Finally! Now We Know What AT&T Actually Means

It has quite a successful history.

at&tMark Lennihan/APREX/ShutterstockYou may not have known, but there is actually a meaning behind the letters for the well-known telephone company. Established in 1885 by Alexander Graham Bell (who also invented the telephone), at the time, AT&T was the primary phone company in the world. (These are other fascinating origins of company names. You’ll never believe the story behind the name WD-40.)

Because it was so big in the United States, the company was named American Telephone & Telegraph—known by most people as AT&T and by some (informally) as “Ma Bell.”

In 2005, the Southern Bell Company bought AT&T for $16 billion, but kept the name and the brand—a good thing we say, because everyone still recognizes the name. Today, AT&T remains the largest provider of fixed line and mobile telephone in the United States.

Haven’t you also always wondered what CVS and H&M stood for as well?

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Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is an Associate Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. She writes for, helps lead the editorial relationship with our partners, manages our year-round interns, and keeps the hundreds of pieces of content our team produces every month organized. In her free time, she likes exploring the seacoast of Maine where she lives and works remotely full time and snuggling up on the couch with her corgi, Eggo, to watch HGTV or The Office.