Differences between revisions 168 and 169
Revision 168 as of 2014-03-15 13:12:06
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Editor: JustinBRye
Comment: ganeti, kgb-client, mandos, pinto, python-six
Revision 169 as of 2014-06-04 15:59:08
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Editor: JustinBRye
Comment: additions, mostly mate
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 apt :: "APT" is just a random sequence of letters, not an acronym for either '''a'''dvanced '''p'''ackage '''t'''ool or (the slightly less apt alternative) '''a'''dvanced '''p'''ackaging '''t'''ool /* (This seems implausible, and nobody can explain ''why'' it's not allowed to have a meaningful name, but that's the official line) */  apt :: "APT" was [[https://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/1998/04/msg00027.html|originally announced]] as simply "'''a''' '''p'''ackage '''t'''ool"; these days people seem to prefer either '''a'''dvanced '''p'''ackage '''t'''ool or (the slightly less apt alternative) '''a'''dvanced '''p'''ackaging '''t'''ool, but none of these answers are officially official
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<<Anchor(atril)>>
 atril :: ([[#evince|evince]] fork for [[#mate|MATE]], thematically named in
 Spanish) "lectern" - i.e. a thing for reading from
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<<Anchor(buffy)>>
 buffy :: (new-mail summarizer - see also [[DebianPkg:xbuffy|xbuffy]], etc.) a
 spin-off from [[#biff|biff]], because before she got her own TV show Buffy was the girlfriend of the mythical eighties newbie USENET poster `BIFF@BIT.NET`.
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<<Anchor(caja)>>
 caja :: ([[#nautilus|nautilus]] fork for [[#mate|MATE]], thematically named
 in Spanish) "case/chest/countertop" (pronounced to rhyme with "baja")
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 dbus :: yes, it's a "message bus", but what's that when it's at home? The answer is that it's a data transport system - a standard software engineering technical term coined by analogy with hardware "buses" such as PCI, which are themselves named after electrical-engineering "busbars", which got their name in the days when the omnibus was the latest in transport technology. Third-generation jargon! Meanwhile, although it's nowhere to be seen in the official docs, Wikipedia claims the "D" stands for Desktop  dbus :: yes, it's a "message bus", but what's that when it's at home? The answer is that it's a data transport system - a standard software engineering technical term coined by analogy with hardware "buses" such as PCI, which are themselves named after electrical-engineering "busbars", which got their name in the days when the omnibus was the latest in transport technology. Third-generation jargon! Meanwhile, although it's nowhere to be seen in the official docs, Wikipedia claims the "D" stands for Desktop. See also the input-method framework [[DebianPkg:ibus|ibus]], where the connection to the original vehicular metaphor is even more tenuous
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<<Anchor(engrampa)>>
 engrampa :: ([[#file-roller|file-roller]] fork for [[#mate|MATE]], thematically named in Spanish) staple/bind/clip together
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 *fribidi* :: GNU !FriBiDi is a '''free''' implementation of the Unicode '''Bi-di'''rectional Algorithm, to support writing systems like Hebrew and Arabic (which require both right-to-left and occasionally left-to-right text). Giving it the same vowel throughout may be to make it simpler for non-anglophones, or just funnier  *fribidi* :: GNU !FriBiDi is a '''free''' implementation of the Unicode '''Bi-di'''rectional Algorithm, to support writing systems like Hebrew and Arabic (which require both right-to-left and occasionally left-to-right text). Giving it the same vowel throughout may be to make it simpler for non-anglophones, or just funnier /* not to be confused with fribid, ITP #578563 */
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<<Anchor(ho22bus)>>
 ho22bus :: vocabulary learning software for /* and by */ non-native English-speakers; the name is short for [[https://code.google.com/p/ho22bus/|"honorificabilitudinitatibus"]] and has nothing to do with [[#dbus|any other sort of bus]]
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<<Anchor(marco)>>
 marco :: ([[#metacity|metacity]] fork for [[#mate|MATE]], thematically named in Spanish) "frame" /* nothing to do with Mr Polo */
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<<Anchor(mozo)>>
 mozo :: ([[#alacarte|alacarte]] fork for [[#mate|MATE]], thematically named in Spanish) "servant" or "waiter" (a menu-handler) /* nothing to do with mozilla */
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<<Anchor(pluma)>>
 pluma :: ([[DebianPkg:gedit|gedit]] fork for [[#mate|MATE]], thematically named in Spanish) "feather/quill/pen"
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<<Anchor(sauerbraten)>>
 sauerbraten :: (contrib FPS game engine) from a traditional German style of pot-roast /* for some reason... it's probably not relevant that the original recipe used pickled horsemeat */
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<<Anchor(zathura)>>
 zathura :: the box office flop sequel to Jumanji, which might make trademark-infringing amounts of sense if it was a game, but no, it's a document viewer

An IT-etymology/linuxguistics page for people wondering "how come the package yasysmand-cling has such a strange name?"

Giving cryptic names to software is a well-established UNIX tradition, and the explanations are often missing from the documentation, either because the developers imagine it's obvious (usually wrongly) or because they think nobody cares (and here they're usually right, or it would turn up as FAQ material).

Suggested guidelines for adding to the list:

  1. it's only for software that's in Debian (preferably Stable/Testing main), and it's ASCIIbetical by binary package;
  2. xyzutils doesn't need an entry here if XYZ is genuinely self-evident or explained in the package description;

  3. it is okay if the explanation boils down to "arbitrary nonsense-word" or "random cool animal".

See Wikipedia for lists of etymologies for general computer jargon and company names (yes, "Debian" appears in both!) Also, refer to The Jargon File and the Jargon Chaff File, to have a source other than Wikipedia.

Jump to: 2 3 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

2

2ping

a 2-way ping, able to find out if a packet was lost on the way to a 2ping server or on the way back

3

389-ds

named "Fedora Directory Server" before they got cold feet about the branding - see the FAQ. If you don't see the answer to the question there, it's because they're assuming you know that LDAP uses port 389

A

abcde

a better CD encoder (in the sense of "it's a CD encoder that's better than its rivals", not "it makes a better CD encoder than a window manager")

abiword

the word processor designed for AbiSource's AbiSuite, where "abi(erto)" is Spanish for "open"

adequate

installed package adequacy checker; or rather, a Debian quality tester

aewm

an exiguous (that is, meager or scanty) window manager

aft

a markup tool which is almost free text

agave

a palette-coordinating tool, previously known as colorscheme; but that gave the wrong impression of its functionality, hence the switch to something completely uninformative - the agave isn't exactly renowned for its beauty, though I suppose the "G" might hint at a GNOME connection

agedu

it's "age-du" (as in, atime-sensitive disk-usage scanner), not "agadoo", but the confusion is officially tolerated

aisleriot
solitaire; an anagram

akonadi-*

KDE PIM service; the name (with a "K" in it) of a Ghanaian goddess (of justice and protection)

alacarte
previously the Simple Menu Editor for Gnome. Some may see why that was renamed; the new version is intended to convey the idea of picking things off the menu

algol68g

"Algol 68 Genie", a compiler/interpreter for the 1968 standard (revised in 1973) for the Algorithmic Language (punning on the "demon star" Algol)

alpine

Apache-Licensed PINE, where pine was the old (non-DFSG-free) "Program for Internet News and E-mail" - formerly known as "Pine Is Nearly Elm", named after a yet older electronic mail program. Nowadays contains its fork realpine, which the developers insist is re-alpine (alpine development restarted, since the original team seems to not be doing much) and not real-pine…

amarok

a music player for KDE named after a Mike Oldfield album which is named in turn after an Inuit word for "wolf" - so definitely a "cool animal"

amavisd-new

now the only surviving version of "a mail virus scanner daemon"

ampache

(web media-server) amplifier + Apache (q.v.); you might imagine that has some connection with Winamp, but that AMP originally stood for Advanced Media Products (the MP3 player Winamp was built around)

anjuta

GNOME IDE named after its designer's girlfriend

ant

Apache's Java build tool; an appropriate animal justified as "another neat tool"

apache

a self-deprecatory nickname rather than a completely arbitrary nonsense word: originally Apache Server was A Patchy Server (in that it started as a collection of patches to the NCSA httpd)

apt

"APT" was originally announced as simply "a package tool"; these days people seem to prefer either advanced package tool or (the slightly less apt alternative) advanced packaging tool, but none of these answers are officially official

arandr

another XRandR client, because there were already clients called XRandR, GRandR, URandR, and LXRandR by the time it was created. XRandR itself stands for "X resize and rotate"

ardour

("digital audio workstation") so called for a whole collection of reasons

argyll
(color calibration manager) apparently named after the street the developer lived on, which is in turn (maybe fortuitously) named after a region of Scotland associated with tartans (which are basically standardized colorschemes - not to be confused with the Argyle pattern mostly seen on garishly colored golf outfits)

asmix

a dockable mixer (that is, a volume control knob) originally designed for the afterstep window-manager (compare gnustep), as were a good few other nineties packages with names beginning with "A" or especially "AS"; many of them were later replaced by "WM" versions for windowmaker

asp

(dynamic-IP-address discovery tool) address search protocol

aspell

(spell checker) designed to replace ispell, in particular in -a (auto?) mode

asterisk

(PBX) because it's a wildcard

atomicparsley
(MPEG-4 metadata editor) "atoms" are the building blocks of MPEG-4 container units, and "parsley" is a reference to garnishing files with extra information and/or a pun on "parser"

atril

(evince fork for MATE, thematically named in Spanish) "lectern" - i.e. a thing for reading from

auctex

a TeX-editing environment for Emacs developed at what was then the Aalborg University Center, Denmark

audacious

player punning on "audio", not to be confused with audacity. BMP (Beep Media Player, originally just called Beep) was a fork of XMMS (see xmms2), and Audacious in turn is a fork of BMP; somewhere along the way it stopped being a WinAmp clone

audacity

audio editor with a punning name - compare timidity

avahi-*
(zeroconf implementation) the obscure animal name struck a developer as cool

awk

see mawk

ayttm

(IM client) originally YATTM but misspelled when the project-name was registered; since backronymed as "are you talking to me?"

