Volkswagen Atlas: What does its name mean? Where does it come from?

Replacing the Touareg as a mainstream competitor to the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot in the US, the Volkswagen Atlas has an easy to pronounce “conventional” name, but what does it mean?


The Volkswagen Atlas is reportedly named after the Greek god Atlas, who was given the punishment of holding up the sky for all of eternity.

His name not only appears on the back of the seven-seat crossover, but is also graces the Atlas Mountains in the northern Africa. The Atlantic Ocean is comes from Sea of Atlas in Ancient Greek, while the mythical city of Atlantis is City of Atlas.

Atlas is usually pictured in statues and art as carrying the Earth on his shoulders.

It probably also helps that in English an atlas is a book of maps, which seems apt for a car that’s designed to take families on the short journeys of everyday life, as well as the longer travels of a holiday road trip.

Interestingly the etymology of the word atlas as a book of maps comes from geographer Gerardus Mercator, who published his book of world maps under the snappy title “Atlas Sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura”.

He chose the word Atlas in honour of King Atlas of Mauretania, a kingdom in modern day in Morocco, who we he considered to be the first great geographer.



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Derek Fung

Derek Fung

Editor-at-large — Derek has a lifelong love for all things automotive, from the dullest Camry to record shattering Bugattis. Prior to starting up Between the Axles he was a reviewer for CNET Australia and the founding editor of its Car Technology channel. [Read more]