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Is there any long-form, if at all? Or is it just a tradition from the 80's?

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1  
Similar question at unix.stackexchange: What does “rc” in .bashrc stand for? –  Sid Jan 27 '11 at 11:10
    
Similar question on Super User: What does the 'rc' in .bashrc, etc. mean? –  Gilles Dec 6 '13 at 12:34
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2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I've heard

  • run commands
  • resource control
  • run control
  • runtime configuration

Personally, I'd go with run control, because ESR says so.

http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/taoup/html/ch10s03.html

His footnote says:

 The ‘rc’ suffix goes back to Unix's grandparent, CTSS.
 It had a command-script feature called "runcom". Early
 Unixes used ‘rc’ for the name of the operating system's
 boot script, as a tribute to CTSS runcom.

Wikipedia chooses "run commands" as the default long-form, but admits that context should determine word choice.

 While not historically precise, rc may also be pronou-
 nced as "run control", because an rc file controls how
 a program runs. For instance, the editor Vim looks for
 and reads the contents of the .vimrc file to determine
 its initial configuration. The most sensible pronunci-
 ation depends on the function of the file: to start
 something up, or to control how something starts up.

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

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ESR’s »runcom«, however, does not suggest »run control«, unless there is a rule for transoforming n to m that I don’t know about. –  MPi Jan 27 '11 at 8:19
    
If you turn runcom into an acronym, it is RC. If you turn run control into an acronym, it is RC. No n to m transforming needed. Is it a backronym? Kinda, yeah. They're different, but only slightly, and very much related. Read the link to ESR's chapter on RC files. He makes it pretty clear. –  djeikyb Jan 29 '11 at 1:28
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According to this source -- http://kb.iu.edu/data/abdr.html -- it means "run commands"

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See also here superuser.com/questions/144339/… –  Joril Jan 27 '11 at 7:56
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