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comp.lang.c FAQ list · Question 20.38

Q: Where does the name ``C'' come from, anyway?

A: C was derived from Ken Thompson's experimental language B, which was inspired by Martin Richards's BCPL (Basic Combined Programming Language), which was a simplification of CPL (Combined Programming Language, or perhaps Cambridge Programming Language). For a while, there was speculation that C's successor might be named P (the third letter in BCPL) instead of D, but of course the most visible descendant language today is C++.

References: Dennis Ritchie, ``The Development of the C Language''

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