Ever wonder where automakers get the names for their cars? You’re not alone. The sitcom Seinfeld opened Episode 94 – the one where George Costanza buys a Chrysler LeBaron instead of a Volvo – with a bit about nameplates like Integra, Supra and Impreza. Toyota, clearly, is not exempt from choosing evocative but enigmatic names for its models, and now the Japanese automaker is taking us through the etymology of some of its nameplates.
Names like Supra may require no clarification. Supra is a Latin word meaning ‘above’. The name is apt for a car that was able to punch well above its weight in magazine road tests – it famously defeated a Porsche 911 Turbo and an Aston Martin DB7., but what about Camry? That comes from the Japanese word kanmuri for Crown (which is, incidentally, the name of another Toyota sedan).
Yaris? According to the company, it’s «an amalgamation of words from Greek mythology and German. In Greek mythology, ‘Charis’ was a symbol of beauty and elegance. Toyota swapped the ‘Ch’ with ‘Ya’ – German for ‘yes’ – to symbolize the perceived reaction of European markets to the car’s styling.»
Uh-huh. By comparison, Corolla couldn’t be simpler – its name refers to the innermost ring of pedals around the center of a flower. Previa is derived from the Latin word for providence (as in foresight, not capital city in Rhode Island).
Celica — A heavenly smooth drivetrain and linear power delivery were always staples of the Celica. Fitting then, that the name is Spanish for ‘celestial’.
Auris takes inspiration from the Latin noun ‘aurum’, meaning gold. It is also inspired by the English word ‘aura’ – the two combine in a car with a ‘golden aura’. Fitting then, that the concept version of the car – unveiled at the 2006 Paris Motor Show – was finished in a striking gold hue symbolic of the global importance of the model in terms of sales.
Prius — Prius is Latin for ‘prior’ or ‘previous’. Its name can be interpreted as a reference to the fact that at the Prius’ Japan launch in 1997, there had never been a mass-produced hybrid car prior to it.
The Corona was the first Toyota model to be exported to the UK, way back in 1965. Its name is routed in astronomy; the corona is the ring of pearly light around the sun. The name was a reflection of the robustness of the car – like a light at the end of the tunnel for motorists saddled with less reliable European cars at the time.
Avensis — Avensis is derived from the French verb ‘advancer’, meaning ‘to advance’ and is indicative of the step forward that the model represented over its predecessor – the Carina E – when it arrived in 1997.
Previa — The name ‘Previa’ is derived from the Italian word ‘previdenza’, which means providence or foresight. The Previa was the world’s first MPV with a mid-mounted engine to maximize cabin space – no other manufacturer before Toyota had had the ‘foresight’ to fit a mid-mounted engine into an MPV.
What do you think about some of the names that Toyota has come up with?