The KA-BAR company was founded in 1898 as Tidioute Cutlery Company; following its financial collapse and take-over it was renamed the Union Cutlery Company. KA-BAR was initially a trademark but in 1952 the company renamed itself KA-BAR Cutlery Inc.
The origin of the word KA-BAR is uncertain. The company claims it is a corruption of "Kill a Bear", an ability ascribed to the knife by a customer. A competing etymology, displayed in a museum at the Marine Corps Officer Candidates School (OCS) in Quantico, VA, is that it originally stood for "Knife Attached - Browning Automatic Rifle."