Etymology of "struct"

Discussion in 'C Programming' started by Francine.Neary@googlemail.com, Mar 31, 2007.

  1. Guest

    People seem to have different views as to where the C reserved word
    "struct" comes from. One explanation is that it is a shortening of
    "structure", and another is that it is an acronym for "single type
    representing useful compound types".

    Does anyone here know the history of the word?
    , Mar 31, 2007
    #1
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  2. wrote:
    > People seem to have different views as to where the C reserved word
    > "struct" comes from. One explanation is that it is a shortening of
    > "structure", and another is that it is an acronym for "single type
    > representing useful compound types".


    > Does anyone here know the history of the word?


    It should be obvious, if only by application of the princple of Occam's
    razor.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam's_Razor

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backronym

    As somebody recently stated on comp.unix.programmer (IIRC) about the origins
    of the "/usr" directory in Unix, the contemporary predilection for acronyms
    is a relatively recent phenomenon. Or rather, more recent than the age from
    whence C and Unix originated. Maybe somebody might dispute this, but I think
    the evidence for similar name derivations makes a strong case.
    William Ahern, Mar 31, 2007
    #2
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  3. Army1987 Guest

    [OT] Re: Etymology of "struct"

    > As somebody recently stated on comp.unix.programmer (IIRC) about the
    > origins
    > of the "/usr" directory in Unix, the contemporary predilection for
    > acronyms
    > is a relatively recent phenomenon. Or rather, more recent than the age
    > from
    > whence C and Unix originated. Maybe somebody might dispute this, but I
    > think
    > the evidence for similar name derivations makes a strong case.


    What were proposed etymologies for it?
    Army1987, Mar 31, 2007
    #3
  4. Re: [OT] Re: Etymology of "struct"

    "Army1987" <> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
    news:eulclj$fnt$...
    >> As somebody recently stated on comp.unix.programmer (IIRC) about the
    >> origins
    >> of the "/usr" directory in Unix, the contemporary predilection for
    >> acronyms
    >> is a relatively recent phenomenon. Or rather, more recent than the age
    >> from
    >> whence C and Unix originated. Maybe somebody might dispute this, but I
    >> think
    >> the evidence for similar name derivations makes a strong case.

    >
    > What were proposed etymologies for it?

    /usr -> Unix System Resource (rather than USeR)

    Bye, Jojo
    Joachim Schmitz, Mar 31, 2007
    #4
  5. Bill Leary Guest

    <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > People seem to have different views as to where the C reserved word
    > "struct" comes from. One explanation is that it is a shortening of
    > "structure", and another is that it is an acronym for "single type
    > representing useful compound types".


    That "single type..." sounds like a backronym.

    And when you consider other UNIX/c shortenings like "usr" and, especially,
    "creat", I'd go for it just being a shortening.

    Of course, there's always "yacc" and "awk" (among others) to give some
    support to the idea.

    - Bill
    Bill Leary, Mar 31, 2007
    #5
  6. Manuel T Guest

    Re: [OT] Re: Etymology of "struct"

    Joachim Schmitz wrote:

    >> What were proposed etymologies for it?

    > /usr -> Unix System Resource (rather than USeR)


    Can somebody ask for this to Dennis Ritchie?(I always thought this stand for
    USeR)
    --
    Linux engine 2.6.17-11-generic i686 GNU/Linux
    Manuel T, Mar 31, 2007
    #6
  7. Re: [OT] Re: Etymology of "struct"

    Manuel T said:

    > Joachim Schmitz wrote:
    >
    >>> What were proposed etymologies for it?

    >> /usr -> Unix System Resource (rather than USeR)

    >
    > Can somebody ask for this to Dennis Ritchie?(I always thought this
    > stand for USeR)


    Why not ask in alt.folklore.computers ?


    --
    Richard Heathfield
    "Usenet is a strange place" - dmr 29/7/1999
    http://www.cpax.org.uk
    email: rjh at the above domain, - www.
    Richard Heathfield, Mar 31, 2007
    #7
  8. P.J. Plauger Guest

    Re: [OT] Re: Etymology of "struct"

    "Richard Heathfield" <> wrote in message
    news:...

    > Manuel T said:
    >
    >> Joachim Schmitz wrote:
    >>
    >>>> What were proposed etymologies for it?
    >>> /usr -> Unix System Resource (rather than USeR)

    >>
    >> Can somebody ask for this to Dennis Ritchie?(I always thought this
    >> stand for USeR)


    That was my recollection. The first Unix system at Bell Labs put
    the home directories for all users in /usr. When that later
    spilled to a second disk, those of us sent there were put in
    /crp. ("Creep" was a common synonym for "user".)

