The BMW Acronym and History Behind it Might Surprise You

The popular luxury and performance car manufacturer is known as BMW, but few people actually know what the name stands for. Unlike other brands like Kia and Ford, BMW is actually an acronym, and you might not realize what it stands for. In fact, the BMW name eludes to the brand’s history, and although we know the brand as a German auto manufacturer, there is more to it than meets the eye.

Rapp Motorenwerke

Before BMW operated under the name we know it for today, it began as a company called Rapp Motorenwerke with a headquarters in Munich, Bavaria. The company actually began with the production of aircraft, and in 1917, the company changed its name it Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH. According to the manufacturer itself, you can still see a bit of this heritage is carried on through the modern-day badge.

With the tragedy and destruction of the First World War, the company operating under the BMW name had to make drastic changes to their operation, and for some time the name had become inactive.

A raindrop-dotted BMW logo on a parked black car
This BMW recall affects only 28 vehicles | Artur Widak/NurPhoto

What does BMW stand for?

The name BMW itself stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH, which loosely translates to Bavarian Motor Works. While many fans of the brand may not have known this simple fact, it links the company back to its heritage and roots. Although the name was lost for a brief period in time, during a time of stress and uncertainty throughout the world, the name was officially adopted as we know it now in 1922. But, according to the company, they consider 1916 to be their official founding year.

The rear 3/4 view of a gray de-badged 1988 BMW 320is
1988 BMW 320is rear 3/4 | Bring a Trailer

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Changing over time

For an automotive manufacturer as old as this, there is a lot of history and heritage to the brand. But, that doesn’t mean that the cars are stuck in their ways. In fact, the German car brand is stepping up to not only meet modern-day expectations of cars but also pioneering new technology and stepping into the future of all-electric cars one step at a time.

A worker wearing a protective face mask checks the bodywork of an BMW X3 sport utility vehicle (SUV) in a light tunnel at the BMW South Africa Pty Ltd. Rosslyn plant
The BMW X3 | Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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It doesn’t come as a surprise to many that the BMW name comes from German roots — after all, it is a German car brand. But the history of the name and how it came to be are pretty unexpected, and most modern-day BMW owners might not even realize that the brand’s roots even come from airplanes to begin with.