Unix Pronunciation

This all started because I had a UNIX dude at an interview pronounce “/etc/init.d” as “etsy-eye-nighted.”  I had to ask him to repeat that.  So I’ve decided to put together this pronunication guide for UNIX terms.

Operating Systems and Vendors

  • UNIX – YOO-niks (NOT yoo-NEEKS** or YOO-nucks**)
  • Linux – LIN-ucks (also, LIN-icks or LEE-nooks (official).  NOT LINE-ucks** or LIE-nucks**)
  • Solaris – so-LAIR-is (also, so-LAHR-is.  NOT SO-ler-is**)
  • Irix – EYE-ricks (The first I sounds like the I in “iris.”)
  • HP-UX – HAH-key-pucks (also, eych-pee-youu-ecks or EYCH-pucks)
  • AIX – ayy-eye-ecks (NOT aicks**)
  • SCO – ess-see-oh (also ASS-holes.  NOT skoh**)
  • BSD – bee-ess-dee (also BEE-stee)
  • UCB – yoo-see-bee (NOT ukbuh**)
  • ATT – ayy-tee-tee (NOT at** or ayy-tee-en-TEE**)
  • SysV – sis-VEE (also sis-tem-VEE.  NOT sis-FIVE** or sis-tem-FIVE**)
  • SVR4 – ess-vee-arr-FOR (also sis-VEE-arr-FOR.  NOT ser-ver-FOR**)
  • Debian – DAY-bee-an (also De-bee-an, NOT duh-BEE-an**)
  • GNU – gee-enn-YOO (also guh-NOO (official).  NOT noo**)
  • *nix – ASS-ter-nicks (also nix)
  • CentOS – SENT-oh-ess (NOT KENT-oh-ess** or SENT-ohss**)

Software Packages

  • X – ecks (NOT ten** or ecks-WIN-doze**)
  • Xorg – ecks-ORG (NOT zorg**)
  • vi – vee-EYE (NOT vie** or vee**)
  • fsck – fsk (also fisk, FAH-sick, EFF-suck, EFF-sick, eff-ess-see-kay.  NOT fuck** or fusk**)
  • nroff – ENN-rawf
  • anything ending in a -d (like routed, crond, hald, hidd, etc.) is pronounced as WORD-dee.  Examples:  routed is ROWT-dee.  NOT ROWT-ed**. crond is KRON-dee.  NOT krond**.
  • httpd – eych-tee-tee-pee-dee
  • ptrace – PEE-trayss (NOT trayss**)
  • sh – ess-AYCH (NOT ssh**)
  • sshd – ess-ess-AYCH-dee (NOT ssh’d** or SSH-dee**)
  • wget – DUH-bul-yoo-get (NOT WI-jit**)
  • SELinux – ess-EE-lin-ucks (NOT SEE-lin-ucks** or SELL-in-ucks**)
  • mk- emm-KAY- (or make-)
  • stunnel – ESS-tun-el (NOT STUN-el**)
  • sysctl – SIS-kun-troll (or SIS-see-tee-ell)
  • -ctl – -kun-TROLL (or -see-tee-ELL)
  • vim – vim (or vee-eye-EMM.  NOT vee-EIM**)
  • xinetd – ecks-EYE-net-dee (NOT ZEYE-net-dee**)
  • -env – -env (or -ee-en-VEE.  NOT -ENN-vee**)

Protocols and Languages

  • LDAP – ELL-dap
  • ssh – ess-ess-AYCH (NOT ssh**)

