Google (verb)

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Due to the dominance of the Google search engine,[1] to google became a transitive verb.[2] The neologism commonly refers to searching for information on the World Wide Web using the Google search engine.[3] The American Dialect Society chose it as the "most useful word of 2002."[4] It was added to the Oxford English Dictionary on June 15, 2006,[5] and to the eleventh edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary in July 2006.[6]


The first recorded usage of google used as a gerund, thus supposing an intransitive verb, was on July 8, 1998, by Google co-founder Larry Page himself, who wrote on a mailing list: "Have fun and keep googling!".[7] Its earliest known use (as a transitive verb) on American television was in the "Help" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (October 15, 2002), when Willow asked Buffy, "Have you googled her yet?"[8] On February 23, 2003,[9] Google sent a cease and desist letter to Paul McFedries, creator of Word Spy, a website that tracks neologisms.[10] In an article in the Washington Post, Frank Ahrens discussed the letter he received from a Google lawyer that demonstrated "appropriate" and "inappropriate" ways to use the verb "google".[11] It was reported that, in response to this concern, lexicographers for the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary lowercased the actual entry for the word, google, while maintaining the capitalization of the search engine in their definition, "to use the Google search engine to seek online information" (a concern which did not deter the Oxford editors from preserving the history of both "cases").[12] On October 25, 2006, Google sent a request to the public requesting that "You should please only use 'Google' when you're actually referring to Google Inc. and our services."[13]


Ungoogleable (or unGoogleable) is something that cannot be "googled" – i.e. it cannot be found easily using the Google Search web search engine or any web search engine.[14]

In 2013 the Swedish Language Council attempted to include the Swedish version of the word ("ogooglebar") in its list of new words, but Google objected to the definition not being specifically related to Google, and the Council was forced to briefly remove it to avoid a legal confrontation with Google.[15][16]


Google Search generally ignores punctuation and letter case even when using the "quotation" operator to denote exact searches.[17] Thus, Google may not be able to differentiate terms for which punctuation impacts meaning—for example, "man eating chicken" and "man-eating chicken" (the former meaning a human who is consuming chicken meat and the latter a chicken that eats humans). Because Google treats upper and lower case letters as one and the same, it also is unable to differentiate between the pronoun he and the surname He, which, when combined with its disregard for punctuation, could bury results for an obscure person named "Thomas He" among results such as:

... Assisted by Thomas, he was able to provide incontrovertible proof of this theory, and in so doing, he gained wide recognition in the medical ...[18]

The above also exemplifies how Google's PageRank algorithm, which sorts results by "importance", could also cause something to become ungoogleable: results for those with the 17th most common Chinese surname[19] ("He") are difficult to separate from results containing the 16th most common word in English. In other words, a specific subject may be ungoogleable because its results are a needle in a haystack of results for a more "important" term.

Websites in the deep web are ungoogleable because they are invisible to traditional search engines.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Burns, Enid (June 19, 2007). "Top 10 Search Providers, April 2007". Archived from the original on August 25, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  2. ^ "Google - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-09-19.
  3. ^ "How Google Became a Verb". The Lingua File - The Language Blog. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  4. ^ "2002 Words of the Year". American Dialect Society. January 13, 2003. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  5. ^ Bylund, Anders. "To Google or Not to Google." The Motley Fool. July 5, 2006. Retrieved on March 28, 2007.
  6. ^ Harris, Scott D. (July 7, 2006). "Dictionary adds verb: to google". San Jose Mercury News. Archived from the original on 2007-02-06. Retrieved July 7, 2006.
  7. ^ Page, Larry (July 8, 1998). "Google Search Engine: New Features". Google Friends Mailing List. Archived from the original on 1999-10-09. Retrieved 2007-08-06.
  8. ^ Arthur, Charles (2012). Digital Wars: Apple, Google, Microsoft and the Battle for the Internet. Kogan Page Publishers. p. 48. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
  9. ^ McFedries, Paul (February 23, 2003). "Google trademark concerns". American Dialect Society Mailing List. Archived from the original on July 3, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  10. ^ Duffy, Jonathan. "Google calls in the 'language police'." BBC News. June 20, 2003. Retrieved on July 7, 2006.
  11. ^ Frank Ahrens (2006-08-05). "So Google Is No Brand X, but What Is 'Genericide'?". Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-08-05.
  12. ^ Noon, Chris. "Brin, Page See 'Google' Take Its Place In Dictionary." Forbes. July 6, 2006. Retrieved on July 7, 2006.
  13. ^ Krantz, Michael (October 25, 2006). "Do you "Google?"". The Official Google Blog. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  14. ^ "Who, What, Why: What is 'ungoogleable'?". BBC News Magazine. BBC. 27 March 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  15. ^ Fanning, Sean (26 March 2013). "Google gets ungoogleable off Sweden's new word list". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  16. ^ Williams, Rob (26 March 2013). "'Ungoogleable' removed from list of Swedish words after row over definition with Google: California based search engine giant asked Swedish to amend definition". The Independent. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  17. ^ Search operators - Search Help
  18. ^ "Thomas He" - Google Search
  19. ^ "China's Surnames". Retrieved 2016-07-12.
  20. ^ Bergman, Michael K. (August 2001). "White Paper: The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value". Journal of Electronic Publishing. 7 (1). doi:10.3998/3336451.0007.104. hdl:2027/spo.3336451.0007.104. ISSN 1080-2711.