Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
Related to Linux: Linux commands


(computer science)
A freely available, open-source Unix-like operating system kernel capable of running on many different types of computer hardware; first released in 1991.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


(operating system)
("Linus Unix") /li'nuks/ (but see below) An implementation of the Unix kernel originally written from scratch with no proprietary code.

The kernel runs on Intel and Alpha hardware in the general release, with SPARC, PowerPC, MIPS, ARM, Amiga, Atari, and SGI in active development. The SPARC, PowerPC, ARM, PowerMAC - OSF, and 68k ports all support shells, X and networking. The Intel and SPARC versions have reliable symmetric multiprocessing.

Work on the kernel is coordinated by Linus Torvalds, who holds the copyright on a large part of it. The rest of the copyright is held by a large number of other contributors (or their employers). Regardless of the copyright ownerships, the kernel as a whole is available under the GNU General Public License. The GNU project supports Linux as its kernel until the research Hurd kernel is completed.

This kernel would be no use without application programs. The GNU project has provided large numbers of quality tools, and together with other public domain software it is a rich Unix environment. A compilation of the Linux kernel and these tools is known as a Linux distribution. Compatibility modules and/or emulators exist for dozens of other computing environments.

The kernel version numbers are significant: the odd numbered series (e.g. 1.3.xx) is the development (or beta) kernel which evolves very quickly. Stable (or release) kernels have even major version numbers (e.g. 1.2.xx).

There is a lot of commercial support for and use of Linux, both by hardware companies such as Digital, IBM, and Apple and numerous smaller network and integration specialists. There are many commercially supported distributions which are generally entirely under the GPL. At least one distribution vendor guarantees Posix compliance. Linux is particularly popular for Internet Service Providers, and there are ports to both parallel supercomputers and embedded microcontrollers. Debian is one popular open source distribution.

The pronunciation of "Linux" has been a matter of much debate. Many, including Torvalds, insist on the short I pronunciation /li'nuks/ because "Linus" has an /ee/ sound in Swedish (Linus's family is part of Finland's 6% ethnic-Swedish minority) and Linus considers English short /i/ to be closer to /ee/ than English long /i:/ dipthong. This is consistent with the short I in words like "linen". This doesn't stop others demanding a long I /li:'nuks/ following the english pronunciation of "Linus" and "minus". Others say /li'niks/ following Minix, which Torvalds was working on before Linux.

More on pronunciation.

LinuxHQ. slashdot. freshmeat. Woven Goods. Linux Gazette.

funet Linux Archive, US mirror, UK Mirror.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (


An open source operating system that is the most widely used OS worldwide. Linux runs on all major hardware platforms, including x86, ARM and IBM mainframes, as well as minor ones. Based on the design principles in Unix, Linux runs in most of the servers on the Internet and in nearly every consumer electronics product controlled by a microprocessor (see embedded Linux). Linux is known for its stability because its Unix-like architecture keeps applications isolated from the core operating system. Apple's software is based on Unix as well. See Unix.

Linux is in every Android smartphone and tablet. It also has a small market share of personal computers, minuscule compared to Windows and Mac but steadily growing due to Google's Linux laptop (see Chromebook).

Hundreds of Distros
Licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), Linux is "the" flagship product of the open source community. Numerous groups modify Linux for various purposes, and there are literally hundreds of versions, known as "distributions" or "distros." Most distros are free, and all use the Linux kernel (the core of Linux). Commercial organizations, such as Red Hat and Suse, sell Linux with tech support for a fee. Linux is IEEE compliant (see POSIX). See Linux distribution, open source and GNU General Public License.

Desktop vs. Server
The many desktop distros of Linux come with an assortment of free and mostly worthwhile applications, and many more are available for download. Linux versions of word processing, spreadsheets, paint and drawing apps, media players and video editors are full featured programs that often rival their Windows and Mac counterparts. In contrast, server versions of Linux are typically used in a headless mode (no mouse, no keyboard) and include administration and networking tools rather than user-oriented apps. See package manager.

Not Just One User Interface
Linux employs the X Window rendering system to create the basic window, but desktop versions of Linux rely on third-party user interfaces to display the borders, buttons, menus, icons and desktop that users manipulate. KDE and GNOME are two of the most popular, and both may be included in a distro. See X Window, KDE and GNOME.

From Unix to Minix to Linux
In 1990, Finnish computer science student Linus Torvalds created Linux. He was inspired by Minix, a classroom teaching tool similar to Unix. Although Torvalds created the kernel, many of the supporting libraries, utilities and applications have come from the GNU Project, which is why Linux is often designated as GNU/Linux. Over the years, a huge number of programmers have contributed. Torvalds maintains the kernel, and Linux is his registered trademark.

Linux Is Really "Lee-Nooks"
The most common pronunciation is "lynn-icks." However, because in Finnish, Linus is pronounced "lee-noose," Torvalds named it "lee-nooks." It may also be called "line-icks" as many people call Linus "line-iss." See embedded Linux, Minix, Ubuntu, SuSE Linux, UnitedLinux, CoreOS, OS virtualization, GNU, open source, Linux Foundation, Trinux, SCO and Red Hat.

A Ubuntu Linux Desktop
This is a Linux desktop PC from System76. In 2005, System76 was first to offer off-the-shelf Ubuntu Linux computers (see Ubuntu). (Image courtesy of System76,

Linux in Your TV
MontaVista Linux provides the user interface in this Sony TV. Increasingly, people find a GPL open source license with the electronics they purchase, which covers the legal use of the software running in the device. See GNU General Public License.

The Linux Logo
The Linux mascot is a penguin, and it appeared in some early iPod music players that ran a version of Linux from the iPodLinux Project. (Image courtesy of the iPodLinux Project)
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
References in periodicals archive ?
The 2015 Linux Jobs Report includes data from hiring managers (1,010) and Linux professionals (3,446) and provides an overview of the state of the market for Linux careers and what motivates professionals in this industry.
There are currently more than 300 actively maintained versions of Linux, including user-friendly Ubuntu, business-friendly Red Hat/Fedora or Novell SuSE, and geek-friendly Debian (
Jose Paolo 'JP' Bernardo, the son of Chit, told in an interview that he was surprised at how easy his mother was able to use his Linux laptop.
Coekaerts, senior vice president of Linux and Virtualisation Engineering,
About The Linux Foundation The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit consortium dedicated to fostering the growth of Linux.
Much more so than on "desktop" PCs for individual users, Linux has a presence on "servers," which include the computers that make websites available over the Internet.
Chinese developers have contributed to Linux kernel development, and Linux has been widely used in commerce and education in China.
In early 2000, IBM, based on client demand, expanded use of open source software and enabled Linux to run on IBM mainframe computers.
For similar environments, Linux acquisition costs can be almost $60,000 less per server than Windows in software costs alone.
Geck shot back a few minutes later, answering a question about whether signing up with a specific Linux company instead of Microsoft is just trading one master for another.
"BlueCat Linux 5.0 users benefit from key enhancements in the Linux 2.6 kernel, including improved real-time performance, easier porting to new computers, support for large memory models, support for microcontrollers and an improved I/O system," Steve Graves, McObject CEO, said.
Evidence of the growing demand for Linux thin clients comes from Wyse rival Neoware.