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The Kinect is a game sensation, but what does the word actually mean?

Either you, or someone you know, is probably paying attention to Kinect, Microsoft’s new controller-less addition for the Xbox that allows people to play games with their entire bodies.

What about the word? It’s pronounced like “connect,” but why does it have the odd spelling?

Let’s dissect Kinect and look at its pieces … The “Kin-” borrows from a number of English words with Greek roots, all of which describe motion in some way. Chief among them is “kinetic.” The second part of the word, “-nect,” has another convenient “n” and is rooted in “nexus,” which has a Latin origin.

But the plot thickens. For a year, the product had another, more mysterious name: Project Natal. Microsoft wizard Alex Kipman named the project in honor of Natal, a city in his native Brazil (in Portuguese, the word for Christmas; in English, another word for birth).

No one knows if Microsoft will redefine gaming with the Kinect, but they definitely aren’t the first to invent names for video game systems. Atari, arguably the godfather of pop culture video game systems, got its name from a term in the Japanese game “go.” Anything was better than the company’s original name, Syzygy.

But no video console name has stirred more discussion — and juvenile jokes — than Nintendo’s Wii. The console name is meant to evoke the togetherness of “we.” But the company also insists that the “i”’s resemble two people standing next to each other. Yes … if you’ve played 15 straight hours of Mario Brothers, two vowels will resemble just about anything.

Like Kinect, Wii originally had another name, Revolution. And like Atari, Nintendo is derived from Japanese. In Nintendo’s case, it loosely means “company that leaves luck to the heavens.”

32 Comments

  1. wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 9, 2014 - 5:50 am

    I wish I had a Kinect.

    Reply
    • John -  June 11, 2016 - 9:56 am

      No you don’t, its boring

      Reply
  2. mia gonzales -  November 15, 2012 - 2:21 pm

    there should be two mia and lobo

    Reply
  3. N7xMartinx666 -  October 27, 2011 - 4:48 pm

    why would u discuss the damn X on xbox… just grab ur controller, pop in a game or sing in to xboxlive, and enjoy!

    Reply
  4. PattiLain -  August 25, 2010 - 4:59 am

    “Ken” means both chin and know in Afrikaans.

    Reply
  5. KINECT | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  August 17, 2010 - 11:13 pm

    [...] “KINECT” the two wires together and hope you don’t blow yourself up — it’s more than a game it’s time wasted — when we could be collecting money in a paper cup. — KINECT — let’s hear it form MICROSOFT — since China is now number two — we’re uncertain of the meaning of Duty — since Ford has a truck named for what’s due. — We can’t relate to the video games — the reality is too much to bare. — Although we know we’ll be blasted by some laser. — We’ll pretend that we really don’t care. — The thing that actually bothers us is the noise makers in the news: — Promoting to keep and make the rich richer, — claiming anarchy is the freedom we should choose. — Anarchy is not an option and we need the watchdogs to protect — from the new multinational robber barons — and even the government is suspect. –”We the People” is no Party — It’s a responsibility that’s at hand — Kinect to communication and reporting reality the truth we simply can’t stand.– Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

    Reply
    • John -  June 11, 2016 - 9:57 am

      Looks like drunken gibberish…

      Reply
  6. SoupaDoupaPartiPoupa -  June 20, 2010 - 8:48 pm

    well Pattilain, hoegaandit is hello in Afrikaans so there you are – you learnt anuvva word. and who knos wot hello is in Xhosa?

    Reply
  7. 3pac, 2paks brother -  June 18, 2010 - 9:28 am

    Yea buddy nuttin but a peanut, everybody wants to be a body builder. If you can tell me who sayd that ill tell you where my brother is.

    Hint, Hes a cop in texas

    Reply
  8. MisterMe -  June 17, 2010 - 4:34 pm

    sorry pattilatin, but ‘know’ is afrikaans for ‘ken’. Ken was obviously named wrong.

    Reply
  9. PattiLain -  June 17, 2010 - 4:56 am

    Not to nitpick, but ken is Afrikaans for chin, not kin.

    Reply
    • shadowdisapline -  February 26, 2015 - 6:31 pm

      good to meet you.

      Reply
  10. random123 -  June 17, 2010 - 1:23 am

    I agree with imrann’s one:

    ‘Actually, the Xbox name comes from this:
    Microsoft person 1: “We need a new name for this game box”
    Microsoft person 2: “What is a cool letter?”
    1: “How about X?”
    2: “Perfect. It is a box with a cool letter; the Xbox.” ‘

    It is probably right too =3

    Reply
  11. Jacob Caraballo -  June 16, 2010 - 10:49 pm

    CORRECTION! The reason the X was placed on the BOX is due to the number of corners on the X correspondent to the number of corners on the BOX. It makes both the object and the letter cooperatively reliant on each other’s demanding success.

