Is/does using *nix, un*x, etc, as a euphemism for unix:

  1. purely a matter of personal taste, let'em call it “John” if they like
  2. purely a matter of personal taste, it's perfectly comprehensible
  3. a quaint historical tradition, why not preserve it
  4. hurts legibility (and newbies might not get it) and should be discouraged
  5. politically reprehensible (everyone should be free to use the word unix) and should be discouraged
  6. hurts post searchability and should be discouraged
  7. I'm the Open Group's lawyer and you must remove and kill all usage of the word UNIX™ on this site
  8. look, ponies!

4 Answers 4


I vote for another option: it's both a way to be coy with the trademark issue (#3 I guess), and a way to be inclusive — it implies that one is talking about Unix, Linux, and, even though they don't end in "nix", probably the BSDs as well.


For me it is 3: geek folklore, just a way to refer to the many variants out there, not all of which match the patterns, but hey, they're still family.

As to searchability, this is Unix & Linux Q&A, so this word figures on every page, it should not hurt or matter one bit if a poster uses any euphemism they like.


I don't like it for the reasons you point at 4-6. And since we are not selling any competing system that isn't official Unix here, I doubt the guys at 7 would come bother (and sue) us.


Writing “Nix” is harmful because there is a software package called Nix which is relevant to this site. Writing “*nix” or “'nix” or the like is similarly harmful because it's confusing: are you actually talking about Nix with some weird punctuation (perhaps broken formatting), or about Unix? It's also harmful because searches will find “Nix”, not “Unix”.

Write what you mean. If you mean Unix, write “Unix”.

  • And what should I write if I mean Unix/Linux/BSD/Solaris/AIX/HP-UX/Xenix/Minix/Cygwin/...?
    – Scott
    Aug 31, 2015 at 6:18
  • @Scott Write Unix or unix. Aug 31, 2015 at 7:27
  • @Scott Unix-like?
    – muru
    Sep 4, 2015 at 1:55
  • @muru: But "Unix" is a noun, and so any euphemism for it would need to be a noun, too.  Also, Linux, BSD, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, Xenix, Minix, and Cygwin, etc..., are nouns.  "Unix-like" is an adjective.  Do you suggest that we should all say "a Unix-like operating system" every time I mean "a Unix-like operating system"?  That's too much typing.
    – Scott
    Sep 4, 2015 at 3:03
  • I think I just heard @Gilles volunteering to take the initiative to fix the Unix & Linux tour.
    – Scott
    Sep 4, 2015 at 3:47
  • @Scott where you would once say *nix systems, say Unix-like systems. Or if you want it to sound like a band, the Unix-likes.
    – muru
    Sep 4, 2015 at 9:07
  • But the point is that I wouldn't want to say "*nix systems"; I would want to say "*nix".
    – Scott
    Sep 4, 2015 at 9:09

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