What does top command in linux stand for ?

Is it an abbreviation of something. If so what?

I've tried to look around on wikipedia and its home page but there is not information about this.

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    I do not understand the number of downvotes for this question. This user asked a valid question and often the name of a linux command gives a deeper insight such as lsof, cat. – Stefan Papp Apr 1 at 7:07

Top goes wayyy back in time to the early days of machine OS's. what does it stand for though? Well, quite simply:

a top users display for Unix


display and update information about the top cpu processes

Obviously shortened to the command "top".

It was originally written by Anthony Baxter, who derived it from m_ultrix. The "modern" Unix version was adapted from the original by William LeFebre, with the original Linux version being adapted from that by Roger Binns. The version of top distributed on most systems today was rewritten and enhanced by Jim Warner.

A short history aside, top was never an abbreviation, and its definition seemed to be understood and unchanged by the authors.

  1. http://www.rogerbinns.com/blog/linux-top-origins.html
  2. https://fossies.org/linux/top/machine/m_decosf1.c
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  • Fascinating! Thanks for the answer. But what is m_ultrix ? – DBedrenko Jul 25 '18 at 6:06

Quoting the Wikipedia article:

[top] produces an ordered list of running processes selected by user-specified criteria, and updates it periodically. Default ordering by CPU usage, and only the top CPU consumers shown (hence the name).

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It stands for:

Table Of Proccesses

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  • That may be just a coincidence. Can you cite a reference that confirms this? There is no mention of this in the man pages I've been able to go through and the Wikipedia cited answer by triplee would make more sense. – slm Feb 25 '15 at 12:23
  • Searching for 'linux top "table of processes" yielded several hits. This one says the same thing, but I suspect it's perpetuating a coincidence: suse.com/documentation/sles11/singlehtml/book_sle_tuning/…. My google search – slm Feb 25 '15 at 12:26

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