googol / Google

Rarely do we know the exact circumstances surrounding the coining of a brand new word. But in the case of googol, a mathematical term for the number represented by a one followed by 100 zeroes or 10100, we know exactly who coined it and when, Milton Sirotta, the nephew of mathematician Edward Kasner, and the year was 1938. From Kasner and Newman’s Mathematics and the Imagination (1940):

The name “googol” was invented by a child (Dr. Kasner’s nine-year-old nephew) who was asked to think up a name for a very big number, namely, 1 with a hundred zeros after it...At the same time that he suggested “googol” he gave a name for a still larger number: “Googolplex.”

Later in the book:

A googol is 10100; a googolplex is 10 to the googol power.

The name of the search engine and software company, Google, is a deliberate variant of the mathematical term. The company’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, came up with the name in 1998. They altered the spelling for trademark purposes.

The verb to google, meaning to search for something on the World Wide Web, particularly to search using Google’s search engine, is from the corporate trademark and dates to 2000. From Usenet, sol.lists.freebsd.mobile, 2 March 2000:

Just for your information (well, so that someone having this problem can google it) and for what it is worth…

(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition)

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