GNU stands for “GNU’s Not Unix.” It is an operating system that is free software and similar to Unix but does not contain any Unix code. It was created by Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation.


The phonetics of the keyword “GNU” is typically pronounced as “g-noo”.

Key Takeaways

Here are three main takeaways about GNU:

  1. Commitment to free software: GNU, which stands for “GNU’s Not Unix”, is a project launched by Richard Stallman to create a completely free and open-source operating system. This commitment to free software means users can use, study, modify, and redistribute the software as they please.
  2. GPL License: Most of the software produced by GNU project is distributed under the General Public License (GPL). This license guarantees end users the four essential freedoms: to run the program, to study and change the program in source code form, to redistribute exact copies, and to distribute modified versions.
  3. Comprehensive software collection: While it was initially known for its operating system, the GNU Project now features a wide range of software including graphical solutions, software programming solutions, online servers, and even games. All are freely available and come with the source code for potential modifications.


GNU, an acronym for “GNU’s Not Unix”, is significant in the technology world primarily because it represents a comprehensive collection of free software, which fostered the birth of the open source movement. Developed by Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, GNU programs are wholly composed of free software, meaning users can freely run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. The most prominent product of the GNU project is the GNU/Linux operating system which is widely used today. The project’s emphasis on software freedom gives users control over their computing and helps promote and defend user rights, fostering a community of constant development and innovation. With its principles, GNU has significantly impacted the landscape of modern computing.


The GNU Project, initialized in 1983 by Richard Stallman, is a free software movement that aimed to create a completely free and open source Unix-like operating system, which came to be known as the GNU operating system. The purpose of the GNU project is underpinned by the philosophy of software freedom where users have the liberty to run, copy, distribute, study, change, and improve the software. The aim is to promote the idea that software should be freely accessible and modifiable by its users, thereby creating a collaborative and democratic software development and usage environment.GNU is used predominantly for creating and distributing free software. Its primary components include the GNU Compiler Collection, the GNU Binary Utilities, and the GNU C Library, although entirely GNU systems also use a range of other software. The GNU operating system, combined with the kernel Linux, is used in millions of devices today, known colloquially as Linux, although the proper name is GNU/Linux to acknowledge the significant contribution of the GNU project. This system is used in countless computer systems worldwide, from smartphones and tablets, to servers and supercomputers, playing a vital role in the computing landscape.


1. **GNU/Linux:** Often referred to as Linux, it’s one of the most prominent examples of free software and open-source development; where its underlying source code can be freely modified, used, and redistributed. The system’s basic components are mainly developed by the GNU Project and it includes numerous other free software components.2. **GNU Compiler Collection (GCC):** An integral part of the GNU Toolchain, GCC is a compiler system produced by the GNU Project that supports various programming languages such as C, C++, Objective-C, Fortran, Ada, and more. It is a key component of the GNU system and of Free Software Foundation distributions, which acts as a standard compiler for most Unix-like operating systems including Linux and Apple’s MacOS.3. **GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program):** It’s a raster graphics editor, used for image retouching and editing, or for creating original art. It is freely available for many operating systems such as GNU/Linux, macOS, Windows, and more. It is often cited as a free alternative to Adobe Photoshop.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

**Q: What does GNU stand for?**A: GNU stands for “GNU’s Not Unix”. It is a recursive acronym.**Q: What is GNU?**A: GNU is a free software project which was announced on September 27, 1983, by Richard Stallman. It was aimed to give computer users freedom from proprietary software.**Q: What is the purpose of the GNU project?**A: The GNU Project aims to develop a completely free and open-source Unix-like operating system that respects users’ freedom to share and modify the software they use.**Q: Is Linux a part of the GNU project?**A: Yes, Linux, or to be more specific, the Linux kernel, is often combined with the GNU operating system to create a fully functional GNU/Linux system.**Q: What is the difference between Unix and GNU?**A: Unix is a proprietary system developed in the 70s, now owned by several corporations, while GNU is an ongoing project launched by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to create a free operating system similar to Unix.**Q: Who manages the GNU project?**A: The GNU Project is managed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF).**Q: What are some popular software programs from the GNU project?**A: Some popular software programs from the GNU project are the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), the GNU C Library (glibc), and the GNU Bash shell.**Q: How can I contribute to the GNU project?**A: Users can contribute to the GNU project by programming, testing, reporting bugs, improving documentation, and advocating for free software among other things. You can check the ‘Help GNU’ page on their official website for more information.

Related Tech Terms

  • Free Software Foundation
  • GNU General Public License (GPL)
  • GNU/Linux
  • Richard Stallman
  • Open Source Software

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