PHP stands for:

PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor

This a recursive loop, if I'm not mistaken. Did the creator of PHP have this in mind when he named PHP?

Is this the only language where the name has some sort of spurious grammar, spelling or phonetic?

  • 16
    I believe the initially PHP stood for 'Personal Home Page'...
    – k25
    Mar 3, 2011 at 14:28
  • 4
    It was originally called Personal Home Page Tools, PHP Tools.
    – Sergio
    Mar 3, 2011 at 14:29
  • 6
    k25 is correct, that new meaning is a backronym Mar 3, 2011 at 14:30
  • 7
    Its like Stallman's GNU project name: "GNU is Not UNIX"
    – guiman
    Mar 3, 2011 at 14:31
  • 3
    Recursive acronyms are a running joke in FLOSS. See GNU, LAME, WINE, others.
    – Michael
    Mar 3, 2011 at 14:39

3 Answers 3


Recursive acronyms are fairly common. Probably the most famous is GNU is Not Unix



Of the top of my head Wine (Wine Is Not an Emulator), Jini (Jini Is Not Initials) and Lame (Lame Ain't an Mp3 Encoder) are all good candidates. However the winner for spurious grammar, spelling or phonetic must be the fact XML should begin with an E. The fact of all the Xs that this has spawned (XSLT, XHTML, XFL) are like death by a thousand paper cuts for pedants like me.

  • 2
    PINE is not Elm.
    – Dan Ray
    Mar 3, 2011 at 18:37

@Paul Butcher has already linked to Wikipedia's list of recursive acronyms, so I won't repeat any of them here. But there are still a couple of languages, libraries, frameworks, platforms and other software artifacts with funny or interesting origins.

My personal favorite is Linda, a tuple-space based distributed computing environment for Java. Explaining that name is a bit more complicated … There is a programming language called Ada, which is widely believed to be highly complicated and hard to use due to over-design by (government) committee. The designers of Linda wanted the system to be the opposite of that: very simple to use. Well, Ada is named after Lady Ada Lovelace, widely believed to be the first programmer ever. So, the designers of Linda decided to name it after Linda Lovelace, lead "actress" of Deep Throat, widely believed to be the first porn star ever.

Plus, there is a distributed computing environment for Ruby based on the ideas from Linda, which was written by a Japanese programmer, who decided to call this Ruby-Linda Rinda, making fun of the stereotypical speech impediment we Westerners typically ascribe to Asians.

And there is of course the Parrot VM, which is named after an April Fool's joke, which in turn was named after a Monty Python sketch.

  • 1
    How about the unix mail notification program Biff (named after sombodies dig that barked at the mailman); Then there was yacc (yet another compiler compiler) which spawned bison (another big hairy beast). This could go on a long time. Mar 17, 2011 at 0:09
  • @quickly_now: then there's less which is a Free Software clone of the (then) proprietary more, and then most which is a nicer version of both less and more. Mar 17, 2011 at 3:37

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