The name of the world’s favourite search engine is actually a misspelling of an actual word, googol which means 1 followed by a hundred zeroes (10100).
When Larry Page and Sergey Brin were thinking of names for their company, they decided on “googol”, which would portray a sense of enormity as well as bring an element of fun and geekiness. Unfortunately, googol.com was already registered so they chose an alternative – google.com.
Though, google was initially meaningless, it is now a word in its own right. The Merriam-Webster dictionary included it as a verb in 2006. It means to search for information especially on the Internet.
However, Google isn’t particularly happy about the name entering the dictionary as this jeopardises their trademark. History is replete with examples of company or product names becoming generic because of which the trademark had to be relinquished.
A case in point is linoleum which was invented by Frederick Walton in 1850s. When he went to trademark the name, because competitors had started selling products with the same (or similar) names, the court ruled against his favour. Linoleum had been in existence for only 14 years and had been such a successful product that the term had become generic by then.
Here is another bit of trivia concerning the word “googol”.
It was coined by 9-year old Milton Sirotta, nephew of Edward Kasner, a prominent American mathematician. On a walk to a nearby park, Kasner asked his two nephews for a name of a large number. The little one replied, “googol“.
A copy of Alexa's archive of web pages, totalling 2 TB in size, was given to the Library of Congress in 1998. [more...]