Last year, I blogged about 35 Distros and how they got their names. Some of the distros out there have fascinating stories, while others are just too mundane. However make sure you read that blog, its a very interesting one (trust me).

The natural extension of the “Etymology of a Distro” blog would be delving deeper into Open Source project’s etymologies. Indeed many readers already suggested that. Sadly I got sidetracked and put the whole idea on the back burner. Now I have put it off for way too long, here are 20 Open Source applications and the interesting (and not so interesting) stories behind their names:


The popular desktop environment originally stood for GNU Network Object Model Environment. The acronym was proposed by Elliot Lee, one of the authors of ORBit and the Object Activation Framework. It refers to GNOME’s original intention of creating a distributed object framework similar to Microsoft’s OLE. This no longer reflects the core vision of the GNOME project and some members of the project advocate dropping the acronym and re-naming “GNOME” to “Gnome”.


The name KDE was intended as a word play on the existing Common Desktop Environment, available for Unix systems. The K was originally suggested to stand for “Kool”, but it was quickly decided that the K should stand for nothing in particular. Additionally, one of the tips in certain versions of KDE 3 incorrectly states that the K currently is just meant to be the letter before L in the Latin alphabet, the first letter in the word Linux.


Pidgin used to be called Gaim, but after a prolonged naming dispute with AOL’s AIM, it was changed to Pidgin. The word “pidgin” refers to the language that develops between two people who do not share a common language . The word itself is traced back to “pigeon” the bird because it can be used as a messenger.


My favorite music player, and perhaps one of the few pieces of software that I can truly say “I love”. Amarok was originally named after Mike Oldfield’s album Amarok. This fact has been included as an easter egg I blogged about some time ago.


XBMC is a media center that was originally developed for the original XBOX. XBMC is an acronym for XBox Media Center. However the project evolved and became a media center for Linux, Apple TV, Windows, and Mac OS; but the nomenclature stuck.


Konqueror is a web browser/file manager designed as a core part of KDE. “Konqueror” is a reference to the two primary competitors at the time of the browser’s first release: “first comes the Navigator, then Explorer, and then the Konqueror”. It also follows the KDE naming convention: the names of most KDE programs begin with the letter K.


GIMP originally stood for General Image Manipulation Program. However in 1997 it became part of the GNU project so it changed to GNU Image Manipulation Program


The word “Gwen” means “white” in the Breton language and is commonly used as a first name (Gwen Stefani is as white as they come :P)


Kopete originally comes from the Chilean word “copete” which means alcoholic drink. The “C” was substituted with a” K” to follow the KDE naming convention. What does a chatting program has to do with alcohol? Your guess is as good as mine!


According to wikipedia , K3B means: K Burn Baby Burn, however their reference link serves a 404 error. So am not sure how true this is, but if true, then K3B would be one on of my favorite etymologies. Maybe with KDE4 now, it should be renamed to K4B, Burn Bloody Burn Baby ;).


Kate is an acronym for KDE Advance Text Editor.


There are two explanations behind the naming. The first explanation is that Apache was chosen out of respect for the Native American tribe of Apache, well-known for their endurance and their skills in warfare.

In order to understand the second explanation, you need to understand Apache’s history. The first version of the Apache web server was created by Robert McCool known simply as NCSA HTTPd. in 1994 Robert left the project leaving a variety of patches for improvements circulating through e-mails. Once these patches were applied, it became a “A PAtCHy server”

Officially, Apache now sticks with the first story.


Joomla is the English spelling of the Arabic word jumla meaning “all together” or “as a whole”, as well as “sentence” (as in, phrase)


Drupal is an English rendering of the Dutch word “druppel”, which means “drop” (as in “a water droplet”). The choice of “drop” was merely coincidental, Dries Buytaert the original writer wanted to register (meaning “village” in Dutch, in reference to his program’s community aspect) Dries made a typo when checking the domain name and thought it sounded better.


A Readme accompanying Krita’s source code states:

Krita is a paint application for raster images. It’s also, according to the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:

The first of four Hindu periods contained in the great Yuga, when the genius of Truth and Right, in the form of bull, stood firm on his four feet, and man gained nothing by iniquity.

In the Mahabharata, the name ‘krita’ is used in a context where this can be translated with ‘perfect’ - the perfect age.

Krita is Swedish for chalk and rita means “to draw”.


Thunar is named after the god of thunder in Norse mythology.


This one is kind of deceptive, never guessed it was an acronym: Linux Feed Reader.


Dendrobates azureus is the latin name for the blue dart frog. The co-creator was used to giving codenames of dart frog to his projects.


Cgywin started by Steve Chamberlain, a Cygnus engineer. He initially named it gnuwin32, but then changed it it to Cygwin32 to emphasise on his company’s role. When Microsoft registered the Win32 trademark, it was changed to Cygwin

20-Apt Yum

Apt: Advanced Packaging Tool

Yum: Yellowdog Updater Modified