Mar 22, 2014

How Programming languages got their names?

Programmers generally agree that one of the hardest tasks in software development is naming things. One of things they have to name, though not very often, are new programming languages. When a new language is designed, the name chosen for it often follows one of several formulas: it's an acronym or abbreviation based on what it is (e.g., BASIC, COBOL, TCL, LISP), the name is derived from an existing language (e.g., C++, C#, CoffeeScript) or it's named after someone famous from math or computer science (e.g., Ada, Pascal, Turing). Sometimes, though, language designers get more creative when choosing a name. 
Here are the stories behind 5 of the the more unusual programming language names.
This article originally appeared on

#1 Python

Python Inspired by Monty Python
Who is proud now? Monty Python or Python?
The popular language, first released in 1991, was created in the late 1980's by Dutch programmer Guido van Rossum. He created the new scripting language, derived from the ABC programming language, as a hobby during Christmas break. When it came time to pick a name for his creation, van Rossum wanted something "short, unique and slightly mysterious." He found his inspiration in the famous British comedy group Monty Python, of which he was a big fan.


A Jewel that is valued

Known as the "Swiss Army Chainsaw" of languages due to its flexibility and power, Perl was created by Larry Wall in the late 1980s. When it came time to choose a name, Wall said he wanted a short name with "positive connotations". He considered his wife's name (Gloria), before settling on "pearl." However, since there was already a programming language with that name (PEARL, the "Process and Experiment Automation Realtime Language"), he dropped the A and settled on perl. Note that, initially, the name was all lower case, inspired by Unix's all lower case vibe. It was only later, around the release of Perl 4 in 1993, that the name was capitalized

#3 Ruby

Ruby is a GEM
Ruby is a GEM

Ruby was developed by Yukihiro Matsumoto ("Matz") in 1993 as a true object-oriented scripting language to be an alternative to Perl and Python. Like Perl, Matz wanted a name that was based on a jewel. After some discussion with colleague Keiju Ishitsuka, the name was whittled down to either Coral  and Ruby. Ruby was ultimately chosen, as Matz preferred and since it was also Ishitsuka's birthstone. Matz has made it clear that while the ruby birthstone (July) follows pearl (June) on the calendar, the Ruby language wasn't meant to be a successor to Perl (which Matz considered a "toy language"); Ruby, instead, was meant to replace it.

#4 Scala

Scala is used to scale and ascend
Scala is used to scale and ascend

 Scala is a language created by Martin Odersky in 2001 that is both a functional and object-oriented language. It was written to be compiled into Java bytecode (and, previously it could also be compiled into .NET). The name Scala was chosen for two different reasons: first, it's a combination of SCAlable LAN, since it scales well. Second, scala is also the Italian word for stairs or ladder, which gave it a nice double meaning, as it's meant to help you ascend to a better programming language.

#5 JavaScript

JavaScript is not from Java

 Netscape was the first to bring out a programming language that would allow web pages to become interactive - they called it Livescript and it was integrated into the browser (meaning that the browser would interpret the commands directly without requiring the code to be compiled and without requiring a plugin to be able to run it). Another programming language called Java (which required a separate plugin in order to run) became very well known and so Netscape decided to try to cash in on this by renaming the language built into their browser to Javascript.

That is all for now. Will come up with more articles soon. You may please leave a comment about your views on the article. 

I teach HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, AJAX, PHP and MySql at