azureus

(BitTorrent client) named after the genus of "azure-colored" poison-dart frog in its logo

B

bacula

I suppose you could argue that it comes out at night and sucks your company's lifeblood over the network, but it really is just an excruciating pun on backups and Dracula (slightly excused by the spin-off acronym of the Bacula Admin Tool)

balsa

a GNOME mailclient, named in the tradition of pine and elm (see alpine)

bangarang

(KDE media player) Jamaican slang for hubbub, uproar

banshee

(GNOME media management application) originally "Sonance", but renamed after a supernatural entity that produces ill-omened keening

baobab

(the GNOME Disk Usage Analyzer) a bloaty tree

basenji

media search tool named after a hunting dog (successor to beagle)

bc

originally a front-end for dc ("desk-calculator"); modern GNU bc is instead a backwards-compatible byte-code interpreter for dc, but what it stands for is still "basic calculator"

biff

traditional UNIX mail notification tool named after somebody's dog

bind9

yes, it stands for "Berkeley Internet name domain (version nine)", but what's a "name domain" (as opposed to a domain name)? The original unabbreviated name was "the Berkeley Internet Name Domain Server" - that is, it was the UCB domain-server for Internet-names.

bins

(photo album generator) anyone remember SWIGS, Structured Web Image Gallery System? BINS is not SWIGS

biomaj

a biological database updater; for francophones it's obvious that mise-à-jour means "update"

bison

a pun on yacc

bitlbee

(IRC/IM gateway) Anglo-Dutch gibberish

blender

(3D animator) not directly named after the kitchen appliance; it was a song (by Yello) used as backing music for a demo of an earlier incarnation

bluefish
(HTML editor) named after its logo (not the same blue fish as its current logo)

bluez

(tools for using shortrange Bluetooth wireless devices) upstream write it as BlueZ, implying it's "bloo-zee" rather than just "blooz"; the significance of the Z is unclear, but the rest is easy. The protocol is named after the 10th-century Danish king Harald "Blåtand" Gormsson, who was (supposedly) skilled at fostering cooperation between diverse factions, and (maybe) overfond of blueberries.

bochs

(classic x86 PC emulator) claims to be a play on the word "box", but unless there's a pun I'm not seeing it's just a whimsical misspelling

bonnie++

this package's description passes the buck to bonnie, which (when last seen, in Potato) had the description "a file system benchmark which attempts to study bottlenecks - it is named 'Bonnie' for semi-obvious reasons." Don't get it? The reason is that blues/country musician Bonnie Raitt plays slide guitar using a bottleneck.

bonobo*

deprecated CORBA precursor to dbus. Developed by Ximian and named like most of their products with an arbitrary word out of primatology

brasero
(CD-burner) from the Spanish for "heater" - i.e. a burner

bsd*
a few packages have names beginning with BSD not to indicate that they are specific to the Debian GNU/kFreeBSD ports but to signal that Linux distros originally inherited them from (the earliest clearly free versions of) the Berkeley Software Distribution

bsd-mailx

an example of the above; this is a BSD-derived replacement for the original UNIX mail command. The names of different versions have a tangled history (and even that link doesn't directly explain the "X"; presumably it's for "extended")

btrfs-tools

BTRFS is the B-tree File System, but if that abbreviation didn't suggest "BetterFS" there would be no reason to include the "R"

buffy

(new-mail summarizer - see also xbuffy, etc.) a spin-off from biff, because before she got her own TV show Buffy was the girlfriend of the mythical eighties newbie USENET poster BIFF@BIT.NET.

bugzilla*

originally the bugtracking tool used by Netscape for Mozilla, Chatzilla, etc, so the -zilla part isn't intended to carry its usual negative connotations ("huge, monstrous, and uncontrollably destructive")

bumblebee

software to support NVIDIA Optimus hardware, thematically named after a "Transformers" character

byobu

a command line "window manager" built on TMUX/GNU Screen, named from the Japanese word for a screen (in the folding-panel room-divider sense)

C

caca-utils

libcaca pretends to be an acronym for "Color AsCii Art", but really it's self-deprecating code

cairo*

the Cairo graphics library was originally named Xr ("X11 rendering"?), then renamed as something less platform-specific: "Cairo" sounds like chi-rho, which is vaguely equivalent to Xr

caja

(nautilus fork for MATE, thematically named in Spanish) "case/chest/countertop" (pronounced to rhyme with "baja")

calibre

(manager for e-book catalogs, or maybe with that un-American spelling it should be catalogues) that's "libre" as in liberté, not (just) libr- as in library

calligra
(formerly known as KOffice) just a brandname suggesting "calligraphy" and mysteriously lacking a "K"

canto
text Atom/RSS feedreader; looks like a Console Atom News-something, but apparently it's just because it has a subdivided UI and a canto is a subdivision of a poem

caspar

(make-based CMS) "named after Caspar the Friendly Ghost, since that's the title of the Daniel Johnston song I was listening to"

ceilometer

(OpenStack metering service) named after an instrument for measuring cloud coverage

ceph

(OpenStack storage) short for "cephalopod", though not for any reason you'd be likely to guess; supposedly it's a reference to parallelization and/or a university's mollusc mascot

chimera2
a remarkable number of web browsers have used this name, including the OS X one that was better known as Camino; this one's much older (and yet still only claims to be an alpha release). Its use of the Athena widget set explains the classical connection; otherwise like most of its namesakes it's probably advertising itself as a monstrous hybrid.

chocolate-doom

a pun on "Vanilla Doom", a common term used within the Doom gaming community to refer to the original doom.exe on MS-DOS. Chocolate Doom aims to emulate it as closely as possible

choqok

a KDE (hence often written "choqoK") microblogging client "named from an ancient Persian word for sparrow"

chromium
web browsers on Linux spent a decade going through a cycle of slick new slimline web browsers gradually getting buried in creeping features until they were as weighed down with chrome grills and ornamental fins as a fifties US car, at which point everyone would switch to some new minimalist alternative. Meanwhile these GUI widgets came to be referred to as "chrome", which explains why Google would choose to advertise their browser as if it was manufactured entirely out of deadweight bling...

chuck
("Audio Programming Language") built around a dataflow "chuck" operator - the language name is written "ChucK", but that just seems to be because related software had similar capitalization

cinder

(OpenStack block-storage service) as in "cinderblock"

cinnamon

Linux Mint's fork of gnome-shell; seemingly a thematic flavorsome name - cf. mate

clisp

Common Lisp, originally a list-processing language

clive

must be a command-line-interface video-extractor (because it certainly isn't a Virtual Environment written in the .NET Common Language Infrastructure)

conkeror

(web browser) a pun on konqueror and a reference to a novelty beer, but basically a word for the winner in the traditional British children's game of conkers

conky-*

system monitor; named after an evil dummy character in the Canadian mockumentary TV series "Trailer Park Boys"

coreutils
the package itself has a clear name, but its contents include many commands named in shorthand:
  • dd: on IBM system/360 mainframes, the Job Control Language used a dd-like syntax to create a Dataset Definition

  • mknod: originally created any sort of "file system node"; nowadays of extremely limited usefulness

  • uname: short for "UNIX name", which makes it bizarre that the version now standard comes from a project that's explicitly Not UNIX...

corosync

(cluster interprocess messaging framework) I'm really hoping this is coro as in the Portuguese/Spanish/Italian for "chorus" (or conceivably "coroutine"), plus sync as in "(virtual) synchrony", and has nothing to do with coronary syncopation a.k.a. cardiac arrhythmia

cortina

(GNOME wallpaper app) Italian for "curtain"

cpio

the archiving tool does indeed "copy in/out", but this package also includes an executable that's harder to guess the function of: "mt-gnu", the GNU version of the magnetic tape manipulation tool

cricket

"I called it Cricket because it popped into mind. It's short and catchy, and there seems to be no other piece of network management software called Cricket". The logo clarifies that it's referencing the chirpy insect, not the game

crm114

a reference to Dr Strangelove (where an oversensitive CRM114 Discriminator causes the nuclear apocalypse) partly justified by the backronym "controllable regex mutilator"

cw

a front-end to the Morse processor unixcw. "CW" originally stood for "continuous wave radio", but hams use it as (written) shorthand for "Morse" regardless of the medium

cyrus-*
mail server; named in honor of King Cyrus II ("the Great") of Persia, who established an early postal network

