What Does "Yahoo" Stand For?

Learn the history behind the Yahoo name

The Yahoo logo is displayed in front of the Yahoo headqarters on July 17, 2012 in Sunnyvale, California.

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Yahoo stands for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle." Learn more about the meaning of Yahoo and how it became a household name.

Information in this article is about the company Yahoo, which is often spelled with an exclamation mark (Yahoo!).

The Meaning Behind Yahoo's Name

This odd and rather long name was coined in 1994 by two electrical engineering Ph.D. candidates at Stanford University, David Filo and Jerry Yang. The original name for what is now known as the Yahoo search engine was "David's and Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web." Realizing they needed a better name, Filo and Yang turned to the dictionary and chose “yahoo” because it was a word that anyone can say and remember with ease.

The longer title, "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle," was decided on later as it perfectly described Filo and Yang's search engine: "Hierarchical" described how the Yahoo database was arranged in directory layers; "officious" refers to the office workers who used the database; and "oracle" was intended to mean "source of truth and wisdom."

How Yahoo Was Created

The World Wide Web was only five years old and still relatively small in 1994, but with thousands of websites being created every day, it was becoming difficult to navigate. Thus, Filo and Yang were inspired to make their own database for the web. In their own words, they were “just trying to take all that stuff and organize it to make it useful."

Jerry and David spent many nights compiling a list of their favorite websites for the Yahoo database. The list was manageable at first, but it quickly became too large to navigate with ease. The list was divided into categories, which were soon split into subcategories. The database continued to grow and eventually evolved into the context-based search engine it is today.

The Growth and Expansion of Yahoo

The Yahoo audience grew largely by word of mouth. Within a year, the Stanford network became so clogged with Yahoo web search traffic that Jerry and David had to move their Yahoo database to the Netscape offices.

Having recognized Yahoo’s potential and incorporating in March of 1995, David and Jerry both left their graduate studies to work on Yahoo full time. In April 1995, the investors of Sequoia Capital funded Yahoo with an initial investment of nearly $2 million. David and Jerry also hired Tim Koogle as CEO and Jeffrey Mallett as COO into the ranks of their management team.

More funding came later in 1995 from investors Reuters Ltd. and Softbank. With a team of 49 employees, Yahoo went IPO in April of 1996. In 1997, the company launched an email service, Yahoo Mail.

Today, Yahoo, Inc. is a leading global internet communications, commerce, and media company that offers a plethora of network services to more than 345 million individuals each month worldwide. Creators David Filo and Jerry Yang never went back to finish their Ph.D. studies, but they are both ranked by Forbes as two of the 400 wealthiest men in America.