What does "Ubuntu" mean, and why did they choose that particular name?


7 Answers 7


The word of Ubuntu is very difficult to explain in one word in English. Some people say it means "humaness, to be human", some describe it as "Humanity in humility".

See the discussion in the ubuntu forum

Bishop Tutu has describe Ubuntu as:

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.


One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

Nelson Mandela describes it as

A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?

found in wikipedia


To quote the About Ubuntu page on the website:

ubuntu |oǒ'boǒntoō|

Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning 'humanity to others'. It also means 'I am what I am because of who we all are'. The Ubuntu operating system brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the world of computers.

To quote Benjamin Mako Hill:

Ubuntu's original name was, and I'm serious, "no-name-yet.com"

Finally, Mark settled on the name Ubuntu which he though represented the spirit of sharing and cooperation that he found appealing in Free Software.

And finally, to quote Mark Shuttleworth himself in the Ubuntu 4.10 Warty Warthog announcement:

"Ubuntu" is an ancient African word for "humanity towards others", and we think it's a perfect name for an open source community project.

Hopefully, these quotes help clear up any confusion about the name, 'Ubuntu', that you might have had.

  • 1
    We called it $DISTRO for quite a while too ... I wonder if anyone has a picture of the whiteboard at the original London meeting that we covered with possible distribution and company names. Apr 11, 2011 at 9:49

Don't forget the humorous definition! :)

Ubuntu is an ancient African word that means "I can't configure Slackware"

  • 13
    No, "cannot configure Debian" is the generally-accepted humorous answer. Aug 30, 2010 at 2:18
  • 1
    Personally, I've heard vh1's version more. Jul 26, 2013 at 23:11
  • The most awful answer on the Askubuntu.
    – user45853
    Feb 23, 2014 at 11:34
  • This is funny, but not an answer.
    – Braiam
    Feb 28, 2014 at 22:04
  • This is an answer, but not funny. Apr 19, 2017 at 12:07

When I started using Ubuntu I have also found this definition:

I am who I am, because of who we all are.

Slightly shorter than the previous answer ;-)

And the name was chosen by SABDFL.


Ubuntu means: "A man can't be a man without the help of other men"



"I am Because we Are"

i also find it a great slogan for Ubuntu.


From Ubuntu.com - Our philosophy:

Our work is driven by a belief that software should be free and accessible to all.

We believe that every computer user:

  • Should have the freedom to download, run, copy, distribute, study, share, change and improve their software for any purpose, without paying licensing fees.
  • Should be able to use their software in the language of their choice.
  • Should be able to use all software regardless of disability.
  • Our philosophy is reflected in the software we produce, the way we distribute it and our licensing terms, too - Ubuntu Licence Policy.

Install Ubuntu and you can rest assured that all our software meets these ideals. Plus, we are continually working to ensure that every piece of software you could possibly need is available under a licence that gives you those freedoms.

Free software

Ubuntu software is free. Always was, always will be. Free software gives everyone the freedom to use it however they want and share with whoever they like. This freedom has huge benefits. At one end of the spectrum it enables the Ubuntu community to grow and share its collective experience and expertise to continually improve all things Ubuntu. At the other, we are able to give access to essential software for those who couldn’t otherwise afford it – an advantage that’s keenly felt by individuals and organisations all over the world.

Quoting the Free Software Foundation's, 'What is Free Software,' the freedoms at the core of free software are defined as:

The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.

  • The freedom to study how the program works and adapt it to your needs.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
  • The freedom to improve the program and release your improvements to the public, so that everyone benefits.

Open source

Open source is collective power in action. The power of a worldwide community of highly skilled experts that build, share and improve the very latest software together - then make it available to everyone.

The term open source was coined in 1998 to remove the ambiguity in the English word 'free' and it continues to enjoy growing success and wide recognition. Although some people regard ‘free’ and ‘open source' as competing movements with different ends, we do not. Ubuntu proudly includes members who identify with both.

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