Today, the word wiki is used as a prefix for any site where users collaborate to create content, but as early as 1995 it was an obscure word in Hawaii. This is all because the first person to create a wiki site (the WikiWikiWeb), Ward Cunningham, once visited Hawaii. There, he traveled on the Wiki Wiki Shuttle at Honolulu airport, and learned that wiki wiki actually means "quick" in Hawaiian. This stuck with him years later when he created his site, and now it's stuck with us. So where does wiki wiki come from? The duplication is only there for emphasis; one wiki by itself already means "quick", but it is common in several language families to repeat a word instead of using an adjective like "very". Wiki is likely from a Proto-Polynesian word sounding like witi, but most native terms are poorly researched and it's only speculation from there on.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.