    P.J. Plauger
    Dinkumware, Ltd.
    http://www.dinkumware.com
    P.J. Plauger, Mar 31, 2007
    #8
  9. P.J. Plauger Guest

    "Bill Leary" <> wrote in message
    news:...

    > <> wrote in message
    > news:...
    >> People seem to have different views as to where the C reserved word
    >> "struct" comes from. One explanation is that it is a shortening of
    >> "structure", and another is that it is an acronym for "single type
    >> representing useful compound types".

    >
    > That "single type..." sounds like a backronym.
    >
    > And when you consider other UNIX/c shortenings like "usr" and, especially,
    > "creat", I'd go for it just being a shortening.
    >
    > Of course, there's always "yacc" and "awk" (among others) to give some
    > support to the idea.


    "struct" is short for "structure", just as "union" is short for
    "union".

    P.J. Plauger
    Dinkumware, Ltd.
    http://www.dinkumware.com
    P.J. Plauger, Mar 31, 2007
    #9
  10. Bill Leary Guest

    "P.J. Plauger" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > "Bill Leary" <> wrote in message
    > news:...
    >
    >> <> wrote in message
    >> news:...
    >>> People seem to have different views as to where the C reserved word
    >>> "struct" comes from. One explanation is that it is a shortening of
    >>> "structure", and another is that it is an acronym for "single type
    >>> representing useful compound types".

    >>
    >> That "single type..." sounds like a backronym.
    >>
    >> And when you consider other UNIX/c shortenings like "usr" and,
    >> especially, "creat", I'd go for it just being a shortening.
    >>
    >> Of course, there's always "yacc" and "awk" (among others) to give some
    >> support to the idea.

    >
    > "struct" is short for "structure", just as "union" is short for
    > "union".


    I agree. If I gave an impression otherwise, sorry about that.

    - Bill
    Bill Leary, Mar 31, 2007
    #10
  11. Guest

    On Mar 31, 10:39 pm, "Bill Leary" <> wrote:
    > "P.J. Plauger" <> wrote in message
    >
    > news:...
    >
    >
    >
    > > "Bill Leary" <> wrote in message
    > >news:...

    >
    > >> <> wrote in message
    > >>news:...
    > >>> People seem to have different views as to where the C reserved word
    > >>> "struct" comes from. One explanation is that it is a shortening of
    > >>> "structure", and another is that it is an acronym for "single type
    > >>> representing useful compound types".

    >
    > >> That "single type..." sounds like a backronym.

    >
    > >> And when you consider other UNIX/c shortenings like "usr" and,
    > >> especially, "creat", I'd go for it just being a shortening.

    >
    > >> Of course, there's always "yacc" and "awk" (among others) to give some
    > >> support to the idea.

    >
    > > "struct" is short for "structure", just as "union" is short for
    > > "union".

    >
    > I agree. If I gave an impression otherwise, sorry about that.


    Well, OK, I mean that seems the most likely to me too. But I was
    really wondering if there's any records to support that, e.g. if an
    early C manual said something like "a struct (or structure) is...", or
    if people who were around in the early days remember how the name came
    about.
    , Mar 31, 2007
    #11
  12. writes:
    > On Mar 31, 10:39 pm, "Bill Leary" <> wrote:
    >> "P.J. Plauger" <> wrote in message

    [...]
    >> > "struct" is short for "structure", just as "union" is short for
    >> > "union".

    >>
    >> I agree. If I gave an impression otherwise, sorry about that.

    >
    > Well, OK, I mean that seems the most likely to me too. But I was
    > really wondering if there's any records to support that, e.g. if an
    > early C manual said something like "a struct (or structure) is...", or
    > if people who were around in the early days remember how the name came
    > about.


    <http://www.cs.bell-labs.com/who/dmr/primevalC.html>, written by
    Dennis Ritchie:

    "prestruct-c" is a copy of the compiler just before I started
    changing it to use structures itself.

    ...

    The earlier compiler does not know about structures at all: the
    string "struct" does not appear anywhere. The second tape has a
    compiler that does implement structures in a way that begins to
    approach their current meaning. Their declaration syntax seems to
    use () instead of {}, but . and -> for specifying members of a
    structure itself and members of a pointed-to structure are both
    there.

    On the other hand, a Google search for the phrase "single type
    representing useful compound types" gets exactly zero hits, and a
    Google Groups search finds only this thread.

    I remember one of the regulars here (I don't remember who it was)
    coining a "backronym" for the "struct" keyword. His intent, I think,
    was not to seriously suggest that the word "struct" is an acronym, but
    to emphasize that a struct, not a typedef, is the way to create a new
    type. I suspect the author would be surprised to see his invented
    derivation being taken seriously.

