BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke, which translates as Bavarian Motor Works. It started as Bayerische Flugzeug-Werke when the company launched in 1916 and built aircraft engines; however, the company changed its name to Bayerische Motoren Werke in 1917.
It was founded by Franz Josef Popp in Munich, Germany. After World War I ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, BMW was no longer able to produce aircraft engines. The company started to produce motorcycles in the early 1920s and began building automobiles in 1928. In the 1930s, during German rearmament, BMW began building engines for the German Luftwaffe.