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What is the True Meaning of Wi-Fi?

10:10 am on December 26, 2005 | Category: Editorials, Wi-Fi, Wireless Technology

For years, it has been understood that the acronym Wi-Fi was short for “Wireless Fidelity”. Recently, however, there has been a dust up of debate about whether this is really the case.

Apparently, when the Wi-Fi Alliance (then called the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance) first begun trying to brand their new wireless networking technology, they couldn’t agree on a name. So the Alliance decided to call up Interbrand, the well-known branding company responsible for such names as Prozac and Compaq.

Interbrand came up with a handful of names, and “Wi-Fi” was quickly determined to be the best. It is important to note that this brand wasn’t originally supposed to mean anything, except to be a pun on the term “Hi-Fi” (High Fidelity).

Of course, when people saw this name, they immediately wanted to give it a meaning. Customers begun asking what the acronym stood for, so the Alliance began calling it “Wireless Fidelity” and it stuck.

The recent debate on this issue stems from the fact that “Wireless Fidelity” literally means, well, absolutely nothing. It was just a convenient way of fusing “Wireless” with “high-fidelity”.

But think a little deeper and you’ll realize that the very name Wi-Fi is non existent. It’s just a pun on an earlier phrase that happened to include the word Fidelity.

The fact of the matter is, however, that it is now a household term used to describe the world’s most popular wireless networking protocol. That, in itself, has given it meaning, and “Wireless Fidelity” was branded right along with it from the beginning.

So yes, in reality, the term doesn’t mean anything by itself, but neither does the abbreviation. The simple fact is that they are both arbitrary brand names, and neither has any more literal meaning than the other.

The fact that they have been used and continue to be used, gives them both the power of co-existent association, and that can be just as real that any literal meaning.

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    1. The article was extremely helpful and gave the ambiguous origin of the word ‘wi-fi’. The closing sentence, however, has two typographical errors: ‘they are both are’ repeats the verb, and surely ‘anymore’ should have a word break. ‘More’ is here an adjective: ‘…neither has any more literal meaning than the other.’

      Comment by Peter Naylor — June 17, 2008 #

    2. Thanks, the typos have been fixed. :)


      Comment by Jeremy — June 17, 2008 #

    3. I was very anxious about the term wi-fi but today i came to know the exact meaning of it which is but ofcourse ‘nothing part from a ‘trade mark’. I want to thanks the editor for such a transparent explanation.

      Comment by Shakeel javaid — April 8, 2009 #

    4. Thank you for the article which explains the non-sens of the term “Wi-Fi”. I prefer the term “WLAN”, because it has a _real_ meaning.

      Comment by Jochen — August 27, 2009 #

    5. how to connect to internet using ipod touch 2.2.1version, 16GB?

      Comment by Julie Ponce — February 16, 2010 #

    6. Somebody joked about this term,it appears he exactly knew what it means.It is really good for nothing like ‘wife’.

      Comment by legoke — February 16, 2010 #

    7. Why don’t you write:
      Wi-Fi means wireless access to the internet.It means the same as WLAN.
      The term is an artificial one…..

      Comment by konrad Bauer — August 16, 2010 #

    8. Wi-Fi could also be translated like: Wireles Free Internet

      Comment by Nils — August 30, 2010 #

    9. If you would translate it like this, why you would not say: “WIreless For Internet”..?

      Comment by greenapple — November 3, 2010 #

    10. WI_FI is a wireless connection as like to blutooth connection which is acess to internet.

      Comment by ROSALIN NAYAK — December 17, 2010 #

    11. i will read this passage is very good information,
      but all information did not display this page so kindly attacked many other information

      Comment by arul — February 11, 2011 #

    12. Hi you may know how to answer.
      Do you know what the speciality is of a Sony PlaystationPortable “with Wi-Fi”? …If you use Wifi with a laptop computer is it the same facility as the PsP with Wi-Fi? I have bought a PsP E1000 instead of a PsP 3000 because it was £55 cheaper without Wi-Fi , the 3000 has the add on of Wi-Fi but if I don’t need Wi-Fi , at least I have the bonus of a full screen tele display via COMPONENT IN unlike the half screen with my original PsP1000 . Pls give my question a bash…..Matthew

      Comment by Matthew Durlac — December 27, 2011 #

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    Published by TeleClick Enterprises
    Edited by Jeremy Maddock