The Strange Roots

Wiki 🚌

Wiki, a website developed collaboratively by a community of contributors, comes from the Hawiian word for 'quick'.

When American computer programmer Ward Cunningham created the first user-editable website in the 1990s, he wanted a name that conveyed something quick and was inspired by a trip to Hawaii, where on arrival at the airport in Honolulu an employee told him to take the free "Wiki Wiki" shuttle bus.

"He explained that wiki wiki meant quick," said Cunningham. "I was to find the quick bus. I did pick up a book about the language before my return home. I learned many things from this but wiki wiki is the word that sticks the most."

An image of the Hawaiian Wiki Wiki bus.
The Wiki Wiki shuttle bus that operates at the airport in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Another factor in his naming decision was he wanted to use an unusual word as it was an unusual technology. He launched the WikiWikiWeb in March 1995 and wiki would go on to become a generic term for any site that can be edited by my its users. The most famous site to adopt the name, with more than 18 billion page views each month, is Wikipedia.

Root: The word Wiki comes from the Hawaiian word wikiwiki for 'very quick', the empathic form of wiki meaning 'quick'.

Sources: Email exchanges between Cunningham and Patrick Taylor of Houghton Mifflin & Catherine Soanes of Oxford University Press