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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Gnu \Gnu\, n. [Hottentot gnu, or nju: cf. F. gnou.] (Zo["o]l.) One of two species of large South African antelopes of the genus Catoblephas, having a mane and bushy tail, and curved horns in both sexes. [Written also gnoo.]

Note: The common gnu or wildebeest ( Catoblephas gnu) is plain brown; the brindled gnu or blue wildebeest ( C. gorgon) is larger, with transverse stripes of black on the neck and shoulders.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1777, gnoo, from Dutch gnoe, used by German traveler Georg Forster (1754-1794) to render Hottentot i-ngu "wildebeest," from Southern Bushman !nu: (in which ! and : represent clicks).


n. A large antelope of the genus ''Connochaetes'', native to Africa having curved horns.


n. large African antelope having a head with horns like an ox and a long tufted tail [syn: wildebeest]


GNU is an operating system and an extensive collection of computer software. GNU is composed wholly of free software, most of which is licensed under GNU's own GPL.

GNU is a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not Unix!", chosen because GNU's design is Unix-like, but differs from Unix by being free software and containing no Unix code. The GNU project includes an operating system kernel, GNU HURD, which was the original focus of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). However, non-GNU kernels, most famously Linux, can also be used with GNU software; and since the kernel is the least mature part of GNU, this is how it is usually used. The combination of GNU software and the Linux kernel is commonly known as Linux (or less frequently GNU/Linux; see GNU/Linux naming controversy).

With the April 30, 2015 release of the Debian GNU/HURD 2015 distro, GNU OS now provides the components to assemble an operating system that users can install and use on a computer. This includes the GNU Hurd kernel, that is currently in a pre-production state. The Hurd status page states that "it may not be ready for production use, as there are still some bugs and missing features. However, it should be a good base for further development and non-critical application usage."

Due to Hurd not being ready for production use, in practice these operating systems are Linux distributions. They contain the Linux kernel, GNU components and software from many other free software projects.

Richard Stallman, the founder of the project, views GNU as a "technical means to a social end" or in other words is a technical avenue to pursue social justice. Relatedly Lawrence Lessig states in his introduction to the 2nd edition of Stallman's book Free Software, Free Society that in it Stallman has written about "the social aspects of software and how Free Software can create community and social justice."

Development of the GNU operating system was initiated by Richard Stallman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Artificial Intelligence Laboratory as a project called the GNU Project which was publicly announced on September 27, 1983, on the net.unix-wizards and net.usoft newsgroups by Richard Stallman. Software development began on January 5, 1984, when Stallman quit his job at the Lab so that they could not claim ownership or interfere with distributing GNU components as free software. Richard Stallman chose the name by using various plays on words, including the song The Gnu.

The goal was to bring a wholly free software operating system into existence. Stallman wanted computer users to be "free", as most were in the 1960s and 1970s – free to study the source code of the software they use, free to share the software with other people, free to modify the behavior of the software, and free to publish their modified versions of the software. This philosophy was later published as the GNU Manifesto in March 1985.

Richard Stallman's experience with the Incompatible Timesharing System (ITS), an early operating system written in assembly language that became obsolete due to discontinuation of PDP-10, the computer architecture for which ITS was written, led to a decision that a portable system was necessary. It was thus decided that the development would be started using C and Lisp as system programming languages, and that GNU would be compatible with Unix. At the time, Unix was already a popular proprietary operating system. The design of Unix was modular, so it could be reimplemented piece by piece.

Much of the needed software had to be written from scratch, but existing compatible third-party free software components were also used such as the TeX typesetting system, the X Window System, and the Mach microkernel that forms the basis of the GNU Mach core of GNU Hurd (the official kernel of GNU). With the exception of the aforementioned third-party components, most of GNU has been written by volunteers; some in their spare time, some paid by companies, educational institutions, and other non-profit organizations. In October 1985, Stallman set up the Free Software Foundation (FSF). In the late 1980s and 1990s, the FSF hired software developers to write the software needed for GNU.

As GNU gained prominence, interested businesses began contributing to development or selling GNU software and technical support. The most prominent and successful of these was Cygnus Solutions, now part of Red Hat.

GNU (disambiguation)

GNU is a Unix-like computer operating system developed by the GNU Project.

GNU or gnu may also refer to:

Usage examples of "gnu".

In connection with the horses it is worthy of notice that the quagga zebra, which never comes together with the dauw zebra, nevertheless lives on excellent terms, not only with ostriches, which are very good sentries, but also with gazelles, several species of antelopes, and gnus.

Next comes Doctor Bemie Feinerman to sprite up her nose so it matches her name, and after that comes the Bible and the Book of Febre and in the Ark there will be nothing that looks like a gnu, only clean-cut-looking animals named Melody or Tab, all WASPs from Dubuque.

This pair cut out a valetudinarian gnu, or at any rate one that was, for whatever reason, slower on its pins than the others, and after yapping around its heels for a moment or so, went for its haunches and brought it down.

Then the Thing said: 'The gnu, a member of the genus Connochaetes and the family Bovidae, is an African antelope with down-curving horns.

Then the Thing said: ‘The gnu, a member of the genus Connochaetes and the family Bovidae, is an African antelope with down-curving horns.

Smith, two others, the hippopotamus, the giraffe, the bos caffer -- as large as a full-grown bull, and the elan -- but little less, two zebras, and the quaccha, two gnus, and several antelopes even larger than these latter animals.

The ideal OS for me would be one that had a well-designed GUI that was easy to set up and use, but that included terminal windows where I could revert to the command line interface, and run GNU software, when it made sense.

The most hackerish of all the hackers, the Ur-hacker as it were, was and is Richard Stallman, who became so annoyed with the evil practice of selling software that, in 1984 (the same year that the Macintosh went on sale) he went off and founded something called the Free Software Foundation, which commenced work on something called GNU.

They go for zebras, gnus and water buffaloes, and not only the old or the infirm in a herd—full-grown members too.

For a predator such as a hyena, a part of its environment that is at least as important as the weather is its prey, the changing populations of gnus, zebras and antelopes.

He knew that he was still Willie Keith, just the innocent, good-humored Willie whom everybody liked, Willie, who could delight people by sitting at a piano and playing If You Knew What the Gnu Knew.

Along the rivers, in the forest and in the open were the herds of game: impala twisting and leaping away at the first approach with their crumpled horns laid back, kudu with big ears and soft eyes, black sable antelope with white bellies and horns curved like a naval cutlass, zebra trotting with the dignity of fat ponies, while about them frolicked their companions, the gnu, waterbuck, nyala, roan antelope and, at last, elephant.

They go for zebras, gnus and water buffaloes, and not only the old or the infirm in a herd—.