Since I have seen NCBI gene names were called "Entrez ID" for the first time, I am wondering where that comes from. Such a weird name!

Does anybody know where that originates?

My hypothesis is: in French, "entrez" can be translated to "please enter" (it is to enter in the imperative mood), so I'm guessing that might come from a past website/database in French where Entrez ID as in "Please enter the ID" was written in the search bar...

But I could not find any reference... I cannot be the only one to ask himself this!

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    $\begingroup$ A Brief History of NCBI’s Formation and Growth only mentions Entrez starting as a search and retrieval system in CD form, and the Entrez wikipedia page doesn't elaborate on the name, so given this information I'd assume it's just a name given to the original database interface. Someone who was involved back then might know more though! $\endgroup$
    – Norling
    Jun 15, 2017 at 9:04
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    $\begingroup$ The Entrez Wikipedia page elaborates somewhat on the name. "The name "Entrez" (a greeting meaning "Come in!" in French) was chosen to reflect the spirit of welcoming the public to search the content available from the NLM." This is mentioned also in a Google Books search result. But "citation needed". $\endgroup$
    – neilfws
    Jun 15, 2017 at 13:19

1 Answer 1



As pointed out by neilfws:

According to Wikipedia and Practical bioinformatics by Michael Agostino: The name "Entrez" means "Come in!" in French (pronounced “on-tray”); it was chosen to reflect the spirit of welcoming the public to search the content.

Old (probably incorrect) theory

The first version of Entrez database was distributed by NCBI in 1991 (on CD-ROM). At that time, it consisted of nucleotide sequences, protein sequences and associated citations and abstracts from MEDLINE.

So even at the early stage it contained objects (entries) of very different types (sequences and abstracts). It is hard to find a word which will accurately and briefly describe all the types of data.

While I don't know the correct answer and this is purely a speculation, my guess is that Entrez is an intentionally misspelled word "entries"; which accurately describes all the datatypes in the database.

Using a misspelled word as a name is not uncommon, e.g. Google comes from misspelled "googol" and Flickr is a misspelled version of "flicker".

  • $\begingroup$ Haa, so my hypothesis was close to being correct! (French is my native language, this is why it surprised me and why I'm never sure about how to pronounce it, French or English way). Thanks a lot @neilfws and Iakov Davydov $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2017 at 16:11

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