D

dansguardian

Daniel Barron's web-censoring server, which "guards" web users from the things it's filtering

dares

recovery tool for damaged optical discs; for some reason only the German docs admit it's short for data-rescue

dbus

yes, it's a "message bus", but what's that when it's at home? The answer is that it's a data transport system - a standard software engineering technical term coined by analogy with hardware "buses" such as PCI, which are themselves named after electrical-engineering "busbars", which got their name in the days when the omnibus was the latest in transport technology. Third-generation jargon! Meanwhile, although it's nowhere to be seen in the official docs, Wikipedia claims the "D" stands for Desktop. See also the input-method framework ibus, where the connection to the original vehicular metaphor is even more tenuous

dconf-*

a replacement for GConf (the GNOME Configurator), where the "D" may stand for D-Bus or directly for "Desktop"; not connected to the ex-package "dconf" where it was D for Dump, or maybe Distributed

denemo

GUI for lilypond, the music typesetting system. denemo is a garbled version of the word "dénouement" (compare the commercial alternative "Finale"). The other LilyPond GUI, rosegarden, is presumably intended to imply "like LilyPond but prettier"; lilypond itself is mysterious unless it's got something to do with musical frogs

desmume

(Nintendo DS emulator) an odd garbling of "DS-emu-Me", in the style of "hacking" tools like FlashMe

dillo

an earlier web browser was named "gzilla" (a GTK mini-Mozilla), then since that was just too close, "armadillo"; this fork is a cut-down version

ding

allegedly dictionary nice grep, but note that "Ding" is the German for "thing/thingummy"

*django

(Python web-app development framework) named after jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, the famous Belgian

dolphin

(KDE file manager) a not-quite-arbitrary cool animal, in that it's smart and streamlined (and compare GNOME's equivalent, nautilus)

doxygen

got its name from playing with the words "documentation" and "generator" (documentation → docs → dox, and generator → gen). At the time the author was looking into lex and yacc, where a lot of things start with "yy", so the "Y" slipped in and made things pronounceable

dracut

(low-level tool for generating initramfs images) a small town in Massachusetts, not all that far from Plymouth

drupal*

PHP blog engine; mangled Dutch for "droplet", named after the (former) online community at drop.org, which in turn was originally a typo for "dorp", village (so it's double Dutch)

dynamite

it "blows up" (meaning "inflates", meaning decompresses) PKWARE (i.e. .zip) archives

E

eclipse

(Java IDE) the Eclipse Foundation may be essentially a project to support Java development in a Sunless environment, but when it was named the thing it was intended to eclipse was MS Visual Studio - the snub to Sun Microsystems is an accident!

ekiga

VoIP client formerly known as GnomeMeeting; from a Cameroonian communications mechanism rather like "talking drums" minus the drums

elk

the extension language kit - an implementation of Scheme (cf. guile), and yet another free software ungulate

emacs*

originally a set of Editor MACroS for the TECO editor; see also xemacs

emesene
obviously something to do with the MSN protocol; less obviously just the initialism spelled out in Spanish

enchant
a wrapper for spellchecking systems named as a pun on "spelling"

engrampa

(file-roller fork for MATE, thematically named in Spanish) staple/bind/clip together

epic5

enhanced programmable IRC-II client (version five)

epiphany-*

GNOME web browser; the word means "a moment of insight or (mystical) revelation", so maybe it's just a fancy way of saying "it's an idea I had"

eric

an IDE for Python overtly named after Monty Python's Eric Idle (compare idle)

erlang

a programming language either named after a Danish mathematician/engineer or after the fact it's a language originally developed by Ericsson (for telephony)

etherape

a packetsniffer punningly named after the Windows-only EtherMan, where "Man" was short for man-in-the-middle. Not connected to "the Ether Man", the media nickname for a serial rapist

ettercap

an ethernet capture tool; it's also a lurking horror capable of ARP poisoning, so it's named after a venomous AD&D spider-monster

evolution

(GNOME groupware) inherited from Ximian, where it fits in with their primatological theme

evince
(document viewer) swanky word for "show"

exfalso

tag editor for quodlibet. "Ex falso quod libet" is Latin for "from a falsehood, whatever you please" (a principle of classical logic)

exim*

originally "EXperimental Internet Mailer"

exo-utils

the libexo support library for Xfce applications consists of extensions developed by os-cillation.de

expat

the expat XML parser is so called because it's an English word that's close enough to X-pa(mumble)

F

fcitx

originally the free Chinese input toy for X; but that was never a very good name and has become increasingly inaccurate, so we are now permitted to understand it as standing for anything we like, such as maybe "friendly customizable interaction tool for UNIX", or maybe "flexible character indication technology for... xenography"

fenics

the FEniCS project provides computational software for finite element analysis, originally compiled at the University of Chicago (whose emblem is a phoenix)

fgetty

Felix von Leitner's getty

file-roller

GNOME archive manager; the association with compression implies that it was named in the part of the anglophone world where people talk about "(road-)rollers" rather than always calling them "steamrollers"

flite
"festival lite", because it's a lightweight alternative to the Festival Speech Synthesis System (originally developed at the University of Edinburgh)

fop

(XML converter) formatting objects processor

forg

no, it's not a dyslexic kermit client, it's a Python-TK gopher client. Nobody seems to remember why this was named "the FORG" (unless it's short for "forgot"), but the gopher protocol itself got its name from the mascot of the University of Minnesota, and from the fact it runs file-fetching errands through a network of virtual tunnels.

fort77

a front-end to invoke The IBM Mathematical FORmula TRANslating System, as standardized in the seventies (arguably 1978!)

fpc
(the Free Pascal Compiler) "Free Pascal" is the particular free Pascal derived from FPK Pascal (named with its author's initials), and the language was named after the inventor of the mechanical calculator.

*fribidi*

GNU FriBiDi is a free implementation of the Unicode Bi-directional Algorithm, to support writing systems like Hebrew and Arabic (which require both right-to-left and occasionally left-to-right text). Giving it the same vowel throughout may be to make it simpler for non-anglophones, or just funnier

fuse*

some of these packages are more up-front than others about the fact it stands for filesystem-in-userspace, which is not so much an acronym as a pair of jargon terms smushed together. Maybe it would have been called u-mount if that wasn't already taken

fvwm

nobody knows what the "F" stands for, but the most popular arbitrary retrofit is that it's the "feline" virtual window manager

G

"G" usually stands directly or indirectly for GNU (where it stands for GNU); GTK for instance is the GIMP ToolKit (where "gimp" is the GNU Image Manipulation Program)

gajim

Gajim's A Jabber Instant Messenger (not to be confused with gaim - see pidgin)

gamin

francophone wordplay: first there was the File Alteration Monitor, then (because "fam" is short for "family") its child projects were called "marmot" and "gamin" (both of which mean something like "kid", "brat")

ganeti

(VM-clusterizer) a distinctive nonsense-word

gawk

GNU AWK - see mawk

gcompris
(educational games) another French pun: "G Compris" = "j'ai compris" = "I understand (have understood)"

gcp

stands for Goffi's file CoPier, Goffi being the nickname of the author

geany

(GTK IDE) something along the lines of Gtk-anythingyoulike, with the E just nudging it in the direction of "genie" (or judging by the FAQ's pronunciation guide, French "génie")

geeqie

a fork of gqview (punning on "geeky")

gforth
GNU Forth, which would have been named FOURTH if IBM 1130s allowed six-letter names, since it claimed to be fourth-generation software (though not a 4GL in the later sense)

ghostscript

a punning name for a GPLed alternative to Adobe PostScript

gigolo
a GIO/GVfs filesystem connection manager, named this way because as a gigolo, it mounts what it is told to

gir*

GIR is the GObject introspection repository; "type introspection" lets objects provide metadata about themselves, but the main influence on this name is probably the fact that "Gir" is an Invader Zim reference

git

(distributed VCS) semi-arbitrary short word

gitalist

web viewer for git based on Catalyst

gkermit
GPLed client for the kermit protocol, which was named after the muppet but backronymed as "Kl10 Errorfree Reciprocal Microprocessor Interchange over TTY"

gkrellm

GNU (or GTK) Krell Monitors (or Meters), the Krell being the alien species featured in the movie "Forbidden Planet"

glance

(OpenStack image service) a name associated with speed and the visual sense of the word "image"

