In 1937, the Nazi German government formed a state-owned automobile company that they called Gesellschaft zur Vorbeitung des Deutschen Volkswagen, or "Company for the Preparation of the German People's Car". They must've realized this was a mouthful, so a little over a year later, they renamed it to Volkswagenwerk, or "People's Car Factory" - a name meant to evoke a sense of nationalism and pride in Germany's vehicles. After World War II, the company was essentially defunct, but because of the Marshall Plan, the Allies were able to get it back in business with the name Volkswagen, and the rest is history (the nickname VW is from 1958, and usage of the name peaked in 1981). The Volk- part, meaning "people", traces to Old High German folc and Proto-Germanic fulka. Fulka, also the etymon of the English word folk, derives from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction pleh, meaning "fill". The -wagen part, obviously a cognate of English wagon, goes back to Old High German wagan, Proto-Germanic wagnaz, and eventually Proto-Indo-European weg, "to transport".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.