The Mysterious Origin Of The Name 'Oreo'

Oreos are perhaps the most recognizable cookie in the world. Statista notes they more than tripled the sales of the next best-selling cookie in the world in 2014, with $3.28 billion in sales. They're the only branded cookie to make a cameo in a Disney movie (via Wreck-It Ralph Wiki), to feature in a Weird Al Yankovic song, and to have their national holiday, which the U.S. recognizes on March 6, the anniversary of the cookie's debut (per YouTube and National Days Today). Despite their seemingly ubiquitous presence, one great mystery still surrounds the Oreo: Where does the name come from?

Oreos were first introduced to the U.S. as Oreo Biscuits by the National Biscuit Company (now known as Nabisco) in 1912 thanks to the company's principal scientist Sam Porcello's work who created the recipe for the cookies' beloved creme filling (per ThoughtCo.). However, while Oreos quickly became popular across the country, they were not the first chocolate sandwich cookies on the market. The first such cookie had been introduced four years earlier by the Sunshine Biscuits under the name "Hydroxes," though Oreos quickly surpassed them in sales. While the packaging has undergone multiple updates since 1912, little has changed about the sandwich cookies, including the basic design and the name. It has switched official titles from "biscuit" to "sandwich" to "chocolate sandwich cookie" but has always been known by fans simply as "an Oreo."

The name may have Greek roots or represent the cookie itself

But what does "Oreo" mean? Well, the strange part is nobody really knows. According to ThoughtCo., there are multiple theories about the origin of the memorable moniker, but as for their accuracy, it's still to be determined.

One theory suggests that the name comes from the French word for gold, "or," in reference to the cookies' original packaging, which was gold colored. Others believe it comes from a Greek root, either from the Greek word for mountain, since, as Rewind and Capture claims, the original cookie design was dome-shaped. It could also stem from the flower printed on the Hydrox cookie, an Oreodaphne. The final theory suggests it is a visual representation of the cookie itself, with "re" being two of the middle letters of "cream" sandwiched between the two round, cookie-shaped O's in "chocolate." None of these theories have ever been confirmed or denied by Nabisco, so it is just as likely that the name was chosen randomly because it is fun to say and easy to remember.