What Inspired the Names of Programming Languages?

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According to Phil Karlton, there are only two difficult things in computer science: “cache invalidation and naming things,” and it is because of the latter that technology has so many strange and interesting names.

In this article, you’ll learn about the origins of the names of a few popular programming languages, as well as why they were chosen.


Larry Wall, an American programmer, created Perl in 1987. Pearl was his first choice since he thought it was a simple, memorable term with pleasant connotations. He altered the spelling to Perl because there was already a language with the same name. Practical Extraction and Reporting Language is a backronym (an acronym formed after the name) for Perl. The word pearl comes from the Old French perle, which means ‘a bead’ or’ something valuable,’ and the Latin perna, which is also the name of a mollusk that looks like a mutton leg.


Ruby was designed in the 1990s by Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto, a Japanese programmer. Perl had influenced him to choose the name of a precious stone, and he chose Ruby because it was a colleague’s birthstone. A birthstone is a gemstone that signifies a person’s month or zodiac sign at the time of their birth. Basically zodiac signs but with precious stones! The name ruby is derived from the Old French rubi, which means “reddish precious stone” and is derived from the Latin rubeus, which means “red.”


Guido van Rossum, a Dutch programmer, created Python in 1991 and named it after the British television show Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which he was watching at the time. He want it to be something that was “short, unique and slightly mysterious”. The term python goes back to ancient Greek Puthón, which was the name of a massive serpent slain by Apollo. Since the early 1800s, it has been used to describe a variety of huge, massive, non-venomous snakes that strangle their victims


James Gosling invented Java while employed at Sun Microsystems in the 90s. The project was originally titled ‘Oak’ before a high caffeine brainstorming meeting formed the name ‘Java’ (even though they quite nearly ended up going with ‘Silk’). Java, or Jawa as it is known in Indonesian, is a huge island that produces strong, dark, and sweet coffee. The word yavadvip comes from the Sanskrit words yava and dvipa, which signify ‘barley’ and ‘island,’ respectively. Since the 1800s, the term “java” has been used as a slang term for coffee in the United States.


JetBrains’ Kotlin programming language is named after the Russian island of Kotlin. The team intended to choose an island name such as Java, despite the fact that Java was called after the coffee, not the island! Kotlin (oтлин in Russian) was once a part of Sweden and was known to the Finns as Kettusaari, which means ‘fox island,’ and to the Swedes as Ketlingen, which may be from the lower German kettel, which means ‘cauldron.’ The island was called Kotling, then shortened to Kotlin, after Peter the Great and his Russian armies took control of it in 1703.



There is no obvious explanation for why Apple selected the name Swift, but the best bet is that they intended to convey a sense of speed. Swift is derived from the archaic word swipt, which meant ‘to move in a sweeping way.’ Since the 17th century, the swallow-like bird has been known as a swift, and its image is used as the computer language’s logo.


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