IKEA and their product names

ikea retailer naming system

We don’t have to explain what IKEA is, do we? Right. Well, as exciting as one may think the story behind the name is, there’s actually no such thing. IKEA is a simple abbreviation of the founders’ initials I. K. (Ingvar Kamprad), with the combination of E (coming from Elmtaryd, the farm he was raised in) and A (after Agunnaryd, the small village close to his farm). A bit boring, I guess.

What is more interesting is where the weird names of all IKEA products come from. An article in Guardian from 2008 explains it all:

Because the company’s founder Kamprad is dyslexic, he thought that creating a naming system for the products would help remembering and differentiating them better than if they had letters and numbers attached as names. Since IKEA is a beloved place to buy home furnishings by people all over the world, this turned out not to be a bad idea at all.

If you’re wondering about the naming system, here it is:

Upholstered furniture (sofas, couches), rattan furniture, bookshelves, coffee tables, doorknobs, and media storage: Swedish place names
e.g. Kivik (sofas) – a locality in Skåne County, Sweden

ikea furniture naming system

Bookcases: occupations
e.g. Expedit – shop assistant/clerk

Hall furniture, beds, and wardrobes: Norwegian place names
e.g. Mandal (beds) – town and municipality in Norway

Dining tables and chairs: Finnish and Swedish place names
e.g. Bjursta (table) – village in Sweden

Carpets: Danish place names
e.g. Vemb (rug) – little town in Denmark

Bathroom storage and accessories: Scandinavian rivers, lakes, and bays
e.g. Limmaren (bathroom set bottles) – lake in Sweden

Desks and chairs: men’s names
e.g. Mike (desk) – short for Mikael, Swedish version for Michael

Fabrics, materials, and curtains: women’s names
e.g. Merete (curtains) – Nordic female name

Curtain accessories: mathematical and geometrical terms, various adjectives
e.g. Kvartal (curtain rails) – means quarterly in Swedish

Bed linen, covers, pillows, and cushions: plants, flowers, precious stones
e.g. Smörboll (duvet cover and pillowcases) – a globe-flower in Swedish

Lighting: music terms, seasons, months, days, chemistry, meteorology, measures, weights, boats, nautical terms
e.g. Årstid (wall lamp) – means season in Swedish

Kitchens: grammatical terms, but have exceptions
e.g. Rationell (cabinet system) – means rational in Swedish

ikea kitchen naming system

Kitchen utensils: prominent foreign words, spices, herbs, mushrooms, fruits and berries, fish, and some functional descriptions
e.g. Koncis (garlic press) – concise

Children’s items: birds, mammals, various adjectives
e.g. Sniglar (bed frame) – means snails in Swedish

Wall decorations, clocks, boxes, pictures and frames: colloquial expressions, but also Swedish place names
e.g. Flärdfull (candle in glass) – means vanity in Swedish


So it turns out it’s quite easy to understand IKEA’s naming system…you just have to learn Swedish ;)

These rules are not 100% strict so don’t try to ambush us with examples : )

Just one negative thing about the naming process – it’s not uncommon that countries change names of specific products due to the names sounding similar to unacceptable words in those countries.

And last but not least, if you decide you’d enjoy learning Swedish through IKEA products, visit this website to play a cool guess-the-meaning-of-the-IKEA-product game : )