    --
    Keith Thompson (The_Other_Keith) <http://www.ghoti.net/~kst>
    San Diego Supercomputer Center <*> <http://users.sdsc.edu/~kst>
    "We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do this."
    -- Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, "Yes Minister"
    Keith Thompson, Mar 31, 2007
    #12
  13. In article <>,
    Keith Thompson <> wrote:

    >I remember one of the regulars here (I don't remember who it was)
    >coining a "backronym" for the "struct" keyword. His intent, I think,
    >was not to seriously suggest that the word "struct" is an acronym, but
    >to emphasize that a struct, not a typedef, is the way to create a new
    >type. I suspect the author would be surprised to see his invented
    >derivation being taken seriously.


    Chris Torek, if I'm not mistaken. And it was "STRange spelling for
    User-defined abstraCT type", which I suspect was in part designed to be
    hard to take seriously.


    dave

    --
    Dave Vandervies
    Next year I'll have one who is 19, one who is 9, and one who is 3.
    It's like having three "only children".
    --David P. Murphy in the scary devil monastery
    Dave Vandervies, Apr 1, 2007
    #13
  14. (Dave Vandervies) writes:
    > In article <>,
    > Keith Thompson <> wrote:
    >
    >>I remember one of the regulars here (I don't remember who it was)
    >>coining a "backronym" for the "struct" keyword. His intent, I think,
    >>was not to seriously suggest that the word "struct" is an acronym, but
    >>to emphasize that a struct, not a typedef, is the way to create a new
    >>type. I suspect the author would be surprised to see his invented
    >>derivation being taken seriously.

    >
    > Chris Torek, if I'm not mistaken. And it was "STRange spelling for
    > User-defined abstraCT type", which I suspect was in part designed to be
    > hard to take seriously.


    Yeah, that's what I was thinking of.

    --
    Keith Thompson (The_Other_Keith) <http://www.ghoti.net/~kst>
    San Diego Supercomputer Center <*> <http://users.sdsc.edu/~kst>
    "We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do this."
    -- Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, "Yes Minister"
    Keith Thompson, Apr 1, 2007
    #14
  15. On Mar 31, 3:02 pm, wrote:
    >
    > > "P.J. Plauger" <> wrote

    >
    > > > "struct" is short for "structure", just as "union" is short for
    > > > "union".

    >
    > Well, OK, I mean that seems the most likely to me too. But I was
    > really wondering if there's any records to support that, e.g. if an
    > early C manual said something like "a struct (or structure) is...", or
    > if people who were around in the early days remember how the name came
    > about.


    We don't often hear from Dennis Ritchie here these days, but since P.
    J. Plauger worked close to him through the original development of C,
    wrote the first commercial C compiler, and was secretary of the
    original ANSII C Standardization committee, you should be able to
    treat his opinion as fairly definitive. That and common sense - struct
    is obviously an abbreviation of structure. Strained contorted acronym
    explanations for words which have obvious derivations are almost
    always spurious (or, at the very least, deliberately invented to fit
    the abbreviation).
    J. J. Farrell, Apr 1, 2007
    #15
  16. Re: [OT] Re: Etymology of "struct"

    "P.J. Plauger" <> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
    news:...
    > "Richard Heathfield" <> wrote in message
    > news:...
    >
    >> Manuel T said:
    >>
    >>> Joachim Schmitz wrote:
    >>>
    >>>>> What were proposed etymologies for it?
    >>>> /usr -> Unix System Resource (rather than USeR)
    >>>
    >>> Can somebody ask for this to Dennis Ritchie?(I always thought this
    >>> stand for USeR)

    >
    > That was my recollection. The first Unix system at Bell Labs put
    > the home directories for all users in /usr. When that later
    > spilled to a second disk, those of us sent there were put in
    > /crp. ("Creep" was a common synonym for "user".)

    I think /usr used to stand for USeR, but with more modern version of UNIX
    tzhe users got moved elsewhere, usually /home, so /usr got "backronymed" to
    Unix System Resource

    Bye, Jojo
    Joachim Schmitz, Apr 1, 2007
    #16
  17. Richard Guest

    Re: [OT] Re: Etymology of "struct"

    "Joachim Schmitz" <> writes:

    > "P.J. Plauger" <> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
    > news:...
    >> "Richard Heathfield" <> wrote in message
    >> news:...
    >>
    >>> Manuel T said:
    >>>
    >>>> Joachim Schmitz wrote:
    >>>>
    >>>>>> What were proposed etymologies for it?
    >>>>> /usr -> Unix System Resource (rather than USeR)
    >>>>
    >>>> Can somebody ask for this to Dennis Ritchie?(I always thought this
    >>>> stand for USeR)

    >>
    >> That was my recollection. The first Unix system at Bell Labs put
    >> the home directories for all users in /usr. When that later
    >> spilled to a second disk, those of us sent there were put in
    >> /crp. ("Creep" was a common synonym for "user".)

