The Science Behind the Naming of IKEA Furniture

The Science Behind the Naming of IKEA Furniture
Photo by Dave Rushen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

For someone who is as big a fan of IKEA as I am, it’s shocking to me that I’ve only just learned there’s a method behind the madness of those strange furniture names.

I know IKEA is a Swedish brand, so the names were always going to sound odd to our English-speaking brains. But I’ve always wondered if there’s a deeper meaning to my Malm furniture. As it turns out, there is!

The logic behind IKEA’s furniture names

IKEA’s naming system began with its founder Ingvar Kamprad. According to Business Insider, Kamprad was dyslexic so he simplified complex item codes.

Therefore, he named each product after a specific type of word – all in Swedish of course.

For example, outdoor furniture is named after islands in Scandinavia. Here are some of the IKEA naming translations we know of:

  • Bookcases = professional occupations or male names (wow, okay)
  • Fabrics/curtains = female names
  • Outdoor furniture = Scandinavian islands
  • Rugs = cities/towns in Denmark
  • Bedding ie. pillowcases, sheets etc = flowers and plants
  • Beds, wardrobes = areas in Norway
  • Children’s furniture = mammals, birds, adjectives

If it’s a furniture line, like Malm which covers beds, chests of drawers and desks, the same name may apply across multiple items. Sometimes even employees get naming rights, like the Billy bookcase which is named after IKEA employee Billy Likjedhal.

I put this theory to a quick test with Google translate and, lo and behold, it’s true. For instance, Kopparranka sheets translate to copper vine and the Expedit bookcase is a clerk or shop assistant.

Not all the translations come out great, and given the sheer amount of new furniture IKEA comes out with, this rule doesn’t always hold in each market. But most of the time you can learn more about your IKEA furniture with a quick translation. Although it’s probably best to consider this system more of a set of guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. Just like IKEA instruction manuals, right?

This handy unofficial IKEA dictionary is also a great source of information if you’re really curious.

But how about the reason we’re all here? What does IKEA translate to? Well, fun fact, IKEA is actually an acronym of the founder’s name, Ingvar Kamprad, his family’s farm, Elmtaryd, and the village where he grew up, Agunnaryd. Mind = blown.

While this revelation may not help us with the pronunciation of these names, at least we have some idea what they mean now.

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