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Ten Car Names That Make No Sense In English

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Ever wondered what the name of your car means? Jalopnik readers are here to tell it’s probably just nonsense.

Welcome back to  Answers of the Day - our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!


There are thousands of acceptable words for automakers to choose from when naming a car. I don’t know of a single car named “Ophion,” the Greek titan who once ruled Earth, which I just thought up right now. If you’re a car company reading this, consider that one a freebie. You can even make up compound words that sound awesome if you feel like it. For instance there was the Dodge RAMCHARGER, which makes sense, even though it’s not a real word.

There are also many car names that have meanings in obscure languages, like the Holden Malloo (an aboriginal word for 'thunder'), the Pagani Huayra (Quechua for 'god of wind'), or my personal favorite, the Renault Koleos, which means ‘sheath’ in Greek, but means ‘testicle’ in Latin. It also shares the same root with ‘coleocystitus,’ an inflammation of both the vagina and the bladder.


Still, you’d be surprised how many car names that sound like nonsense actually do have a little-known meaning. Post your favorite in Kinja below and see if your nothing-word does have a secret definition.

Photo Credit: Mitsubishi

10.) Kia Sportage

‘Sportage’ is kind of evocative for pseudo-sportiness, but doesn’t really mean anything.


Suggested By: Andrew Figueiredo, Photo Credit: Cyril Attias 


9.) Kia Cee'd

Just call it a seed, Kia. Don’t give us this apostrophe BS.

Suggested By: Tumeke, Photo Credit: Top Gear 


8.) Volkswagen Routan

This is reportedly a combination of “route” and “an,” which means…nothing.

Suggested By: AGirlsBestFriendIsHerSTI, Photo Credit:  joyride1x1 


7.) Oldsmobile Toronado

Though you might think it means some kind of super Spanish tornado, it’s just another nonsense word thought up in GM’s golden years.

Suggested By: McPherson, Photo Credit: George Thomas 


6.) Nissan Sentra

The closest Jalopnik readers came to a definition of Sentra was that it sounds similar to Latin’s “sentire,” to find one’s way.

Suggested By: revoknucklereturns, Photo Credit: Eric Malette 


5.) Any Alphanumeric

If you can piece together the meaning of BMW’s Z4 sDrive35is, congratulations, you’re a mega-nerd.

Suggested By: thedarkestofallcodes, Photo Credit: BMW 


4.) Toyota Previa

Previa appears to be a misspelling of the Latin ‘praevia,’ meaning ‘going before.’ However, if you stick to Latin, you will also find that ‘previa’ refers to something obstructing a baby’s path in the birth canal. Typically this is ‘placenta previa,’ or when the placenta is too low in the uterus, and is against the cervix.

Suggested By: YesILoveCars, Photo Credit: Guian Bolisay 


3.) Toyota Venza

Venza is supposed to be a nonsensical combination of ‘venture’ and ‘Monza,’ the Italian Formula One circuit. In Japanese, however, it sounds just like the word for toilet seat. That’s why in its home market, Toyota calls the thing the ‘Mark X ZiO.’

Suggested By: Gimmi, Photo Credit: Tino Rossini 


2.) Mazda Miata

Mazda claims that Miata comes from an archaic German word for ‘reward,’ which would absolutely trigger the bullshit meter in any game of Scrabble worth a damn. It also sounds like a girly name, especially compared to its name in Japan “Roadster’ or ‘MX-5’ in Europe.

Suggested By: Viperfan1, Photo Credit: Otis Blank 


1.) Mitsubishi Starion

According to Mitsubishi, Starion is a combination of ‘star’ and ‘Orion,’ which doesn’t make any sense, but isn’t any more nonsensical than its other offerings at the time, the Tredia and the Cordia. Others have argued that the car is perhaps the greatest example of Engrish, where the car was meant to be called ‘stallion,’ but a mispronunciation from the Japanese office came out in a rather unfortunate manner. This is backed up by the early advertising for the car, which featured a big picture of a stallion with ‘Starion’ below it. This image was quickly taken out of all Mitsubishi advertising.

The engrish explanation sounds too apocryphal to me, and it’s quite likely that Mitsubishi just thought ‘Starion’ would be a fun make-up version of Stallion, that just ended up sounding very unfortunate to casually-racist 1980s America. Either way, it’s a nonsense word, even if the car was super cool.


You can find a more in-depth discussion of the Starion name here at Curbside Classic, as well as on Snopes.

Suggested By: eNZo288, Photo Credit: Calvin Kim