    > I think /usr used to stand for USeR, but with more modern version of UNIX
    > tzhe users got moved elsewhere, usually /home, so /usr got "backronymed" to
    > Unix System Resource


    On Linux /usr is *User* <system> Resources.

    Things optional to the core system installed as options by users of
    the system gets installed there.

    http://www.openaddict.com/documents/Linux-Filesystem-Hierarchy/usr.html
    Richard, Apr 1, 2007
    #17
  18. >That and common sense - struct
    >is obviously an abbreviation of structure. Strained contorted acronym
    >explanations for words which have obvious derivations are almost
    >always spurious (or, at the very least, deliberately invented to fit
    >the abbreviation).


    Is there any truth to the rumor that the 'a' in acronym stands for
    "asinine" :-?
    Gordon Burditt, Apr 1, 2007
    #18
  19. Guest

    On Mar 31, 11:53 pm, Keith Thompson <> wrote:
    > writes:
    > > On Mar 31, 10:39 pm, "Bill Leary" <> wrote:
    > >> "P.J. Plauger" <> wrote in message

    > [...]
    > >> > "struct" is short for "structure", just as "union" is short for
    > >> > "union".

    >
    > >> I agree. If I gave an impression otherwise, sorry about that.

    >
    > > Well, OK, I mean that seems the most likely to me too. But I was
    > > really wondering if there's any records to support that, e.g. if an
    > > early C manual said something like "a struct (or structure) is...", or
    > > if people who were around in the early days remember how the name came
    > > about.

    >
    > <http://www.cs.bell-labs.com/who/dmr/primevalC.html>, written by
    > Dennis Ritchie:
    >
    > "prestruct-c" is a copy of the compiler just before I started
    > changing it to use structures itself.
    >
    > ...
    >
    > The earlier compiler does not know about structures at all: the
    > string "struct" does not appear anywhere. The second tape has a
    > compiler that does implement structures in a way that begins to
    > approach their current meaning. Their declaration syntax seems to
    > use () instead of {}, but . and -> for specifying members of a
    > structure itself and members of a pointed-to structure are both
    > there.


    Thanks, that's a really interesting site. It's good that Dr. Ritchie
    has written up some of the history for posterity - he must be really
    quite old by now :)

    > On the other hand, a Google search for the phrase "single type
    > representing useful compound types" gets exactly zero hits, and a
    > Google Groups search finds only this thread.


    So it does! I guess I must have misremembered one of the words... I
    was actually at a presentation of programming jobs, and some guy swore
    blind it was an acronym - real smooth talker :)

    > I remember one of the regulars here (I don't remember who it was)
    > coining a "backronym" for the "struct" keyword. His intent, I think,
    > was not to seriously suggest that the word "struct" is an acronym, but
    > to emphasize that a struct, not a typedef, is the way to create a new
    > type. I suspect the author would be surprised to see his invented
    > derivation being taken seriously.
    >
    > --
    > Keith Thompson (The_Other_Keith) <http://www.ghoti.net/~kst>
    > San Diego Supercomputer Center <*> <http://users.sdsc.edu/~kst>
    > "We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do this."
    > -- Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, "Yes Minister"
    , Apr 1, 2007
    #19
  20. Re: [OT] Re: Etymology of "struct"

    "Richard" <> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
    news:...
    > "Joachim Schmitz" <> writes:
    >
    >> "P.J. Plauger" <> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
    >> news:...
    >>> "Richard Heathfield" <> wrote in message
    >>> news:...
    >>>
    >>>> Manuel T said:
    >>>>
    >>>>> Joachim Schmitz wrote:
    >>>>>
    >>>>>>> What were proposed etymologies for it?
    >>>>>> /usr -> Unix System Resource (rather than USeR)
    >>>>>
    >>>>> Can somebody ask for this to Dennis Ritchie?(I always thought this
    >>>>> stand for USeR)
    >>>
    >>> That was my recollection. The first Unix system at Bell Labs put
    >>> the home directories for all users in /usr. When that later
    >>> spilled to a second disk, those of us sent there were put in
    >>> /crp. ("Creep" was a common synonym for "user".)

    >> I think /usr used to stand for USeR, but with more modern version of UNIX
    >> the users got moved elsewhere, usually /home, so /usr got "backronymed"
    >> to
    >> Unix System Resource

    >
    > On Linux /usr is *User* <system> Resources.
    >
    > Things optional to the core system installed as options by users of
    > the system gets installed there.
    >
    > http://www.openaddict.com/documents/Linux-Filesystem-Hierarchy/usr.html

    Ah, well, close enough, esp. as Linux == Linux Is Not UniX ;-)

    Bye, Jojo
    Joachim Schmitz, Apr 2, 2007
    #20
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