*glib*

named after the non-GUI-specific code separated out from GTK+, where the G as usual stands indirectly for GNU; not to be confused with glibc AKA eglibc AKA libc6

gnat

(the GCC Ada compiler) originally the GNU NYU (New York University) Ada(95) Translator (Ada being named in honor of "the first computer programmer", Ada Lovelace)

gnats

(bug-tracker) not to be confused with the above: gnats are just GNU-themed bugs (or insects at any rate)

gnome

originally the GNU Network Object Model Environment, until that was judged not to match the project's objectives; now it doesn't stand for anything

gnome-orca

named in the same tradition as previous screen-readers

gnome-sushi

previewer for nautilus; presumably the idea is that you're eating raw cephalopod. Not to be confused with the sushi which is a metapackage for a thematically named IRC suite

gnotravex

short for GNOME TetraVex, which was presumably so called because it's a vexing puzzle played on a 4×4 grid

gnotski

(sliding block puzzle) short for GNOME Klotski, a name originally taken from the Polish "klocki", "wooden blocks"

gnuplot

a graphing tool, but one that has absolutely nothing to do with GNU: "gnu" was just an arbitrary animal name that sounds like "new"

gnustep-*

a GUI programming environment descended from NeXTStep (which came from NeXT Software, Inc.); meanwhile Mac OS X is derived from OpenStep

golang

Google's Go programming language, which they seem to have given the shortest name they could find that was (a) cool and (b) Google-related

gprolog

the GNU compiler for Prolog, which was so called as an abbreviation in French for "programmation en logique" (logic programming)

grace

descended from xmgr (the X Motif GRapher) which was also for no obvious reason known as ACE/gr

grep

Global Regular Expression Print

groff

the GNU replacement for the text formatters troff (typesetter roff) and nroff ("new" as of 1979); "roff" is a contraction of "run-off" as in "run off a hard copy"

gromacs

(Molecular Dynamics computation system) nothing to do with groff or emacs; it's the Groningen (NL) machine for chemical simulation

gross

mailserver for graylisting of suspicious sources

gtali

short for GNOME Tali, from the Latin for "anklebones", since that's what the Romans used for dice

guacamole

(web VNC system) arbitrary word and near-miss for a cool animal name

guile-*

backronymed as the GNU Ubiquitous Intelligent Language for Extensions, but mainly a pun; it's an interpreter/virtual machine for the language "scheme", which was originally named "schemer", in the tradition of lisp-derivatives like "planner" and "conniver"

gweled

a GTK+ clone of "Bejeweled", punningly named in Welsh ("gweled" means "vision")

H

hadoop-*
surprisingly doesn't stand for high-availability distributed object-oriented programming; it was stolen from the name the programmer's son gave to a toy elephant (an arbitrary animal with convenient undertones of "lumbering but lovable")

halibut

(doc-formatter) "Historical reasons. It's probably better not to ask."

haserl
lightweight CGI wrapper system; a Bavarian word for "bunny" (so another semi-arbitrary animal)

heat

(OpenStack orchestration service) as in atmospheric dynamics and cloud creation

heimdal-*

free implementation of Kerberos 5; named after another mythological watch-keeper (in this case a Norse god)

herbstluftwm

(tiling window manager) it's not a random stack of letters, it's a beautiful German word! Herbst-Luft-WM, the Fall-Air (or should that be Autumn-Breeze?) Window Manager, is so called because the author liked the sound of the MUA "wanderlust" aka wl

hesiod
a name service for storing system databases; another classical reference from Project Athena - Hesiod was biographer to the gods

ho22bus

vocabulary learning software for non-native English-speakers; the name is short for "honorificabilitudinitatibus" and has nothing to do with any other sort of bus

hotot

(micro-blogging Twitter/Identica client) named after a breed of dwarf rabbit (which is named after a place in Normandy)

hugs98

(Haskell interpreter) Haskell user's gofer system (for the Haskell 98 standard); Haskell being named after the logician Haskell Curry

hugin

(panoramic photo stitcher) named after one of the two ravens of the Norse god Odin (cf. the otherwise unconnected package munin). The name is Old Norse for "thought"

hunspell
a spellchecker that was originally specific to Hungarian

hylafax-*

the HylaFAX telecopying server (renamed from FlexFAX to avoid trademark issues) is named after a genus of tree-frog

I

It's not clear whether all the ice- names below are mostly a coincidence or whether there is some sort of shared subtext of "cool and/or penguin-friendly".

i2c-tools

I-squared-C, meaning "Inter-Integrated Circuit", is a hardware bus protocol, which gets us a little closer to guessing that it means "tools for reading from hardware health-monitoring sensors"

i3

designed as the successor to wmii, this is the third generation of improvements to this kind of window manager and stands for Improved Improved Improved, shortened to i3

iagno

it admits to being similar to Go (not that go) and derived from Reversi; but the key to understanding the name is that it's "GNOME iago", because the name of the trademarked version is Othello, and when you metaphorically invert Othello (in the play of the same name) you get Iago

icebox

middleware development framework using ZeroC's Internet Communications Engine

icecast2

streaming audio server, a cool (?) free clone of Shoutcast

icedax

free fork of cdda2wav for cdrkit (see also wodim); supposedly the Incredible Digital Audio Extractor, but note that this fork happened just as iceweasel was being renamed

icedtea-*

free version of OpenJDK (see Java), which couldn't use that trademarked name

iceweasel

branding-free microfork of Mozilla Phoenix Firebird Firefox; for background see Wikipedia

icewm

Win95-alike window manager, named "on a very hot day"

icinga

a fork of NAGIOS which was careful to pick a name that's definitely untrademarked. "Icinga" means "it browses" in Zulu (where "C" represents a tutting sound)

idle

officially an Integrated DeveLopment Environment for Python (rather than being named after Monty Python's Eric Idle). Predated eric

inotify-tools

inotify is a Linux filesystem-monitoring interface, but what does the "I" stand for? It replaced dnotify, where the "D" definitely stood for "Directory"; so the answer is probably "Inode". But even Dennis Ritchie wasn't sure what the "I" in "Inode" stood for! The traditional guess was "Index", but it's only a guess

insserv

reading between the lines of its man page's EXIT CODES section, "install services", i.e. "add daemons to the SysV init system"

iptables

tool for configuring the Linux kernel's handling of IPv4 packets; the package description does manage to mention the word "firewall", but never fully explains the package's name. There's no rows-and-columns structure involved; it's just that each firewall rule is an "IP chain" (as used by the old ipchains) and the chains are grouped into sets called "IP tables"

irssi

phonological pun on ircII, "Internet Relay Chat client, second edition"

ispell

(spellchecker) nothing to do with iBooks! It was the first interactive successor to UNIX spell

istanbul

(desktop recorder) disappointingly this was never known as constantinople; it was named ultra-obscurely after a particular football match

iw

a package (and CLI tool) that might have been called wireless-network-interface-device-configurator-utility; it replaces iwconfig, which was like ifconfig with a "W" for "wireless" jammed in seemingly at random (and compare the similarly basic iproute command ip)

J

Package names beginning with "J" may be referencing Java (see below), or may occasionally be "Just Another" (compare "Yet Another").

jade

early reports were that it stood for "James (Clark)'s awesome DSSSL engine", though it never seems to have used that officially

java-*

the programming language is named after (a variety of) the raw material that mathematicians turn into theorems

javascript-*

a programming language announced as a web technology just as Java was becoming successful in that field, and widely suspected of being named as a deliberate ploy to ride on its coat-tails, though it had been known as "Mocha" very early in its development

jetty

(Java servlet engine) the FAQ mentions several reasons (but skips "it's a safe place to launch things")

jffnms

not very appropriately a Just For Fun Network Management System

joe

Joe's Own Editor by Joseph H. Allen (whose first name is often abbreviated Joe)

jovie

formerly kttsd (KDE Text-To-Speech Daemon) but renamed after the developer's daughter

jpnevulator

originally created as a Jackpot Navigator emulator (for interfacing with slot machines), it transformed into a serial sniffer that is able to send data on a serial line too. Giving credit to this first use, the name is some sort of strange mash up

jupp

fork of JOE named after the author's friend Josef, which can be abbreviated Jupp or Sepp depending on the part of Germany you live in - the latter more common in Bavaria

K

"K" occasionally stands for Kernel, but usually it's KDE

k3b
(KDE CD/DVD-burner) the "K" is obvious, but it's not "K-times-three B" (because that's a KKK-burner); it's not "K[...three letters...]B" (because that's a kebab); it's "a K and three Bs", meaning "KDE Burn, Baby, Burn"

kadu

a KDE-based client for the gadu-gadu Instant Messaging protocol (popular in Poland, where "gadu-gadu" is "chit-chat")

kanla
(outage-spotter) you might guess from the logo that it means "eye", but you probably wouldn't guess the source language: Lojban

karbon

(KOffice/Calligra vector graphics package) originally known as Karbon14 after the isotope used in radiocarbon-dating

kde

originally a replacement for the Common Desktop Environment with a Kooler arbitrary initial letter. However, these days for branding reasons the desktop environment is officially called Plasma, and KDE is just the developer community, so presumably it doesn't stand for anything. (Meanwhile, following Plasma's states-of-matter theme, the hardware support framework is provided by libsolid)

kephra
(text editor) named after "the scarab god (neter) of ancient Egypt", since that deity created himself and this is software that the programmers use to produce new versions of itself. But while "neter" may be the Ancient Egyptian for "deity", "kephra" appears to be a typo for "Khepra"...

