Rolls-Royce etymology: What does its name mean? Who is it named after?

Owning a Rolls-Royce is definitely a sign that you’ve made it, but what’s the history of its name and who is it named after?

Rolls-Royce is named after its founders, Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce. Rolls and Royce setup the firm in 1906 to make luxury automobiles, but the company soon diversified into making airplane engines.

After running into severe financial trouble due to an aircraft engine it was developing, Rolls-Royce was nationalised in 1971 by the British government. The car making arm was split off in 1973 and sold to Vickers in 1980.

Vickers then sold Rolls-Royce the car maker to Volkswagen in 1998, but the rights to the Rolls-Royce name and grille were retained by Rolls-Royce the airplane engine manufacturer, who had licensed those components to rival BMW.

After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, Volkswagen and BMW came to agreement. At the start of 2003, Volkswagen would own the Bentley brand, and all of Rolls-Royce’s existing facilities, technologies, and back catalogue, while BMW could start making new Rolls-Royce cars at new facilities from January 1 that year.