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”


    > 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.

  11. #15 by Wantoo Sevin on May 21, 2014 - 8:18 PM

    Pretty much all of these should have sources cited. Just because one group pronounces something one way does not mean its developers do. I’d like to see “official” pronunciation from the dev team, with citations, with allowances for “common pronunciation” in cases where there is no official example.

    • #16 by Joshua on May 21, 2014 - 9:49 PM

      This isn’t Wiktionary. It was for teh lulz.

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

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