keystone

(OpenStack authentication service) a crucial building-block, and as a bonus the word sounds as if it means something security-related rather than just a lump of masonry

kgb-client

KGB is a bot relaying VCS commits to IRC notifications, successor to CIA, which was "a brainless entity designed to keep an eye on subversion". Not related to kgb the file-compressor.

kismet

(wireless sniffer) "The word itself means Fate or Destiny. While I wish I could make up some smart comment about picking it because Kismet will ultimately uncover every active wireless network in the area, really I just needed a name and was clicking through a thesaurus and liked the sound."

klibc-utils

tools built with an alternate C library specialized for use at boot-time - the "K" is for (the Linux) Kernel

kodos

regexp debugger named as an arbitrary Simpsons reference (Kodos being one of the UFO aliens)

konqueror
(KDE web browser) the name is a play on the names of its competitors at the time: after visits from a Navigator and an Explorer, the next to arrive is the Conqueror

kopete

KDE chat client; copete in Spanish is literally "tuft of hair", but Chilean slang for "a drink with your friends"

krb5-*

squeezed name for "MIT Kerberos version five"; Kerberos was the watchdog of the Greek underworld (also known in Latinized form as Cerberus), so it's a natural label for the network authentication protocol originally designed for Project Athena

krita

KOffice/Calligra graphics package; in Swedish, "krita" means "chalk/crayon" and "K-rita" is "K-draw"; but if that's not enough justification, "krita" is also Sanskrit for "perfect"

krusader

a two-panel file manager in the tradition of Midnight Commander, with a "K" for KDE. All the names like kommander, kontroller, and kaptain had already been claimed, so this app has ended up with one that won't make it popular in the Middle East

L

Usually, packages with names like "libfoo" are just shared libraries pulled in by installing foo (with a few exceptions like the libreoffice* apps that depend on the library ure; as long as the end-user package is sanely named it hardly matters if it also pulls in libglibber and libnyarlathotep). One example of a punning lib* name is the GNU support library libiberty (included in the package binutils-dev, among others); the option to link against a library is "-l" plus the library name with the "lib-" prefix stripped, so in this case it's "-liberty".

lazarus

an IDE for Pascal; a "back from the dead" fork of the Megido project

ldap-*

the lightweight directory access protocol provided a "telephone directory" system that was lightweight in terms of bandwidth usage compared to the X.500 DAP

lesstif*

first there was the Open Software Foundation's proprietary User Environment Component, which was named Motif in an in-house name-the-GUI-widget-toolkit competition and went on to become a UNIX industry standard. That had an LGPLed fork named LessTif ("less" being the opposite of "mo'") and a just-good-enough-for-nonfree fork called OpenMotif; but now Motif itself has gone GPL.

libbobcat*

(C++ toolkit) Frank Brokken's own base classes and templates

libbonobo*

see bonobo*

libc6

obviously, the main system libraries for the C programming language, version six; first there was the "Basic Combined Programming Language" BCPL; that got stripped down to "B", then reimplemented as "C". The source package is called eglibc, meaning the fork of the standard GNU libc originally developed for embedded systems

libcaca*

see caca-utils

libcairo*

see cairo*

libexpat*

see expat

libfribidi*

see *fribidi*

libglib*

see *glib*

libharfbuzz*

(Unicode-capable text shaping library) a calque of "OpenType" in the original developer's native Persian (plus an untranslatable pun)

libklibc*

see klibc-utils

libmotif*

see lesstif*

libpango*

see *pango*

libwayland*

the Wayland graphical server protocol (analogous to X) is named after a town in Massachusetts (not particularly close to Plymouth) that the developer happened to be passing through

libxerces*

(Apache C++ XML-handling toolkit) named after King Xerces, AKA Ahasuerus, AKA Khshayarsha I, AKA Xerxes the Great of Persia (son-in-law of Cyrus), perhaps indirectly via the extinct Californian butterfly the Xerces Blue.

lsb-base

expands to "Linux Standard Base base", which is a little confusing when it's a required package even on Debian GNU/kFreeBSD

lsh-server

an SSH2 daemon, but the significance of the "L" is long lost (Lysator? Liberty? Left?)

lua*
Brazilian programming language inspired by the Simple Object Language (in Portuguese, "sol" is "sun" and "lua" is "moon")

lynx-cur

"Lynx" is obviously a punning animal name, but the "-cur" isn't a self-deprecatory zoological reference. Several releases ago it indicated that this was a development version, slightly more up-to-date than the separate package called plain "lynx", but unfortunately when they were reunified it was on the wrong name...

lyx

this LaTeX document processor was originally named LyriX (which apparently is just something that sounded good and vaguely resembled LaTeX) but that turned out to be taken, so it changed to something that let it keep the .lyx file extension

lzop
Lempel–Ziv–Oberhumer compression tool, the name being a sort of compressed version of LZOzip

M

m4

(macro processor) GNU M4 is indeed a successor to m3, but that was seemingly so named not because there had ever been an m2 but because it was a macro-processor for the AP-3 minicomputer. Some short command-names (such as cp, df, or ls) may function to save ordinary CLI users the effort of typing anything longer, but m4 rarely needs to be invoked manually (it's just called by automated build systems). The two-letter name is a mark of its age and importance

mach

tool to make a chroot for an RPM-based distro (not to be confused with the ATI GPU or the GNU Hurd microkernel). The word "mach" also happens to be German for "make", and the surname of a German physicist who gave his name to various cool things

mandos

(encrypted-rootfs server) nothing to do with man or DOS; a rather obscure Tolkien reference

mantis

a bugtracker named after a bug-catching insect

marco

(metacity fork for MATE, thematically named in Spanish) "frame"

mariadb-*

non-Oracle-owned fork of MySQL by the original developers, including Monty Widenius, whose younger daughter is named Maria

mate

(fork of GNOME 2, so often misleadingly written MATE) nothing to do with sex or death: it's just named after the South American beverage, presumably to fit Linux Mint's "herbs and spices" theme - cf. cinnamon

mathopd

(web server) from the developer's IRC nick

maven

(Java build management tool) a Yiddish word for "expert" or "wisdom-gatherer" adopted into US English; the idea is that maven is a central place for build-information

mawk

Mike Brennan's implementation of the pattern scanning and text processing language AWK, which is named after its authors - Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger, and Brian Kernighan

mc
this file-manager is a clone of Norton Commander, also known as NC (yes, it's that old); its full name is "GNU Midnight Commander". Okay, that explains the "C". But what's so Midnightish about it - why wasn't it called, say, "console commander"? Either there's an obscure cultural reference here or maybe version 0.0 was called "Nocturnal Commander"

melange

(OpenStack IP-address-management) first introduced with a "Dune" reference ("the IPs must flow")

mesa-utils

mesa is an implementation of the OpenGL 3D graphics system; the developer recalls "The name Mesa just popped into my head one day. SGI had asked me not to use the terms ''Open'' or ''GL'' in the project name and I didn't want to make up a new acronym"

metacity
an otherwise deliberately uncool window-manager named after an arbitrary cool (made-up) word - "Metacity is not a meta-City as in an urban center, but rather Meta-ness as in the state of being meta, i.e. metacity : meta as opacity : opaque. Also it may have something to do with the Meta key on UNIX keyboards." Though surely metacity would be the state of being metacious?

mg

(text editor) originally "MicroGnuEmacs" (there was already a "MicroEmacs"), but since it doesn't actually have anything to do with GNU the developer was asked to rename it, and chose somewhat eccentrically to make it a MilliGnu

mhonarc

Mail-to-HTML archiving tool, which explains most but not quite enough of it

mimedefang
a general-purpose email filter named after its original specialty: making safe ("de-fanging") message attachments (MIME = Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions)

mksh

the MirBSD Korn Shell (after ksh88/ksh93 which are named for their author David G. Korn); from one of the more recent BSD derivatives

mlocate

a locate implementation where the "M" stands for "merging"

