Home : Software Terms : GNU Definition


GNU (pronounced "g-new") is a free Unix-like operating system distributed by the Free Software Foundation. It is available in several different versions, but the most popular is the GNU/Linux system, which uses the Linux kernel. Since the GNU/Linux system is a popular version of Linux, it is often referred to as simply "Linux." However, GNU/Linux is technically a specific version of Linux developed by the GNU Project.

Several GNU/Linux distributions are available, including BLAG, Dragora, gNewSense, Kongoni, Musix GNU+Linux, Trisquel, Ututo, and Venenux. While each version of GNU/Linux is based on the GNU system, each has a custom user interface and may include unique bundled applications. For example, Trisquel is designed for small business and home and educational purposes, while Musix GNU+Linux is designed primarily for audio production.

GNU operating systems, software programs, and development tools, such as the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), are distributed for free under the GNU General Public License (GPL). This license states that the software may be freely used, modified, and distributed. Therefore, all GNU software is freely available without a commercial license. Many freeware programs developed for other operating systems are now distributed under the GNU General Public License as well.

The name "GNU" is a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not Unix."

Updated: July 5, 2010

Cite this definition:


TechTerms - The Tech Terms Computer Dictionary

This page contains a technical definiton of GNU. It explains in computing terminology what GNU means and is one of many software terms in the TechTerms dictionary.

All definitions on the TechTerms website are written to be technically accurate but also easy to understand. If you find this GNU definition to be helpful, you can reference it using the citation links above. If you think a term should be updated or added to the TechTerms dictionary, please email TechTerms!