Trying to settle a friendly argument. Is "cron" an acronym for something?

Additionally, did it's current canonical name "cron" originate from something shortened for something like chronos or chronological?

A quick google search didn't find what i was looking for. It ended up being a forum thread that was unsettled

  • 7
    χρόνος [chronos] (greek) = time, tabula (latin) = board, Iyyobh [job] (hebrew) = the penitent/hated one
    – taffer
    Jan 25, 2012 at 20:01
  • A quick look into my V7 Unix manual (doesn't everyone have one handy?) shows no such reference, nor have the various papers from the time. Prior to that, you'd have to dig into Multics which referred to batch queues as "absentee computation".
    – msw
    Jan 25, 2012 at 22:36

3 Answers 3


cron derives from Chronos which is a word for time in Greek .

And tab stands for table. You can know that it means a time table.


According to Brian Kernighan, Ken Thompson says he originally wrote it, and that it's an accidental misspelling of the prefix "chrono-" (from Greek χρόνος, chrónos, e.g. as in "chronological"). See this Quora answer for more research and context.

Ken Thompson quote: "i wrote it. cron comes from the prefix (greek?) for time. it should have been chron, but i never could spell

This may be the best we can do, sourcing-wise, as old V7 man pages (as well as 32V and PWB) simply refer to it as "cron - clock daemon", with no further etymology given.


I would agree with taffer on likely origins of the command but I think that the only person right now that could definitively answer the question would be Brian Kernighan himself

  • I think Ritchie or even Pike might know, Pike's on G+ if anyone's interested enough to bother asking him.
    – bsd
    Jan 26, 2012 at 17:50
  • @bdowning Dennis Ritchie passed away late last year
    – Karlson
    Jan 26, 2012 at 17:55
  • Yeah, I knew that. I meant Kernighan, though again, Pike is the one with a G+ acct.
    – bsd
    Jan 26, 2012 at 19:09

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