Should it be 'star nix' or 'nix' or 'unix-like' or something totally different?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Warren Young, jasonwryan, Thomas Dickey, G-Man, Anthon Apr 18 '17 at 6:10

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    Question from a Windows user with interest in Linux/Unix: What does the asterisk represent in UN*X? It seems like it can only be "i" to make it Unix. – Kodos Johnson Apr 17 '17 at 20:12
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    @KodosJohnson see the second link in dr01's answer – roaima Apr 17 '17 at 21:14
  • How about "POSIX" or "POSIX-compatible"? – jamesdlin Apr 18 '17 at 3:21
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    Voted to reopen as the OP is asking the correct pronunciation of a word, which is a fact, not an opinion. – dr01 Apr 18 '17 at 9:17

The canonical name is "Unix-like". "UN*X" and similar are just fancy/legal ways to write it.

Interesting readings:


Here is my recollection as a UNIX greybeard. Back in the mid-80s, the vernacular referred to SysV, BSD, and even things like Mach and the nascent GNU Hurd as "UNIX", "Unix", "Unixes" or occasionally "Unices". But then somebody started siccing l*wyers on people for "infringing their trademark." So a convention arose to write these as "*nix" or "un*x" instead. Nobody ever spoke these terms aloud, anymore than they would have pronounced OMG, FWIW. (And if anyone ever did, they were being silly, oh em gee.)

Therefore, the way these are pronounced is simply UNIX. The * is silent, just as the l****rs should have been. catb's suggestion that there is any association with orthodox Judaism is simply laughable. It was trademark bull****, nothing more.

  • This answer disagrees with your explanation for the origin of the term, with interesting evidence of commonplace use from <1990. Is this the timeframe when you recall lawyers getting involved? – E.P. Apr 17 '17 at 23:24
  • Don't forget about Coherent on that list of unices! - But seriously, this is a great answer. I still say "unices", much to the annoyance of several of my peers. – Wyatt8740 Apr 17 '17 at 23:44
  • After consulting my resume, I must amend mid-80s to late 80s. I recall suits being involved in the late 80s, though there had not been actual lawsuits, just bluster. For a small taste of the history, check out the thread "The Name of the Beast" from comp.unix.wizards. – Lyle Apr 18 '17 at 20:15

I've always said and heard others say "star-nix". I'm not the only one, and XKCD had poll on this.

=================================== | Pronounciation | Reponses | % | ----------------------------------- | nix | 26 | 54% | | Unix | 9 | 19% | | starnix | 6 | 13% | | foonix | 2 | 4% | ===================================
  • Personally I just use "nix" to describe everything. At least when talking. I've never, in my life, heard anyone say star-nix. – junkfoodjunkie Apr 17 '17 at 21:01
  • It's a pretty small sample in the poll so, while interesting, probably can't be considered the final word on the matter. For me, I've always felt "unix-like" is the best compromise of understandable, correct and natural-sounding. – Darren H Apr 17 '17 at 21:16
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    Obviously a question for the next SO developer poll, then. – E.P. Apr 17 '17 at 23:21

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