*moinmoin*

the name of the MoinMoin wiki-engine is taken from a Dutch/Low Saxon greeting roughly equivalent to "aloha", presumably chosen because (like lots of wiki-engine names) it's informal and repetitive. It has nothing to do with the Nigerian steamed bean pudding of the same name

molly-guard

named after the plexiglass covers used to protect the Big Red Switch on University of Illinois servers from marauding toddlers

mongodb

an unfortunate name in various Germanic languages, but it's intended to imply that it's a database system that scales to humongous sizes

monkeysphere

this community-driven cryptographic certification framework is named in reference to Dunbar's Number, an estimate of the maximum number of peers a primate can effectively keep track of while negotiating social relationships

mono-*

.NET-compatible programming platform; it was first developed by Ximian, and "mono" is Spanish for "monkey", so it's yet another semi-arbitrary primate name

mozilla-*
originally Netscape's in-house codename/mascot for what they hoped would be a "Mosaic killer" (with perhaps a hint of self-deprecation); nowadays the "moz" part is often used as an abbreviation for Mozilla(-based browser)

mozo

(alacarte fork for MATE, thematically named in Spanish) "servant" or "waiter" (a menu-handler)

mrd6

multicast routing daemon for IPv6

muffin

a fork of Mutter for the cinnamon desktop - a name close in form to the former and associated in meaning with the latter

munin

(network monitor) named after one of the two ravens of the Norse god Odin (cf. the otherwise unconnected package hugin). The name is Old Norse for "mind" or "memory"

mutt
a self-deprecatory animal-name close to "MUA" (and maybe "TTY"?)

mutter-*

GNOME window manager; a derivative of Metacity using the Clutter graphics library for compositing (and libclutter is so called because... it's a Canvas Library that lets you fill the screen with all sorts of complicated junk?)

mysql-*

a Structured Query Language server named after the original developer's daughter "My" (cf. also mariadb)

N

Initial "N" in package names can indicate "network-oriented" (as in ngrep, nmap, etc.), but often it's something stranger: an abbreviation for "new" that effectively means "old", in that it marks the software as a faithful (or slightly enhanced) nineties re-implementation of some UNIX-standard legacy application

nagios

a network monitor, formerly known as NetSaint, but to avoid trademark issues uninformatively renamed as "Nagios Ain't Gonna Insist On Sainthood". Indeed it's gone rather out of its way not to infringe: "HAGIOS" would have worked equally well for that recursive acronym and would have been the New Testament Greek for "saint"...

nano

a smaller and free clone of pico, the editor of pine (see alpine)

nautilus
a file-system-navigating shell, named after a non-arbitrary animal: the shelled cephalopod whose name means "sailor"

ncompress

new-in-the-nineties version of the standard UNIX file compressing utility, using the (then) patent-encumbered LZW algorithm (unlike gzip's compatibility version); see zlib1g

ncurses-*

a new-in-the-nineties free fork of the curses terminal (and cursor) control library used for Text User Interfaces

nedit

originally the Nirvana Text Editor

nemiver

a GNOME debugger; verlan (French backslang) for "vermin"

nemo

file manager for the cinnamon desktop, but with no spicy connection in the name (and not a Pixar reference); this is a fork ("steering in a new direction") of Nautilus, and Nemo was the commander (cf. mc) of the fictional submarine of that name

nethack
not a net-hacking tool or even a game played over the net. It was a game (of hacking a trail through a virtual dungeon) that was distributed and cooperatively developed over USENET

netpbm

commandline image manipulation tools using portable bitmap and related formats; like the above (or indeed NetBSD) it uses "net" to mean roughly "maintained by an open, widely distributed group of contributors"

neutron

(OpenStack networking service) a similarly science-y albeit slightly less cloudy name to replace quantum after a trademark clash

newsbeuter

(RSS feedreader) a German pun on "hunter-gatherer"

nginx

(web server, pronounced as "engine-X" and not as a rhyme for "minx") because it powers your web site and brand-names sound cooler if they end in X. The package nginx-naxsi-ui is especially cryptic: it's the nginx anti-XSS-SQL-injection module's user interface

nmh

new-in-the-nineties version of the MH message handler (a CLI mailreader toolkit dating back to the seventies)

nodejs

(JavaScript platform) originally web.js, but renamed to node.js to imply it could function as any other kind of network component. Not to be confused with the amateur packet radio program ax35-node, formerly known as node

notmuch

(mail indexer) among other things, it's the answer to sup

nova

(OpenStack Compute service) after NASA's similar "Nebula" (which was named from the Latin for "cloud")

ntfs-3g

"NT file system support, third generation" - a fork, since re-merged, of ntfsprogs; but when was "-2G"? ("Windows NT" has a confused history, but is officially meaningless)

nvi

new-in-the-nineties version of vi, q.v.

nwall

new-in-the-nineties version of wall, the utility for writing messages to all logged-in users

nwrite

new-in-the-nineties version of write (A.K.A. bsd-write)

O

obex-data-server

the object exchange protocol is used for sending stuff over IrDA/Bluetooth, and has nothing to do with the "obex" which is part of the brainstem

obnam

(backup system) short for "obligatory name", in the sense that it had to have one, and this arbitrary string will do

ocaml

objective caml (originally the punning "categorical abstract machine language"; and let's not forget that "objective" in this sense is also a play on words)

ocsigen

ocaml web server; a homophone of "oxygen" (in French; it could have been "ocxygène", but this version is 7-bit clean). Its scripting module eliom is a similar play on "hélium"

octave*
(MATLAB-like number-crunching language) GNU Octave isn't named after the musical scale - it's in honor of a chemical engineering professor famed for his calculating skills, Octave Levenspiel

oidentd

Ojnk Software Design identification daemon

openstack-*

(cloud computing architecture) named in terms of the stack metaphor originally applied to "layered" network protocols; but there's a hint of a "cloud layers" pun here (after all, its proprietary rivals include "CloudStack")

openswan

as in StrongSwan and FreeS/WAN (which is punctuated a bit more transparently), "swan" indicates "Secure Wide Area Network"

orage

originally named xfcalendar, but switched to the French for "thunderstorm", presumably as a pun on "agenda organizer" in one language or another

oregano

GNOME circuit simulator, named thematically after the Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis; it can't hurt that this one has a "G" in it

owl

client for Zephyr, which was the original Instant Messaging protocol for Project Athena - Zephyr being the Greek god of the west wind and the owl being the (wind-borne) mascot of Athena (the "staying up all night" part might be relevant too). This package has approximately zero users, but there's also a fork called barnowl which has at least a few

P

pan

is now too embarrassed to admit that it was claiming to be a pimp-ass newsreader

*pango*
a cross-language hybrid: "pan" (Greek for "every") plus "go" (not quite Japanese for "language")

parole
in French this doesn't mean "getting out of prison by giving your word of honor that you'll behave", it's just "(spoken) word", and thus a reasonable name for a simple media player

parrot

(common virtual machine for dynamic languages) named after an April Fool's hoax that came true

passepartout

desktop publishing app. Originally "Framer" (compare FrameMaker), then renamed to something more interesting: a "passepartout" is a kind of cardboard frame that you put around watercolor paintings. (In the original French it also means "skeleton key", but that doesn't necessarily mean it installs a back door on your computer)

perl
the expansions "Practical Extraction and Report Language" and "Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister" are backronyms; it started (very briefly) as Pearl, then got shortened to something more distinctive

pfstools

utilities for handling files in what they decided at the last minute to call portable floatmap streams format

phonon

(KDE multimedia framework) in physics a phonon is a sort of unit of sound energy, and presumably in this case it's traveling through Plasma

php5

originally "personal home page"; now redefined as the recursive "PHP hypertext preprocessor"

php5-suhosin

(security hardening patch) Suhosin is Korean for "guardian angel"

pidgin

trademark-dodging rename of gaim, the GTK+ AOL Instant Messenger; now named as a common medium of communication. Uses the libpurple protocol plugin library

pike*

programming language, derived from µLPC (micro-Lars-Pensjö-C) but given "a more pronouncable and commercially viable name". The logo implies they were thinking of the fish rather than the polearm

ping

named after the sonar pulse; "packet Internet groper" is a backronym

pinto

(Perl module repository tool) named for the programmer's son

pitivi

(video editor) the name comes from "Epitech" (the college where its developer was studying) plus (a franglais spelling of) "T.V."

