The Strange Roots

Cookie 🍪

Cookie, a small packet of data by a web browser onto your computer, is believed to have been introduced by cryptographer Robert "Bob" Morris, part of the team that developed the Unix computer operating system in the 1970s.

"Bob introduced "cookie" into our vocabulary," said professor Douglas McIlroy, a core member of the Unix team. "It was usually applied to a very short and enigmatic bit of text. Bob used the word in non-computing contexts, too. I do not know whether he coined the usage or picked it up elsewhere."

Root: The word cookie itself comes from the Dutch koekje meaning 'little cake' (koek means 'cake' and the suffix -je denotes something small).

Cookie first appears in the Seventh edition of the Unix programmer's manual in January 1979. Inspired by the fortune cookie, users could run the fortune command to display a joke or saying from a database of quotations. These pieces of text were known as fortune cookies or cookie files. The manual also references the magic cookie, a token or piece of data that was passed from one program to another.

Sources: Emails with Ken Thompson and M. Douglas McIlroy.