Where IKEA gets the names

There has often been speculation about the names of IKEA furniture (especially about the desk Jerker and the bed Gutvik). An article in German in Stern reveals a surprising amount of planning.

Thus bathroom items are named after Scandinavian lakes, rivers and bays; sets of bookcases after occupations; dining tables and chairs after Finnish placenames; carpets after Danish placenames; and much more. There’s a long list on the second page.

ADDED LATER
See overleaf for a summary in English.This is a rapid translation! It’s harder than I thought it would be:

Upholstered furniture, coffee tables, rattan furniture, bookshelves, media storage, doorknobs: Swedish placenames

Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture: Norwegian placenames

Dining tables and chairs: Finnish placenames

Bookcase ranges: Occupations

Bathroom articles: Scandinavian lakes, rivers and bays

Kitchens: grammatical terms, sometimes also other names

Chairs, desks: men’s names

Materials, curtains: women’s names

Garden furniture: Swedish islands

Carpets: Danish placenames

Lighting: terms from music, chemistry, meteorology, measures, weights, seasons, months, days, boats, sailors’ language

Bedlinen, bedcovers, pillows/cushions: flowers, plants, precious stones

Children’s items: mammals, birds, adjectives

Curtain accessories: mathematical and geometrical terms

Kitchen utensils (cutlery, crockers, textiles, glass, porcelain, tablecloths, candles, serviettes, decorative articles, vases etc.): foreign words, spices, herbs, fish, mushrooms, fruits or berries, functional descriptions

Boxes, wall decoration, pictures and frames, clocks: colloquial expressions, also Swedish placenames

106 thoughts on “Where IKEA gets the names

  1. Margaret Marks of Transblawg has an entry explaining a few of the basic rules of IKEA’s often bizarre-sounding product names; if you read German, you can go to her source, an article in Stern, and find out much more. Or…

  2. … where Ikea got those weird names for their stuff? Well if you read German check this out: Waren Sie schon mal in Klippan? If you don’t then check out this over at Transblog: Where IKEA gets the names…

  3. No way!

    That is so cool. Now I know what I’m sitting on, typing on, and eating on are named for.

    I lurve Ikea. Especially the confused cartoon guy in the instructions.

    Pat

    :-D

  4. My girlfriend is a decorator at IKEA and has confirmed that for the most part this is correct. There are a lot of exceptions, though, and just for the record, Jerker is a Swedish man’s name. Fartful, the name of a children’s desk, means ‘speedy’ in Swedish, so that fits the whole chidren’s furniture=adjective formula.

  5. I’ve yet to go through my catalog and look them all up with a search engine, but I must admit that I’ve been thinking of trying to write a Google API program to verify the whole list.

    Obsessive? Yes.

    It is comforting to know that I am sitting on a Swedish city (Klippan).

  6. So it turns out there actually is a method to Ikea’s product naming madness – Transblawg has the complete scoop. Of course, the names aren’t in English. I have several Billy Boy bookcases, I wonder what that occupation is…

    (an excerpt)
    Thus ba…

  7. O.k. I’ll admit it: I thought the assorted Scandinavian languages just happened to have several thousand words that all mean “cold, sterile, and efficient,” but it turns out IKEA gets its product names from a variety of sources with a surprising amoun…

  8. Just as everyone in my generation, I live with lots of IKEA furniture items in my place (partly because they look nice and partly because I can’t afford much else). The names of these pieces, however, have always been a…

  9. Ever have a day when your link cup overfloweth with yummy goodness? When you go from linky wasteland to oh-my-goodness information overload? That’s so me today. Three posts in one day. Gotta be some kind of record. Mark Hurst has released a new whitepa…

  10. I get the picture. My god we dutch are lucky people. I haven’t found any name yet that even matches a funny or offensive dutch word. I must admit though that I used to live near The Hague and I once passed by a street named ASStraat (translated: ash street – there used to be a steam driven mill in that area I was told)

  11. I find it hard to believe that pöang= point (chair) would fall under men’s names, butI guess its something to look into.