pluma

(gedit fork for MATE, thematically named in Spanish) "feather/quill/pen"

pluxml

(XML-based blog) French portmanteau of plume (feather, as in light-as-a) and XML

plymouth
(graphical boot splash) probably named after one of the Plymouths that were stepping-stones in the anglophone colonization of the new world

po-debconf

there has never been a Debian Conference on the river Po. This is a tool for handling .po files (that is, gettext Portable Object message-catalogs) for debconf templates

poppler-*
(PDF renderer fork of XPDF) a Futurama reference, completely arbitrary except perhaps for the fact it begins with "P"

postfix
(MTA) apparently an arbitrary word with "post" in it

postgresql-*

a Structured Query Language server which is the successor to the Ingres project, which started as an INteractive Graphic[s] [and] REtrieval System (sources differ when it comes to the bracketed elements)

potrace

nothing to do with .po files or pot-racing (that's dopewars); it "outlines" bitmap images as PostScript vector images using a polygon-based tracer

praat
(speech analysis app) Dutch for "talk"

prayer

(IMAP-based webmail server) derived from WING (as in "on a wing and a prayer")

prey

a mechanism for tracking stolen computers; but is it claiming that it preys on things or is it an antipredatory countermeasure? The preyproject.com logo confuses things further, since what looks at first glance like a bird of prey is in fact a scavenger

primus

(NVidia Optimus support) see bumblebee

procps

utilities that use data from procfs, including the process status tool ps, which originally didn't

psi

an Instant Messaging client with a name taken from parapsychology, with an appropriately specious official etymology

pstack

displays a process's stack (the data structure storing subroutine return addresses)

pulseaudio
(sound server) formerly Polypaudio, but renamed to something a bit cooler and more music-related with the same initials

pump
(BOOTP/DHCP client) because "pumps", like boots, are footwear - at least in some parts of England; elsewhere they may be called "plimsolls" or "sneakers"

putty

(cross-platform SSH client) officially meaningless

python
is of course a Monty Python reference

python-django

see *django*

python-moinmoin

see *moinmoin*

python-six

(Python 2/Python 3 compatibility library) because 6 is 2*3 (and 2+3 was taken)

python-twisted

see *twisted*

Q

Packagenames beginning with "Q" are occasionally using it to signal that they use "Qt", the GUI widget toolkit associated with KDE; the "t" is for "toolkit" (one of its early-nineties competitors was "Xt") and the "Q" just looked good in an Emacs font

qemu

written QEMU (as if it was a four-word initialism), but it's just a "quick emulator"

quadrapassel

formerly gnometris (i.e. GNOME Tetris), but trademark-dodgingly renamed as some sort of thesaurus-mangled version of "four-block"

quantum

(OpenStack networking service; see also neutron) basically just because it sounds science-y

quassel
(IRC client) a German word for "blather" or "jabber"

quodlibet

(music organizer) In Latin "quod libet" is "whatever you want"; in English a quodlibet is a particular kind of musical improvization; and in Subversion as it happens the repository started with a "ql" directory (originally "query language"). See also exfalso

R

r-base
GNU R is an implementation of S (for Stats) by two people named Ross and Robert

rarian-compat

the documentation metadata framework is called rarian because it depends on librarian0...

rat

VOIP "robust audio tool" produced by the Multimedia Integrated Conferencing for Europe project

rawtherapee

that's raw as in "raw digital camera image files" plus a mangled acronym from the experimental raw photo editor

remmina

GNOME remote desktop client. Unclear, but one backronym that has been offered is "remote mini assistant"

remotetea

an esoteric Java ONC/RPC library. Explaining the "remote" part is easy; the reference to tea is trickier (but it's not talking about this kind)

rheolef
French, so the "EF" stands for "Éléments Finis" (as in Finite Element Analysis); the "L" may be for "Logiciel" (software) or just part of the word "rhéologie" (fluid mechanics)

ristretto
(image viewer) Italian for a small, concentrated (literally "restricted") shot of espresso coffee. This succeeds in combining the ideas of "powerful" and "lightweight", even if it does misleadingly suggest it's in Java

root-tail

it doesn't follow the superuser about; it doesn't adhere to the back side of the base mountpoint; it doesn't show the end of an inverse-power frequency distribution; it has nothing to do with rootkits or lemmatization or gardening; it just runs tail and sends its output to the desktop background (the "root window")

ruby

(programming language) nothing to do with ruby markup; apparently it was a friend's birthstone

rxvt

Rob Nation's fork of the X11 Virtual Terminal; originally "Robert's" xvt, later "our" xvt

S

sac

for system accounting

samba

the initials of the Server Message Block protocol, plus arbitrary vowels to build a word

sanduhr
German for "sand-clock"

sapphire

a late-nineties window manager named after a mid-eighties one, the screen allocation package providing helpful icons and rectangular environments

sauerbraten

(contrib FPS game engine) from a traditional German style of pot-roast

scala

(programming language) officially either a scalable language or an Italian stairway (rather than a classical scale - see also octave)

schroot

a replacement for dchroot, which was a "Debian change root" tool (letting you run processes limited to a given directory as if it was the file system root). Originally developed as sbuild-chroot-helper, where the "S" in sbuild stands for source, but the interpretation where it's for "switch" (compare su = "switch user") is also accepted

scilab

scientific laboratory - a numerical computation toolkit for processing datasets, compatible with MATLAB ("matrix laboratory")

semanticscuttle

(PHP bookmark-sharing tool) "semantic" in the "semantic web" sense (i.e. it involves tagging), "scuttle" presumably as a reference to "scuttlebutt" or gossip

slony1-2-bin

PostgreSQL database-replication server; "slony" is the Russian for elephants, as in the PostgreSQL logo. The numbering is because this package is version 2.x of "Slony-I", not the stalled "Slony-II" branch

slrn

slang-based alternative to the traditional USENET client rn ("read news")

smuxi

smart multiplexed IRC client

snort
software for heavy-duty sniffing (probably)

sox

long ago short for soundexchange

squid

(caching web proxy); an arbitrary animal

strigi-daemon

(file system indexer) a slightly garbled version of the Latin for "owl"

subtle

subforge.org tiled windowmanager

subversion

a version control system that set out to overthrow the established social order (with cvs dominant)

sudo

su-do ("perform as superuser"), with a pun on "pseudo" (after all, you're not really logged in as root)

sugar-*
(non-desktop-based UI for children) named as something that helps the medicine go down

sup-mail

(Ruby MUA) named from the casual greeting "(what')s up?" - not to be confused with the Debian package sup, which is an implementation of the CMU Software Upgrade Protocol system

suricata

(network monitor/IDS) the genus Suricata are the meerkats, a relatively non-arbitrary animal

swath

smart word analysis for Thai

sweep

presumably a sound wave editor something something

swift

(OpenStack storage service) a bird that more or less lives in the clouds

swig

(C/C++ integration tool for scripting languages) simplified wrapper and interface generator

sylpheed

(GTK MUA) the FAQ claims it's because sylphs are lightweight, but that only explains the first syllable

sympa

(mailinglist manager) the package description explains that a "système de multi-postage automatique" is an "automatic multi-mailing system", but not that "sympa(thique)" is French for "nice, likeable"

sysvinit

the initialization daemon inherited from UNIX System V, which replaced UNIX System IV in 1983 (but the name of the alternate init mechanism "systemd" does not similarly represent "UNIX System five hundred"). The package contains telinit, which apparently means "tell init" (and confusingly is a symlink to init)

T

tailor
(inter-VCS changeset migrator) obvious once you realise it's dealing with patches

tar

originally for creating Tape ARchives

tcc
a Tiny C Compiler

tea

apparently it's a text editor of the atomic era

tellico

KDE collection-tracker; just from a placename near where the developer grew up (a controversial dam in Tennessee)

texlive*
(typesetting system) the "X" in "TeX" is really a Greek "χ" (chi as in "techne" = art/skill/craft); the "live" is because it used to be possible to run upstream versions up to 2009 from a liveCD

tgif

antique drawing tool; the name has nothing to do with GIF format (or "thank goodness it's Friday") - it stands for "Tangram Graphic Interface Facility"

thuban
(interactive geographic data viewer) Arabic for "snake", but presumably named after Thuban the once-and-future pole star (alpha Draconis)

timidity

software synthesizer (i.e. MIDI player), now known upstream as TiMidity++; not related to audacity

tokyotyrant

network-capable control interface to the tokyocabinet database management library, which is in turn apparently just named after the fact it's Japanese and contains things

tomcat*

Java web server; an arbitrary animal name specifically chosen to get a tomcat onto the O'Reilly book cover

tumbler

Xfce thumbnailer, so named presumably just because it's a cut-down thumbnailer

*twisted*

(Python network server modules) originated as part of the "Twisted Reality" online interactive fiction system

typo3

a webCMS named after a dataloss incident

U

u-boot

there's clearly a German pun lurking beneath the surface here, but the "U" indicates "Universal" (the same as in GRUB)

ucblogo
the version of Logo from the University of California, Berkeley. The name is not an acronym; it's from the Greek for "word" (since it does more than just numbercrunching)

udev

as with udisks, ulogd, upower and so on the "U" here stands for "Userspace" - though the "user" in question doesn't necessarily mean the real-life entity between keyboard and chair, just a process not running in kernelspace (i.e. anything from init down to advertising popups)

udhcpd

that's not a "U", it's a "μ" (compare udeb or usleep - this is the Micro Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol Daemon

ukolovnik
(PHP todo-list) "úkolovnik" is Czech for "task manager"

undertaker
(code analysis tool) helps you deal with "dead" (unreachable) codeblocks

unixodbc-*

this is the UNIX(-compatible) implementation of the Open DataBase Connectivity interface, not, say, UNIX Objective Design By Contract, or indeed United Nations International X-ray Observatory Dynamic Brake Control

unoconv

a format-switcher, but it doesn't extract things from oconv format; it's for converting between the formats used by Open/LibreOffice applications, all of which are built around the Universal Network Objects component model

uruk

(firewall) named after the strong-walled Mesopotamian city of which Gilgamesh was king

uswsusp

originally, userland software suspend - but these days different sources interpret the initial letter either as "u"-for-Userspace or as "μ"-for-Micro

util-linux
a package with a misleadingly straightforward name. In fact it's essential/required even on Debian GNU/kFreeBSD, and it contains some utilities with outstandingly cryptic names:
  • cytune: for tuning Cyclades-Z multiport serial cards (as used in nineties ISPs)

