The Real Meaning Behind Amazon's Brand Name

Twenty years ago when you heard the word "Amazon," you may have thought of the world's largest-by-volume river sprawling through Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela (via National Geographic). You may have conjured up an image of the lush, biodiverse ecosystem of the Amazon rainforest, or the indigenous people who have lived there for thousands of years (per World Wildlife Fund).

Fast forward two decades and the word "Amazon" has taken on a different meaning in our consumer world. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has marketed the word, established a multibillion-dollar e-commerce tech company, and plastered it on the sides of tens of thousands of delivery vans (via CNBC). The fact that this commercial giant — which has been criticized for polluting low-income communities of color (per The Verge) — took its name from one of the world's most precious natural resources, reads a bit tone-deaf. So how exactly did Bezos land on this particular name?

'It blows all other rivers away'

Back in the mid-'90s, the company that would go on to be called Amazon was an online bookstore called Cadabra, according to Business Insider. It was named in reference to the magical spell, "abracadabra," but Bezos' lawyer at the time advised him to change the name because it was "too obscure," and that it sounded similar to "cadaver."

So, Bezos went to work brainstorming other names. He and his wife at the time, MacKenzie Tuttle, made sure to cover their bases by capturing many domains such as,,, and — the last of which redirects to Amazon's primary domain. Back in those days website listings were often alphabetized, so it was a business advantage to select a name that started with A. For example, Steve Jobs named his tech company Apple in part because it would come up before Atari in search listings (via The Atlantic).

At the time, the entire company's headquarters existed in a single warehouse, where one day Bezos informed his employees of the name change. In his book, "The Everything Store," Silicon Valley journalist Brad Stone said Bezos told him the name was perfect for the company because, "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."