Where did the Bluetooth name and logo come from?

Bluetooth king with rotten blue tooth
Bluetooth king with rotten blue tooth (Image credit: Windows Central)

Spotlight on Bluetooth

There's a very good chance you're reading this story on a device that supports some version of Bluetooth wireless technology.

And you're very likely aware of what Bluetooth is. But just in case, here's a quick definition: Bluetooth is a short-range wireless technology standard used for sending data between various devices using short-wavelength radio waves and for building personal area networks (PANs). Your headphones probably use it. So do your wireless mouse and keyboard. Many of your fancy smart-home gadgets do, too.

Today, four billion products that support Bluetooth ship every year, according to the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), the non-profit trade organization that oversees the development of Bluetooth, which was formed in 1988.

Now, about that name and logo …

The origin of the name Bluetooth

The name for the popular wireless technology is inspired by a Danish king nicknamed "Bluetooth," due to a notable (and very likely, very disgusting) rotten blue-gray tooth, the Bluetooth SIG says. The king was named Harald Gormsson, and he ruled for a few decades more than 1,000 years ago, starting in the year 958, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Ol' Bluetooth is credited with Denmark's unification, converting the Danes to Christianity, and conquering Norway. But he's more famous today for his impressive lack of oral hygiene, which inspired the name of the common wireless technology.

Weird, right? Yeah. So what does that have to do with short-range wireless tech?

From Bluetooth SIG:

In 1996, three industry leaders, Intel, Ericsson, and Nokia, met to plan the standardization of this short-range radio technology to support connectivity and collaboration between different products and industries… During this meeting, Jim Kardach from Intel suggested Bluetooth as a temporary code name. Kardach was later quoted as saying, 'King Harald Bluetooth…was famous for uniting Scandinavia just as we intended to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link' … Bluetooth was only intended as a placeholder until marketing could come up with something really cool… Later, when it came time to select a serious name, Bluetooth was to be replaced with either RadioWire or PAN (Personal Area Networking). PAN was the front runner, but an exhaustive search discovered it already had tens of thousands of hits throughout the internet … A full trademark search on RadioWire couldn't be completed in time for launch, making Bluetooth the only choice. The name caught on fast, and before it could be changed, it spread throughout the industry, becoming synonymous with short-range wireless technology.

And what about the Bluetooth logo or icon?

The origin of the Bluetooth logo

Bluetooth Logo square

Source: Bluetooth SIG (Image credit: Source: Bluetooth SIG)

The Bluetooth icon that's so recognizable today is also inspired by King Harald "Bluetooth" Gormsson and is, in fact, basically his initials on top of each other. The logo is two merged "runes," or letters from an ancient, pre-Latin alphabet, Hagall (ᚼ), and Bjarkan (ᛒ), according to the Bluetooth SIG. Drop Hagall on top of Bjarkan, and voila, you have the Bluetooth icon.

You now know quite a bit more about Bluetooth than you did just five minutes ago. Go forth and wow somebody else with your random (but no less impressive) knowledge of a technology we all use every day.

Spotlight on Bluetooth

All 20 stories from our 2019 Spotlight on Bluetooth package, all in one place. Whether it's a spot of Bluetooth history, a bit of humor or wireless memery, or some thoughtful analysis on the future of the short-range tech, you'll find it right here, courtesy of the folks at Android Central, iMore and Windows Central.

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is content director of Future PLC's Mobile Technology Vertical, which includes AndroidCentral.com, iMore.com and WindowsCentral.com. He is a veteran reporter, writer, reviewer and editor who has professionally covered and evaluated IT and mobile technology, and countless associated gadgets and accessories, for more than a decade. You can keep up with Al on Twitter and Instagram.