that he didn’t care to hear anyone’s opinion on it.”
The new URL was registered on November 1, 1994.
The story of how another tech giant, Apple, got its name is somewhat similar. According to Walter Isaacson’s 2011 book, “Steve Jobs,” Jobs said, “I was on one of my fruitarian diets.” He added, “It sounded fun, spirited, and not too intimidating.” Jobs also noted that Apple would be listed ahead of “Atari” in the phone book.
Jobs told Steve Wozniak, an Apple cofounder, that if they didn’t think of a better name by the following afternoon, they would go with Apple. We know how that ended.
As for Bezos, he told Stone why Amazon seemed a fitting name for his company: “This is not only the largest river in the world, it’s many times larger than the next biggest river. It blows all other rivers away.”
How did Amazon get its name?
After ditching the potentially creepy first company name, Bezos began to search for a new brand.
He looked through a dictionary and decided to go with “Amazon”.
Bezos thought the name would be “exotic and different”, just like his online business.
The Amazon River is also the largest river in the world, which Bezos believed fit with his dreams of creating the biggest bookstore globally.
And Amazon also had the benefit of starting with an “A”, which would place it near the top of lists in alphabetical order.
Speaking to Inc in 1997 about the name, he said: “There’s nothing about our model that can’t be copied over time.
“But you know, McDonald’s got copied. And it still built a huge, multibillion-dollar company.
“A lot of it comes down to the brand name. Brand names are more important online than they are in the physical world.”
Now Amazon is one of the world’s most recognisable brand names.
“Amazon” wasn’t the company’s original name
Jeff Bezos originally wanted to give the company the magical sounding name “Cadabra.”
Amazon’s first lawyer, Todd Tarbert, convinced him that the name sounded too similar to “Cadaver,” especially over the phone. (Bezos also favored the name “Relentless.” If you visit Relentless.com today, it navigates to Amazon.)
He finally chose “Amazon” because he liked that the company would be named after the largest river in the world, hence the company’s original logo.
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