  12. I couldn’t pass up forwarding this link on. Ever wondered about those crazy names that Ikea uses for their products? There’s apparently an actual system for where the names come from. Neat! However, is ‘Billy’ actually an occupation in Scandinavian?…

  13. Actually, you’re all just slightly wrong.

    All names of Ikea furniture actually translate into “I paid far too much for this”.

  14. It obviously doesn’t work 100% (as aj says).

    The most famous bookcase in Germany is Billy and that looks like a man’s name. And should be a job. I have a wardrobe that’s sometimes used in offices, called Diplomat. Looking at last year’s catalogue on bookshelves and the Swedish dictionary: Tunhem isn’t in there, Bonde is a peasant or farmer, Amiral must be admiral, Dirigent conductor, Leksvik and Markör aren’t in there, Docent is probably a lecturer, Kämpe is a fighter, Ivar isn’t in there, Styrman is a helmsman. So it more or less works. languagehat linked to this
    http://www.languagehat.com/archives/000810.php
    and gives a link to the IKEA game, where you keep guessing which name is which piece of furniture.

  15. J.D., how can you say it’s overpriced. Just think of all that mental and physical exercise you get when you put it together.

  16. MM,

    Tunhem = place name
    Leksvik = place name
    Markör = cursor or marker (depending on context)
    Ivar = man’s name.

    Otherwise – all correct!

  17. It is baffling how successful firms with large (but insularly minded) marketing forces can goof with names that are at best daft when exposed particularly to the English who find everything funny that is foreign. The Japanese have a car called the Lettuce, the Italians a Dedra and the Germans something like the Boga. It is good to know that the perfect Swedes can goof like Rolls-Royce and their Silver Mist – a manure heap in Russian.

  18. John Preston is a bit off base on his German- Mist means manure in German, I doubt it’s the same in Russian. The German car he refers to is the Bora, which is what they call the Jetta over there. On the other hand, Ford has sold a car called the Probe in North America, which sure sounds suspicious to us German speakers, since it translates as “experiment”- on the other hand, I don’t think this model was ever a big success, so maybe it had the right name !

  19. I have no interest in looking up the meaning of the IKEA terms. I DO, however, want to buy a detailed Nordic atlas and plot out all the furniture in my house.

    And the Ford Probe sounds equally suspicious in English. To me, it connotes either a federal inquiry or a nasty medical instrument/procedure.

  20. I’ve basically given up hope that IKEA will ever open in Somerville — I’ve got a better chance of moving to Sweden than seeing one open up here.  However, I see that Design Within Reach will be opening a Studio

  21. even better,
    come to Sweden and visit Klippan, Lurhem and Stockholm. Then you´ll really know what you are sitting on!
    welcome!

  22. Where Ikea Gets the Names As exotic and as difficult to pronounce as they can be, all Ikea products in all countries have the same names. There is no attempt at translation made. There is no marketing spin targetted to…

  23. Ikea is a Swedish company. As a Swede myself (and thus one who understands perfectly well what all Ikea products’ names mean (and often why)), let me assure you that this is correct.

  24. I had to look up one of my personal favorites, “Beslut”, to see what it actually means in Swedish– and it simply means “decision”. Something definitely got lost in the translation…

  25. My swedish doesn’t go much further than “Jag talar inte Svenska” but I doubt that the most famous bookcase, the Billy, is a profession?

  26. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – this scheme does not work 100%, but it’s probably at least 90% true. The most famous IKEA item is the bookcase Billy, and that is a man’s name. I can’t imagine Tomas is arguing that Billy is a profession. See my comment above where I checked that a number of bookscases *are* jobs. Thanks, Jesper, for the information on those place names etc.

