18 March 2013

What is a Google? – To Google or Not to Googol

What is a Google

What is a Google?

We all know Google, the search engine. Its name has become synonymous with searching for information on the Internet. It has even been adopted as a stand-alone verb. We no longer flinch or wonder what a person means when they say “let me google this”. Often these words escape our own mouths.

Google has integrated itself into popular culture, our Internet browsing habits, and even into our everyday language. Some people use the verb “to google” even in situations where they find themselves unable to get to a computer and perform said action.

How did the search engine get its popular name? What is a Google?

Our Google Expert explains: It’s widely believed that Google is actually a misspelling. The reasons for this mistake vary according to source but most seem to bring up the same anecdote: a cheque for “Google” was written to the search engine’s founders by an investor in the early days, and as Google wasn’t a registered company at the time they had to stick with the spelling on the cheque. But what were they trying to spell and what is a Google anyway?

What is a Googol?

A googol is the official name chosen to label a large number in mathematics. It is respectively 1 to the power 100. Written out, this would be 1 followed by 100 zeros.


The number was baptised googol by a 9-year old boy Milton Sirotta in 1938. Sirotta was the nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner. Kasner was a maths tutor at Columbia University’s Mathematics Department. Kasner then built on his nephew’s coinage and created the term googolplex, which refers to an even larger number. A googlolplex is a 1 followed by a googol of zeros.

Google founders wanted to use the symbol of the googol as a label of a large number, as they wished to create a large library of information online. The misspelling may have made their work easier, and they’ve definitely succeeded in creating a memorable and successful brand.