How Do Linux Distros Get Their Names?

Have you ever wondered where the name Ubuntu came from? How about Korora? Gentoo? We have, and this is what we discovered.
There are hundreds of different Linux distributions, all featuring the Linux kernel at the core, but each offering their own attributes specialized for a multitude of uses. Linux being open source creates the opportunity for users to tailor the operating system specifically to their own need.
Each named distro has a history of how and where their names originated. We decided to look further into the intriguing stories and imaginative creations behind our favorites Linux distributions. For example, Mageia is a Greek word (μαγεία) which means ‘enchantment’, ‘fascination’, ‘glamour’ or ‘wizardry’. Pretty fancy for an operating system right? Although be warned: not all namesakes are as delightful as we would wish them to be. Sometimes SuSE just means Software und System Entwicklung, which is German for Software and Systems Development. But hey, we can’t all be wizards!
Ubuntu comes from the Zulu and Xhosa languages, stemming from the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa. It means “a quality that includes the essential human virtues: compassion and humanity.” Ubuntu is a platform based on free software, so it could be said that it represents the humanity in the software community.
Ubuntu is known for its wacky and wild release code names, many of which are recommended by users. The format includes an animal name accompanied by an adjective beginning with the same letter (e.g. Warty Warthog, Gutsy Gibbon or Karmic Koala). Submit your own ideas for developmental code names here for consideration.
Gentoo is the scientific name for ‘Pygoscelis papua’, a penguin that inhabits the Falkland Islands. The Falkland Islands are about 300 miles south of the Patagonian coast on the southern tip of South America. Gentoo was created by Daniel Robbins as the Enoch Linux distribution and was later renamed after the incredibly fast penguin (fast when swimming that is, penguins aren’t the best runners).
Korora is Māori for Little Penguin, which is fitting considering that Kororaa (the second ‘a’ was later lost) was originally a binary installation method for Gentoo. Korora was created for the intention of easy install of Gentoo with install scripts rather than manual configuration.
Side note:penguin
You might have noticed the penguin theme that Linux has presented. ‘Tux’ the penguin has been the Linux mascot since 1996 when the operating system was becoming more widely used. Linux decided to implement a logo contest in search of a fun and friendly logo to create an image within the industry. Linux creator Linus Torvalds explains, “The little guy hasn’t been very active in coding the actual kernel, but he sure as hell has made for a very recognizable mascot.” Tux was originally drawn by Larry Ewing, who at 22 years old won the logo contest. Ewing told reporters, “I spent probably 20-30 hours drawing the penguin stuff, and I’ve spent four or five years writing code, and I’m still known for the penguin a lot more than I am for any of the code.” Ewing is a developer at a Linux firm, Ximian, with an electrical engineering degree at Texas A&M University.
Fedora is originally derived from Fedora Linux. The Fedora Linux project was on a strictly volunteer basis, and it was created to provide extra software for the Red Hat Linux distribution (Fedora, Red Hat, get it?). The name Fedora actually came from the characteristic fedora that was featured in Red Hat’s “Shadowman” logo. Fedora Linux began as an undergraduate project that aimed to test and provide third-party software packages so that non-Red Hat software would be more easily accessed.
Debian is actually a combination of Ian and Deb Murdoch’s names (Deb-Ian). Ian originally founded the project in 1993 when he came up with the name. Later the project was picked up by Bruce Perens while working for Pixar animations circa 1996. Since that year’s release, each of the subsequent releases were named after a character in the original Toy Story (sid, buzz, bo, hamm, etc.).
Red Hat
Some have said that Red Hat is meant to symbolize freedom due to the revolutionaries in the US and France, but the truth isn’t quite so patriotic. Marc Ewing, co-founder of Red Hat, wore his grandfather’s red lacrosse hat during his time at Carnegie Mellon University. His red hat soon became associated with all of his tech projects and thus he named them so: Red Hat, Red Hat 1, Red Hat 2, etc.
Whatever the reason behind the sometimes strangely-named distros, one thing remains the same: Linux’s open source software has enabled the world to make major strides in computing. Linux is used for desktop computers, mobile applications, web hosting, surround sound systems, home security, gaming; it is even used as the base of major influencers like Google and Android. All in all, it can easily be said that Linux is a pretty big deal.
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