  27. Regarding JD…
    Whenever you go to IKEA, you handle the product, deliver it to the register, pay for it, transport it, mount it and use it…
    I met a guy a day who told me:
    “I work for IKEA”
    No way!!!!!! I am the one who works for IKEA :-)

  28. Well this is rather funny, I think you all (except thus scandinavian) should buy a Swedish/English dictionary and look all the names up, if there isen´t a word matching the one you are trying to look up, I think you can be quite sure that is is a placename! I´m not very good at Swedish my self, but I do understand all the names of Ikea items, and if there is something about carpets with danish placenames just ask, I´m really good at danish, thrust me on this one ;O)

  29. JUST PUT TOGETHER TWO OF THE BEDS THEY SELL, NO LITTLE COMIC GUT TELLING YOU DIRECTIONS, ITS HIT OR MISS, YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT EACH PICTURE WITH GREAT DETAIL! IF THE HOLES ARE ON ONE SIDE OF THE BED, THEY HAVE TO BE THAT WAY PUTTING IT UP! DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING READING THESE DIRECTIONS!! FRUSTRATIONAFTER THREE HOURS FOR A LOFT BED! ONLY TO DO A BUNK BED SET THE NEXT DAY THAT HAS MORE THAN THREE STYLES TO IT! THE LO BED, YOU CAN GET ANYTHING AND GET HOME THINKING YOU HAVE THE RIGHT STYLE AND UNLOAD, UN PACK AND BOOM! WRONG ONE! LOVE THIER LOOK, NOT THIER THOUGHT PROCESSON PUTTING TOGETHER!

  30. Yes, I know what you mean. They have even more pictures now than they used to, and the pictures are not very clear at all.

  31. Thanks for reminding me on a different list of the IKEA roadmap. As a Swedish-lingo translator, I – when visiting the IKEA store in Vienna – tend to get sidetracked translating the Swedish names of the furniture as well as of the restaurant, cafe and foodshop menus out loud to my companions – and shout it out in German if it’s rude.

    The myriad books for decoration laid out on the furniture shelves aren’t dummies either. There are interesting non-law titles I’ve tried offering to buy. Yet there is ‘no facility’ for obtaining the remainders off-the-shelf for lawful consideration or by gift…

  32. Yes, kIM, if you don’t pay attention to the instructions, and put the holes facing the wrong way, the bed won’t work properly.

    That’s how things WORK, you know.

    You think the good folk at Ford Motor Company just throw the bits of a car together, not worrying about how they’re SUPPOSED to go together, and expect it to just work as if by magic?

    “No, I’m not sure which way around this piston should go in. Ahh well, doesn’t matter, I’m sure it will work…”

  33. Swedish by name, global by design; my Billy bookcase is made of Malaysian wood and couple of lights are Made in China and a basket from Vietnam.

  34. Ikea is absolutely the most fun! And if you have the right attitude- what a great afternoon putting something together! Great history behind the company!

  35. Hi! Here’s my comments:
    Being Swedish and living in US I get a warm cosy feeling reading these goofy Swedish labels for furniture and household stuff! BUT The name Jerker – it’s more Danish than Swedish, and Billy: is definately NOT Swedish…more English actually. Want Swedish men’s names? Anders, Hans, Peter, Niklas etc. Women’s? Anna, Maria, Stina, Lena, Ingrid, Kerstin (not Kristin which is more Norweigan and Danish) etc, etc.

    Want to learn Swedish? Contact me! I teach it!
    Ha det saa bra! Hej daa!

  36. Hi! Here’s my comments:
    Being Swedish and living in US I get a warm cosy feeling reading these goofy Swedish labels for furniture and household stuff! BUT The name Jerker – it’s more Danish than Swedish, and Billy: is definately NOT Swedish…more English actually. Want Swedish men’s names? Anders, Hans, Peter, Niklas etc. Women’s? Anna, Maria, Stina, Lena, Ingrid, Kerstin (not Kristin which is more Norweigan and Danish) etc, etc.

    Want to learn Swedish? Contact me! I teach it!
    Ha det saa bra! Hej daa!

  37. The Billy bookcase is also very popular here in Australia.
    As for people who whinge about putting the stuff together – that’s half the fun! Anyway, done properly you should half enough pieces left over to build another piece!

    John

  38. Michael can be spelled both as “Michael” and as “Mikael” in Swedish. There are currently 35 821 people in Sweden that spell their own name “Michael” while 122 648 people spell it “Mikael”. It is pronounced, “meekael” or in everyday speech “meekal”.