Filesystems, Directories, and Files

  • / – slash (NOT root**, FOR-wurd-slash**)
  • /bin – bin (also slash-BIN.  NOT bine**)
  • /etc – ee-tee-SEE (or ET-see)
  • /lib – lib (short i – does NOT sound like “library” unless you work for IBM or with IBM people)
  • /misc – misk (NOT miss**)
  • /mnt – mownt (also emm-enn-TEE.  NOT munt** or mint**)
  • /opt – ahpt (also oh-pee-TEE)
  • /proc – prock (NOT proke** or prahs**)
  • /sbin – ESS-bin (NOT spin**)
  • /srv – ess-arr-VEE (or surv.  NOT SUR-vur**)
  • /tmp – temp
  • /usr – YOO-zur (NOT yoo-ess-ARR**)
  • /var – var (NOT vair**)
  • /usr/src – YOO-zur sorce
  • /etc/passwd – ee-tee-SEE PASS-wurd (NOT PASS-wood**)
  • /etc/fstab – ee-tee-SEE eff-ESS-tab (NOT EFF-stab**)
  • /etc/init.d – ee-tee-SEE in-IT-dot-dee
  • /etc/motd – ee-tee-SEE emm-oh-tee-DEE (NOT MOT-dee**)
  • /etc/virc – ee-tee-SEE vee-EYE-arr-see (NOT verk**)
  • xferstats – ECKS-fur-stats (NOT TRANS-fur-stats**)

Please let me know if you think of any others or if you have a correction.  Note that many of these are specific to the U.S. and could vary by region.

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  1. #1 by Shayne on July 16, 2010 - 3:17 AM

    fsck should include “eff-ess-check” as an acceptable pronunciation.

    Also, I think you should consider making “deh-bee-an the primary pronunciation of Debian. Debian is a portmanteau of the name of founder Ian Murdock, and now ex-wife Debra.

    • #2 by Joshua on July 16, 2010 - 9:55 AM

      Agreed on both parts. I’ve yet to find an acceptable pronunciation of “fsck.” I once had an entire tech department at the university going at it over how to pronounce it.

      Yayyy Glenda! I so love that little Plan 9 bunny!

  2. #3 by dogbane on January 20, 2011 - 12:14 PM

    You got it wrong. It’s sys-FIVE, not sys-vee! Check wikipedia etc.

    • #4 by Joshua on January 20, 2011 - 12:17 PM

      The Lucent Tech folks that serviced our AT&T 3B2 for the USAF always said “sys-vee.” Though I will agree that the CORRECT pronunciation is sis-FIVE.

  3. #5 by Nick on February 3, 2011 - 2:39 PM

    Actually, X-Windows is an acceptable pronunciation for the X Windowing System. Same for plain old ecks-eleven.

  4. #6 by Thomas B. on August 22, 2011 - 6:26 PM

    I can’t believe you’re missing the elephant in the room when it comes to pronunciation of Linux distro names, Ubuntu. ooh-boon-too.

  5. #7 by chvnx on November 10, 2011 - 10:29 PM

    “HP-UX – HAH-key-pucks”

    What? No. HP-UX is pronounced HP-UX.

  6. #8 by Noni on November 10, 2011 - 11:22 PM

    Debian is a combination of the names Debra and Ian.

  7. #9 by Brendan on November 11, 2011 - 12:12 AM

    Lance Davis proclaims that the pronunciation of CentOS is sent-oss (like mentos with a c).

    • #10 by hs on November 11, 2011 - 1:21 PM

      Kabir Singh interviewed with FLOSS Weekly and he pronounced CentOS as sent-oss (as Brendan mentioned above).

  8. #11 by Rich Williams on November 18, 2012 - 10:12 PM

    I too cringe when I hear “et-see.” I’ve always understood it to be borrowed from the spelling of the abbreviation for et-cetera: “etc”

    - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki//etc#Directory_structure

    > There has been controversy over the meaning of the name itself. In early versions of the UNIX Implementation Document from Bell labs, /etc is referred to as the etcetera directory, as this directory historically held everything that did not belong elsewhere (however, the FHS restricts /etc to static configuration files and may not contain binaries). Since the publication of early documentation, the directory name has been re-designated in various ways. Recent interpretations include backronyms such as “Editable Text Configuration” or “Extended Tool Chest”.

  9. #12 by h4unt3r on February 9, 2013 - 1:57 AM

    Your spelling annoys my grammar self, but some of this is useful — i know it is supposed to be sent-oss but we always call it cent OS ^_^

    • #13 by Pm on May 15, 2013 - 8:19 PM

      Your grammer “annoys my grammer self,” you smug twerp.

  10. #14 by Gene on November 20, 2013 - 1:41 PM

    Don’t forget “daemon” as dee-mən. It’s a normal English word, but I hear people pronouncing it all kinds of crazy ways.

  1. Bookmarks for 26 July 2013 through 10 August 2013 | Pilgrim Steward

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