    Reply
  12. Kidenki -  June 16, 2010 - 10:37 pm

    Aside from the DirectX and the obvious giant letter the first console looked like, I’d always childishly assumed it was because every popular gaming console before it has an ‘X’ button, somehow making ‘X’ the universal associating with gaming. “Xbox” “Xplay” “X-Arcade”. Another though in my head, ‘X’ is usually used for the term versus, accompanied by the many competitive games associated with Microsoft gaming. Yay dumb thoughts to go with dumb topics. :3 Mm.

    Reply
  13. mymom -  June 16, 2010 - 9:45 pm

    Without the X it would just be a box. Boxes are lame. Everyone knows X’s are cool.

    Reply
  14. MisterMe -  June 16, 2010 - 9:24 pm

    Stuff the lotayas. Kenny, about your interpretation of Kin, the mother of Microsoft’s brains behind the Xbox was Afrikaans. She was a world star of chin-up competitions. The inventor wanted to name it after this so he called it Kin which is Afrikaans for Chin. Sounds weird, huh? True though. Look up http://translate.reference.com/translate?query=kin&src=af&dst=en&v=1.0 if you don’t believe me.

    Reply
  15. donovan -  June 16, 2010 - 9:00 pm

    Anyone else remember Seven-Up Gold?

    Reply
  16. goofygumballls -  June 16, 2010 - 8:12 pm

    no way – X stands for xylophone. ya kno – ding dong dang?????????

    Reply
  17. Ray42 -  June 16, 2010 - 8:06 pm

    DeadlyDad is correct, it does come from DirectX.

    Pennative’s personal interpretation is valid, but unfortunately he appears to be a pretentious ass.

    Reply
  18. Jacob -  June 16, 2010 - 7:28 pm

    LOL. Can’t we just say it’s Xbox because Microsoft designed the original Xbox to have a big X on it??

    Reply
  19. Meilin -  June 16, 2010 - 6:46 pm

    now thats just wierd, like seriously how does the game itself work?

    Reply
  20. j.pubes -  June 16, 2010 - 6:44 pm

    im getting it as soon as it comes out caus it look wicked

    Reply
  21. Raafe -  June 16, 2010 - 6:30 pm

    wouldn’t it make more sense to say that kinetic which in physics is related to motion and with controllerless gaming that is what you are doing you are moving and so they decided to call it kinetic.

    Reply
  22. Imran -  June 16, 2010 - 5:34 pm

    Actually, the Xbox name comes from this:
    Microsoft person 1: “We need a new name for this game box”
    Microsoft person 2: “What is a cool letter?”
    1: “How about X?”
    2: “Perfect. It is a box with a cool letter; the Xbox.”

    Reply
  23. Kenny -  June 16, 2010 - 9:56 pm

    Good point on the “kin” from “kinetic.” Makes sense, but I had guessed that they were trying to tie it to the “Kin” brand smartphones Microsoft recently launched — in that case playing off “kin” to mean relatives — emphasizing social connection. Any thoughts on that? Seems weird and potentially confusing for one corporation to introduce two “kin” brands in such a short space of time if they don’t intend for some kind of branded connection — especially if they are intended to play off different meanings of “kin.”

    Reply
  24. Pennative -  June 16, 2010 - 9:47 pm

    The “X” in Xbox represents the mathematical term “x”, the algebraic symbol for an unknown quantity. It is used to describe its unknown potential for entertainment.

    Happy to help, Tupac.he.lives4ever. If you’d like help with instructions for how to tie your shoes or how to open and read a math text, I’d be glad to help you there, too.

    Reply
  25. JuanVilla -  June 16, 2010 - 9:39 pm

    Correction, the X is from the English seX, which I have with my Xbox everyday.

    Reply
  26. Lauren -  June 16, 2010 - 9:29 pm

    I love this… I just read the first 2 entries and this is going to be one of my favorite blogs to read! I hope there is an email subscription option in the future.

    Thanks dictionary.com, for satisfying my word-nerd curiosity!

    Nice post Jay, I think it’s very interesting to get to the root of words, both archaic and innovated. If we didn’t make up words there’d be nothing to vote into the Oxford English Dictionary!

    Reply
  27. DeadlyDad -  June 16, 2010 - 9:21 pm

    The ‘X’ comes from DirectX, which what the XBox uses to work its magic.

    Reply
  28. tupac.he.lives4ever -  June 16, 2010 - 9:10 pm

    OK, that is random — the words are fake? You so smart, what does X in xbox mean? Like x ray?

    Reply

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