    I must also object to Tina’s comment on Jerker being Danish. I’ve still not met a Dane called Jerker, but there are 2788 Swedes named Jerker and we are 1546 having Jerker as given name.

    Jerker and Jerk (sic!) has their roots as nicknames for Erik and began to be used as Christian names in mid 17th century.

    It is quite funny travelling in England and USA with a name like Jerker, since native English speaking people really don’t know how to handle it. Now, I do know the connotations of the word, so it is quite amusing watching people do everything they can to avoid to pronounce it.

    (remove .NoSpam. from email address)

  39. Thanks, Jerker. I now know what to call my friend Eric.
    I saw your email address before I saw the comment, and I am afraid I thought to myself, ‘Oh no – not more spam!’

  40. I love all this talk of names. Must be a lot of people thinking of getting doctorates on Ikean psychology. Why bother worrying what the names mean? They’re different from the ones Sears or home builders use which are probably just as useless in figuring out why they got used.

    But I like the comments about the meaning of Ikea itself. I’ve been there ever since Ikea hit town. Parts are always out of stock. You can get the frame but not the drawers or shelves and vice versa. The great thing is the latest Ikea computer system can let you be frustrated more quickly.

    I think though, I’ve discovered that Ikea is a great believer in recycling. Most furniture is ready for disposal after several years or one move or when something modular is discontinued. Hurray for fibre recycling. The leftover parts make great garden ornaments.

    Up Ikea!

  41. If my memory serves me right “IKEA” actually stands for “Ingvar Kamprad Eneryda Agunnaryd” Ingvar Kamprad being the founder of the company, Eneryda is his hometown and Agunnaryd is the “birthplace” of IKEA.

    I used to live in Småland.

  42. HAVE BEEN ON THE COMPUTOR FOR 2 HRS. AND STILL CANNOT FIND THE ITEMS THAT IKEA SELLS. I AM NOT LOOKING FOR E-BAY, JUST A SIMPLE PAGE OF FLOOR LAMPS WOULD DO, I HAVE A DESK LAMP AND WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE A FLOOR LAMP HOPEFULLY LIKE IT, AM TOTALLY DIGUSTED TRYING TO FIND IKEA. HOW ABOUT OPENING A STORE HERE IN TAMPA, FLORIDA – OR AT LEAST LET ME KNOW WHERE I CAN OBTAIN SOME INFO. DANCY51

  43. HAVE BEEN ON THE COMPUTOR FOR 2 HRS. AND STILL CANNOT FIND THE ITEMS THAT IKEA SELLS. I AM NOT LOOKING FOR E-BAY, JUST A SIMPLE PAGE OF FLOOR LAMPS WOULD DO, I HAVE A DESK LAMP AND WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE A FLOOR LAMP HOPEFULLY LIKE IT, AM TOTALLY DIGUSTED TRYING TO FIND IKEA. HOW ABOUT OPENING A STORE HERE IN TAMPA, FLORIDA – OR AT LEAST LET ME KNOW WHERE I CAN OBTAIN SOME INFO. DANCY51

  44. Putting together IKEA furniture just takes a bit of practice, but the main thing is to do EXACTLY as the the instructions says. Beeing a Norwegian and having bought IKEA stuff all my grown up life I take pride in mounting f.ex. a coffee table while I make dinner.

    Regarding funny names lake JERKER:
    I belive there is not one word that does not mean something funny or obscene somwhere. FART = speed in Norwegian, Honda FITTA = pussy,.(dot) = “bush” (pubic hair) KONE = wife in Norwegian = pussy in Portugal, POOL pronounced in Norweggian = fuck … and so on ….

  45. Herloff: Yes, how right you are. In fact, ‘mounting’ a coffee table while you make dinner is a bit ambiguous in English too!
    About the instructions: I can’t always tell exactly what they are telling me. It’s only one step further on that I realize I misunderstood something.

