28 September 2015

Nonsense Names: Five car names that aren’t actually words

What’s in a name? In the case of the examples below, not much more than a lot of marketing and a trademark registration. Yep, the names of the cars on this list were made up by someone clever, every one of them.

  1. Toyota Camry: The company that came up with names like Carina, Previa and Yaris not surprisingly gets the top two on this list. “Camry” is an agreeable-sounding word that Toyota initially copped to being totally made up. Upon the runaway success of the car, they later sheepishly invented the story that it sounds kind of like an anglicized version of “kenmuri,” the Japanese word for “crown.”
  2. Toyota Celica: Like Camry, Celica is another made-up-in-Japan moniker. When pressed, Toyota reacted as if it’s somehow dishonorable to make up a clever name for a consumer product. So as with Camry, Toyota later came up with a feeble explanation for the origin of the name — something about it sounding a little bit like the Latin word for “celestial.” Whatever.
  3. Chevrolet Camaro: Camaro emerged from a GM marketing sheet containing more than 2,000 words that started with the letter “C.”  And while some attempt was made to assert that it was an arcane French word for “pal,” it was in fact a made-up name. No matter, 50 years and six generations of Camaro later, it’s acquired the meaning “badass sport coupe.”
  4. Oldsmobile Toronado: Toronado is one of those words that both sounds like it means something and looks like a typo. A cross between a mobile home’s worst nightmare and a fancy beef dish with an extra vowel thrown in, it in fact means absolutely nothing.
  5. Mitsubishi Starion: Nope, it’s not a mangled version of the word Stallion — it has no meaning in any known language.

12 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Thomas Madere La place,LA September 30, 2015 at 18:05
    Automobile manufactures pale in comparison to drug companies for made up names.
  • 2
    Jim M USA September 30, 2015 at 18:13
    Nice list. Toyota doesn't need to make up stories, but since they DO, perhaps they should recall that they used "“Kenmuri" before the days of Camry, on the full-size "Crown"..? I had a 1981 pickup that the dealer told me was a "HiLux" but was later disappointed to learn how that name was discontinued and the official name for my model was the imaginative "Truck". :)
  • 3
    Robert Browning Atlanta, GA September 30, 2015 at 18:23
    MG - MGB - MGBGT
  • 4
    Mr. Bill California October 1, 2015 at 14:10
    You forgot the classic made-up name, Sentra. Created by NameLab, a company that never came up with a good name except their own.
  • 5
    jack california October 1, 2015 at 17:40
    "Camaro" is actually a variant of the Spanish word for "shrimp".
  • 6
    Dan Dallas October 2, 2015 at 04:47
    Weird... I was thinking Corvette was one of those names.
  • 7
    Alan K Schwarz Elsinore, California October 3, 2015 at 07:00
    Nissan came up with the meaningless Sentra, Maxima & Stanza for the US market even though the home market versions had real names that meant something. Trouble was those names -Cherry,Bluebird & Fairlady were far too wuss to appeal to American buyers
  • 8
    wikihowmiki FL October 5, 2015 at 10:00
    It is plausable Camry could have been a derivitive of “kenmuri,” the Japanese word for “crown.” given the fact that they marketed and sold the Toyota Crown in the US in the 1970's. At the time it was the most relatively upscale Toyota you could buy in the US. I see the Crown name is still alive and well in Japan. According to Wikipedi: The Camry's name is derived from the Japanese phrase kanmuri (冠, かんむり) meaning "little crown" and the Toyota Scepter took its name from the sceptre, an accessory to a crown. As of 2013, the Toyota Crown is sold in Japan and China.
  • 9
    Joey Peoria, AZ October 14, 2015 at 17:30
    How about the deliberately misspelled GMC Syclone? So named because Ford already had the correctly spelled Mercury Cyclone.
  • 10
    Mark Chambers Vancouver, WA October 21, 2015 at 22:48
    I always wondered what a Celica was. I thought it was the small hairs in my nose! I thought Camaro was an Americanized form of Comrade. I was sure that Toronado was an exotic name for Tornado. Who knows what a Merker XR4Ti is?
  • 11
    Steve Littlerock, CA October 23, 2015 at 00:22
    For Dan and others FYI. A corvette is a small warship.
  • 12
    Dave S Central Virginia November 20, 2015 at 20:10
    Mark C - Merkur is German for Mercury XR4Ti? My guess: XR - because those letters are popular with marketing guys 4 - 4 cyl T - turbo i - injected

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