The Truth About How Starbucks Got Its Name

Ever wonder how Starbucks founders Gordon Bowker, Jerry Baldwin, and Zev Siegl came up with that particular name to christen their brand-new baby coffee empire? It would be pretty cool to think that they named it after everybody's favorite character from Battlestar Galactica, but alas, the name origin story is far less geeky than that, as the company (which was founded in 1971) predates even the original 1978 BSG as well as the show's later reboot. According to Taste of Home, it seems that the Starbucks name was actually derived from that of a character in a book that hardly anybody (except future coffee oligarchs) bothered to read in high school: Moby Dick.

The Starbuck nobody remembers

So who was this fellow Starbuck, anyway, and why would anyone want to name a company after him? In case you don't have your CliffsNotes handy, this first mate aboard the Pequod (Captain Ahab's ship) is "prudent, calm, and reasonable, [b]ut...lacks Ahab's power." In Starbucks menu terms, he'd be maybe a flat white or perhaps a tall Americano. In other words, not really a Unicorn Frappuccino kind of guy. But his name did have one all-important element — it began with the letter combination "st," which, according to some prevailing 1970s advertising theory, was particularly powerful. 

The seafaring image of Starbucks

The spin the Starbucks website puts on their Moby Dick-ish name is that it is said to "evoke... the romance of the high seas and the seafaring tradition of the early coffee traders." Also, playing up that whole seafaring motif not only went down well at their original location, the fishy-smelling Pike Place Market, but it also gave them an excuse to adopt a mermaid (the original version came complete with gratuitous boobage!) as their company logo, not to mention the inspiration for a future limited edition Frappuccino. Local appeal plus boobs equals surefire success, and you don't even need a '70s-era MBA textbook to tell you that.