  46. Let’s not forget the famous Chevrolet Nova. Latin Americans got a great kick out of a car named “no va,” which means something like “does not go” in Spanish.

  47. IKEA has no stores in FL(15+ million population), but has multiple stores in CA, PA & NJ amongst other states. Anyone know when plans for stores in FL will become reality?? Tampa/St. Petersburg and/or even Orlando can all use one & thrive. I went to IKEA in Schaumberg last month & their website doesn’t do the store(or catalog) any justice.

  48. My god, there’s an entire IKEA culture I never knew. My friends are addicted to it, but it’s not really my style…
    I’m planning a trip to Sweden next summer, I should brush up on some Swedish. Though I’m sure I can get by on “please”, “thank you”, and “How much does it cost?”
    \m/ IN FLAMES!!!! \m/

  49. i am obseesed with ikea and think that it is so cool how they name things, my goal in lyfe is to work in ikea, (2 months) i love sweden and every thing from sweden, and i am obsesseve!!!!!Me and my freind have an ikea club.
    I heart ikea!!!

  50. For all IKEA’s fans (including me) ,and whoever work there should know!)

    The fact of “IKEA” name!

    IKEA is an acronym derived from the first letters in founder Ingvar Kamprad’s name(IK), the first letter of his boyhood farm, Elmtaryd(E), and the first letter of his home village of Agunnaryd(A), Sweden.

    I love their products :)

  51. I can’t remember where I heard this, but as it seems in Germany IKEA stands for “Idioten Kaufen Einfach Alles” which means “idiots buy just anything”. Interesting story though. I feel a bit confused writing in both English and German, as neither is my native language due to the fact that I am Dutch en een echte autochtoon.

  52. Anyone know where to find IKEA items when they are no longer in the catalog? I want a HOVA Armchair, as shown currently on the IKEA website, but IKEA is unwilling/ unable to search their stores. Oh, and if they did know there was one in a far away land they would not send it, I would have to drive there and pick it up.

    Hmmm

  53. IKEA just delivered a couple of Billy bookcases that I purchased a few nights ago and arranged for delivery. The self-service process at the end of an IKEA store where you select your boxed Billy bookcase reminds me of picking…

  54. Where Ikea Gets the Names As exotic and as difficult to pronounce as they can be, all Ikea products in all countries have the same names. There is no attempt at translation made. There is no marketing spin targetted…

  55. If you’ve ever been to Ikea and wondered about the wacky product names, you’re not alone, so has the rest of the world. All Ikea products carry the same name throughout the world, no matter how hard it may be for the locals to get their tongues around …

  56. Fascinating! I’m trying to confirm that Ikea used to sell items called Dick and Fanny – one was a sort of wastepaper basket if my memory serves me correctly. Can anyone help?

    If you can you, could score one point in the Builder’s Arms pub trivia quiz should you choose to attend Next Tuesday (27 01 04, Albert Road, New Barnet EN4), but probably only the one! I’m trying to piss everyone off so they don’t ask me to compile another one.

    Huw

  57. I wish I could help you, but I can’t remember those. It’s not very likely anyone else will chance by here in time for the Builder’s Arms (what does the pub sign for that look like?)

  58. I know this is slightly old in the bloggin world, but here for my blog is Transblawg: Where IKEA gets the names. Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture: Norwegian placenames Dining tables and chairs: Finnish placenames Bookcase ranges: Occupations Bathroom ar…

  59. A while ago, I wrote about Target as a guilty pleasure, and a terrific Best of Both Play. Well, here’s another store/brand that fits both categories – IKEA. They re-positioned the home furnishings category the same way Volkswagen did German…

  60. A while ago, I wrote about Target as a guilty pleasure, and a terrific Best of Both Play. Well, here’s another store/brand that fits both categories – IKEA. They re-positioned the home furnishings category the same way Volkswagen did German…

  61. … [ASIDE: Thinking of all things Ikea, a while back Margaret Marks of Transblawg provided a rundown of how Ikea comes up with its product names, and, even longer ago, Néablog linked to the Ikea Furniture Test. Sadly the link seems to be dead, so I …

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