Linus Torvalds had wanted to call his invention Freax, a portmanteau of “free”, “freak”, and “x” (as an allusion to Unix). During the start of his work on the system, he stored the files under the name “Freax” for about half of a year. Torvalds had already considered the name “Linux”, but initially dismissed it as too egotistical.
In order to facilitate development, the files were uploaded to the FTP server (ftp.funet.fi) of FUNET in September 1991. Ari Lemmke at Helsinki University of Technology (HUT), who was one of the volunteer administrators for the FTP server at the time, did not think that “Freax” was a good name. Ari instead gave him a folder called “linux” to upload his kernel to. The Linux name came from “Linus’ Minix” which was the operating system Linus was trying to replace for himself. So, he named the project “Linux” on the server without consulting Torvalds. Later, however, Torvalds consented to “Linux”.
Debian got its name from Ian Murdock the creator of the Debian distribution. He named the distribution after his girlfriend Debra Lynn by combining her name and his into “Debian”.
Red Hat Linux
Red Hat Linux received its name because red hats have been the symbol of freedom and revolution in both the U.S. and France. Red Hat comes in a few different flavors, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), Fedora Project, and CentOS.
Fedora gets its name from the Red Hat logo in which Shadowman, the man in the logo, wears a red fedora hat.
CentOS is the community-supported version of RHEL. The name comes from Community ENTerprise Operating System and is one of the most popular web server operating system.
Ubuntu (oo-BOON-too) comes from the Zulu and Xhosa languages in Africa roughly meaning “humanity towards others.”
Gentoo is named after the fastest swimming penguin, the Gentoo penguin.
SuSE is a German distribution which originally stood for “Software und System Entwicklung” which in English translates to “Software and System Development.” Since 1998 the acronym is no longer used and the the name of the company is simply SUSE. SUSE is now owned by Novell and the free Linux distribution is known as openSUSE.