How Programming Languages Got Their Names

Kyle Higginson
2 min readFeb 6, 2024

Have you ever wondered how the likes of Python or Java got their names? Let’s take a look at some programming languages which have interesting stories behind their names.

Before we start — If you’re curious about how things are named, check out my newsletter Why Is That Called That, where I explore the origin of words, phrases, brands, products and businesses. It’s fun and free!

Python (1991)

While implementing Python, Guido van Rossum was also reading the published scripts from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a BBC comedy series from the 1970s. Van Rossum thought he needed a name that was short, unique, and slightly mysterious, so he decided to call the language Python.

Java (1995)

Java was initially called Oak, named after an oak tree which stood outside founder James Gosling’s office. It was then renamed to Green, and later renamed again to the name as we know it today — Java. The name Java was inspired by Java coffee.

Kotlin (2010)

This one is simple, it was named by JetBrains after Kotlin Island near St. Petersburg.

Ruby (1993)

Ruby was founded by Yukihiro Matsumoto and Keiju Ishitsuka in 1993. They knew they wanted to name the programming language after jewels, so they were considering Ruby and Coral.

Coral was longer by one character making it more annoying to write multiple times. Ruby was shorter and more beautiful.

Rust (2006)

Founder Graydon Hoare named Rust after the fungus Rust that is “over-engineered for survival”.

Haskell (1990)

Haskell is named after Haskell Curry, an American mathematician and logician.

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