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Back on this date in 1998, two graduate students opened the (garage) door in Menlo Park, California, on their new business: Google, Incorporated. The spelling of their company name (registered as a trademark) was a play on another made-up word: googol. That first googol was coined by Milton Sirotta, the young nephew of mathematician Edward Kasner, as a name for an immense number, the figure one followed by 100 zeros. Google's founders created an immensely powerful search engine, and they used that homophone to reflect their mission: "to organize the immense, seemingly infinite amount of information available on the web."
What's the significance of all this google talk? Because in just eight short years, from its founding (and registering) to July 2006, google has become such an established part of our lexicon, it has earned a spot in the next edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.
Don't worry: its position as a trademarked term is honored in both the etymology and in the definition. The lower-case transitive verb google is defined as "to use the Google search engine" (this Google is capitalized) "to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web."
We'd love to hear your thoughts on new words.
Questions or comments? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Production and research support for Word for the Wise comes from Merriam-Webster, publisher of language reference books and CDs including Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.