  • dmesg: displays kernel ring buffer messages

  • agetty: "alternative get teletype", which is in fact the standard console login handler

  • mkfs.bfs: a tool for creating SCO UnixWare boot file systems, useful because... EXCUSE NOT FOUND

uudeview

named after one of its binaries, a command line uuencode format decoder/viewer dating back to the era of UUCP (Unix to Unix CoPy) connections; the package also contains similar utilities for some less ancient MIME-like encodings

V

valac

compiler for the Vala programming language. There's no official explanation for the name, but the leading theory is that it's a Tolkien reference

valgrind

Code profiler, but not a "value-grinder" (despite the thematic names of its executables). It was originally going to be named Heimdal, but since that was taken they just switched to a different name from Norse myth. Valgrind was the magically protected gateway into Valhalla

vamps

(DVD-ripper) allegedly because it evaporates DVD-compliant MPEG2 program streams

vcsh

version control shell or vcs home

vidalia
a GUI for TOR (The Onion Router) named after a kind of onion (state vegetable of Georgia)

vile

when it says it's a "VI Like Emacs", it means that it's a vi clone which is relatively similar to emacs, and not the reverse, a "vi-like emacs". Compare zile and the following

vim

"vi improved", just as nvi is "new" and elvis is... a word with "vi" in the middle. In all these, "vi" indicates "visual mode" - that is, letting you see the text you're modifying in a full-console display, which had hitherto been an optional extra

vinagre

GNOME Remote Desktop/VNC client; named after the Spanish word for vinegar, because vino was taken

vlc

VideoLAN project media-player Client

W

w3m
(the text pager that thinks it's a tabbed graphical web browser) "WWW-o miru" is Japanese for "see the World Wide Web"

wajig

(omnibus sysadmin wrapper command) sounds like an obvious hybrid of "whatsit", "oojah", and "thingmajig", natural enough for a general-purpose "thingy" command; but the docs insist that it's the English word "jig" plus a prefix "wa" (Japanese for "harmony" or "team spirit"). If you say so...

wapiti
a web app probing tool, which starts out promisingly but ends up as just another free software ungulate

warmux

formerly wormux, which was presumably "Worms clone for Linux", though it's multi-platform and features no actual worms; renamed to avoid confusion and/or litigation. Now canonically capitalized as "WarMUX", though there's no sign of any multiplexing either

whiptail

a dialog system using libnewt and named after a type of lizard (since newts are... almost lizards). "Not Erik's Windowing Toolkit" is a UI library based in turn on S-Lang; and "slang" happens to be Dutch for "snake", though it was intended to indicate that it started as a Stack-based Language.

wicd

originally the Wireless Interface Connection Daemon, but since it now also handles wired networks it's officially meaningless

wireshark

this package obviously provides a filigree selachian. Either that or when ethereal got renamed they thought "what way of indicating that it bites up network packets would be coolest and least likely to be trademarked?"

wmii

Window Manager Improved Improved, the successor of wmi (Window Manager Improved)

wodim

free fork of cdrecord for cdrkit (see also icedax); an approximate acronym for Write Optical DIsk Media, which is intelligible but hardly the first thing you'd guess

workrave
RSI preventer; the "work" part makes sense, but what's the "rave"? A dance party? A French turnip?

wvdial

upstream were formerly known as "Worldvisions Weaver Software", and parts of this package were known as "weaver", later abbreviated to just "wv-". Nothing to do with the package wv (where it's short for MSWordView)

X

Things that begin with X mostly fall into one of two types:

  1. the ones like xterm, xlock, or xdm where "X" indicates "for X11"

  2. the ones like xemacs, xfs, or xz, where the "X" is a random distinguishing letter (the world's least effective UUID)

x11-*
the eleventh major version of the X Window System (released in 1987; the minor version X11r7 came out in 2005). The X here isn't a type-2; it was originally intended to mark X as a successor to the W Window System developed for the V Operating System

*-xapian

a search engine based on code which went through various names with no obvious connection before it went proprietary; this is a free fork with an untrademarked name. It obviously has a type-2 "X" and an "API"; the FAQ admits that there's a vague pun on "sapient" in there too

xaw3dg

a library for X-consortium Athena widget-set three-dimensional graphics support, plus a "G" for glibc2 left over from the 1997 libc6 transition

xawtv

originally an analog TV viewer based on XAW (as above)

xdg-*

some of these packages take the trouble to explain that they come from the FreeDesktop.Org standardization efforts, but not that XDG is short for its previous name, the "X Desktop Group" (a "type-1" X)

xemacs*

a fork of GNU Emacs, originally known as Lucid Emacs; when ownership of the Lucid Inc trademark became unclear it was renamed XEmacs, where the X is a "type-2"

xen-*
designed for the "Xenoserver Project", where "xeno-" means "alien" (that is, a virtualized foreign OS)

xfce-*

stood for XForms Common Environment while that was accurate, but now doesn't stand for anything

xindy

a LaTeX indexing tool; allegedly stands for "fleXible INDexing sYstem"

xiphos

a Bible-study system based on the SWORD project, and named after a variety of Ancient Greek sword

xli

a longstanding fork of xloadimage (not derived by summing VI + X + X + XV)

xmms2

successor to XMMS, which was "the cross-platform multimedia system" - officially not a type-1, even though its previous name was "X11Amp" (that is, "WinAmp clone for X11")

xnee

it may be an X event recorder/replayer, but Xnee's not an event emulator; and roughly the same goes for cnee, gnee, and pnee (in theory their initial letters don't stand for "X11/console/Gnome/gnome-Panel"...)

xorriso

a tool for creating .isos (putting an X/Open-compliant file system on a Rock-Ridge-enhanced ISO image), punning incidentally on "sorriso" (Spanish for "smile") and accidentally on "chorizo/xoriço" (a kind of sausage)

xpra

provides X11 persistent remote applications - in other words, it's like a graphical screen for individual application windows on remote systems

xulrunner-*

a back-end for things made out of the Mozilla widget-building material known to acronym fans as XUL. That's a Ghostbusters reference as well as a standard piece of Mozilla-speak for "XML UI Language" (where XML is the "eXtensible Markup Language" and a UI is a "User Interface")

Y

Things that begin with "YA" are often self-deprecatorily claiming to be "Yet Another (whatever)". yasysmand-cling would almost certainly turn out to be the "Next Generation" fork of the Command-Line Interface for a "SYStem-MANagement Daemon"

yabause

yet another buggy and uncomplete Saturn emulator (for the mid-nineties Sega Saturn games console)

yap

yet another Prolog

yard

yes, a Ruby documenter; but no, officially it stands for Yay! A Ruby documentation tool

yaws

yet another webserver

yelp
formerly gnome-help, now inexplicable. Did the word "gelp" get written in hard-to-decipher handwriting, or what?

yersinia

(network protocol security tester) named after the bacterium responsible for the black death

Z

zabbix-*

apparently if you take the zabbix.com training course it explains the name

zapping
a lot of continental Europeans seem to think "zapping" is a cool English word for "channel-hop"

zathura
the box office flop sequel to Jumanji, which might make trademark-infringing amounts of sense if it was a game, but no, it's a document viewer

zenity

(dialog tool) mysterious; presumably the connection with Zen Buddhism is just that it tries to be simple (not connected with the C++ ZenLib)

zfs*

(mostly FreeBSD-only) the last word in file systems, if only alphabetically; originally the Zettabyte File System

zile

zile is lossy emacs - in the figurative sense of "lossy"; literally speaking, it isn't emacs at all, it's zile. Compare vile

zim

(personal wiki-notepad) unrelated to the ZIM (Zeno IMproved) file format used (e.g.) by the WikiMedia Foundation; the original logo makes it clear it's an Invader Zim reference

zlib1g

a compression library. This field has been associated with the letter "Z" since long before PKZip (1989); it may even predate the Lempel-Ziv 1977 algorithm. Back before the days of the LZW-based compress with its .Z extension, /bin/pack used Huffman codes and, for some reason, a .z extension. Oddly, zlib1g isn't the upstream or source package name (that's plain "zlib") or the name of the library it provides (that's "libz1"). The "g" is probably a hangover from the libc6 transition (which means it effectively stands for "glibc2")

zomg

(libre.fm client) well, it's implemented in zsh...

zope

(webappserver) "Z Object Publishing Environment" (where the "Z" seems to be just because it's a cool letter)

zorp
this appears to be an arbitrary nonsense-syllable, and not (as one might have guessed) the Hungarian for "zonealarm"

zotero-*

(bibliographical data-organizer) named from the Albanian verb "zotëro" meaning "to master, acquire"

zsh

the Z shell, named because the developer had a colleague named Zhong Shao and thought his login "zsh" looked cool

zzuf

a source of "fuzzing", i.e. data corruption for application debugging, which started out with a much ruder name