This Is How IKEA Chooses Its Product Names

published Jan 17, 2023
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Credit: Evan Lorne

IKEA has been around since the 1940s, and if you think you know everything there is to know about the Swedish furniture giant, well, maybe you do. But while scrolling TikTok recently, I came across a delightful video about how IKEA chooses its product names, and I learned something new.

TikTok user @dougiesharpe posted a video from inside an IKEA warehouse explaining the company’s naming conventions. While you might know that IKEA uses Swedish words for its products no matter what what country you’re shopping in, Sharpe notes that each product category has a theme. The system still used by product namers today was created by IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, because he was dyslexic and had trouble remembering numerical product codes.

“Since all the names of the products were already known by Ingvar, he could easily visualize and memorize his products without any difficulty,” Sharpe says.

Some categories relate to the products; for example, bathroom accessories are named after Swedish lakes and bodies of water. Some others are a bit tongue in cheek, like rugs, which are named after Danish towns and cities (presumably so the Swedes can walk all over their Scandinavian neighbors).

Here’s a list of products and their naming conventions:

  • Bathroom items: Names of Swedish lakes and bodies of water
  • Linens: Flowers and plants
  • Bedroom and Living Room Furniture: Norwegian places
  • Bookcases: Professions and Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Bowls and Vases: Swedish place names, adjectives, spices, herbs, fruits, and berries
  • Boxes, Pictures, and Wall Decorations: Swedish slang expressions and Swedish place names
  • Children’s Products: Mammals, birds, adjectives
  • Desks and Chairs: Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Fabrics and Curtains: Scandinavian girl’s names
  • Outdoor Furniture: Scandinavian islands
  • Kitchen Accessories: Fish, mushrooms and adjectives
  • Lighting: Units of measurement, seasons, months, days, shipping and nautical terms, Swedish place names
  • Rugs: Danish place names
  • Sofas, Chairs and Dining Sets: Swedish place names

In 2021, Sweden’s tourism board released a campaign that introduced visitors to the places IKEA products are named after. BOLMEN is not just an IKEA toilet brush — it’s actually a gorgeous and serene lake in the province of Småland with water so clear you can drink from it.

Wondering what exactly the name of your ladle means? If you don’t speak Swedish and would prefer not to spend an afternoon with Google Translate and your old IKEA catalog, there’s an unofficial IKEA Dictionary with over 1,000 different products and their meanings.