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noun [uncountable]

the practice of trying to find combinations of two or more words that will produce exactly one single result when submitted as a query to the Google™ search engine


noun [countable]


noun [countable] verb [intransitive]

'What do "bathetic weasels", "gusseted hobbits" and "zoroastrian chipmunks" have in common? Rather than being characters in some new work of science fiction, they are examples of a craze that has taken the Internet by storm … Googlewhacking, the search for "Result 1-1 of 1" on the Internet's favourite search engine, has become a pastime for everyone from bored office workers to lexicographers and even NASA scientists. … Take two obscure and unrelated words, type them into the google search bar and if the result is a solitary web page you have found a googlewhack.'

The Observer 26th October 2003

With more than three billion web pages indexed by the Internet search engine Google™, the possibility of finding a search query which yields exactly one result – no more, no less – represents something of a challenge! Googlewhacking is a game which has captured the imaginations of web surfers worldwide, the term being used on both sides of the Atlantic and adopted into many other languages. The ultimate goal of the Googlewhacker, the name coined for those who engage in this pursuit, is to see the words 'Results 1-1 of 1' appear on their screen after inputting a search query.

combinations of words most likely to result in a Googlewhack … are bizarre, unrelated pairings such as comparative unicyclist or maladroit wheezer

Combinations of words most likely to result in a Googlewhack, the noun coined to describe a successful query, are bizarre, unrelated pairings such as comparative unicyclist or maladroit wheezer. There are certain rules which must have been observed to generate a bona fide Googlewhack: no quotes can be used in the search term, the component words must be listed in an online word list or dictionary, and the search result must relate to a real article and not just a list of words.

One of the main attractions of Googlewhacking is its ephemeral nature: as soon as a person reports a Googlewhack somewhere on the web, it is no longer a Googlewhack, since the page where it is reported will be automatically indexed by Google™ and would appear in subsequent search results.

Background – Googlewhacking

Though web enthusiasts have been searching odd combinations of words for many years, the term Googlewhacking was first coined in 2002 by Gary Stock, a US entrepreneur of web design. Stock maintains a list of Googlewhacks, which he humorously refers to as 'the whack stack', at his website googlewhack.com. The terms whacking, whack and whacker, not to be confused with the original meaning of the verb whack and its derivatives, are also used as shorter alternatives for Googlewhacking, Googlewhack and Googlewhacker. Stock has expressed disapproval of the unnecessarily competitive practices of some enthusiastic Googlewhackers, such as the 'ranking' of Googlewhack combinations by a points system, or the development of automated software tools designed to find all Googlewhacks.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 20th February 2004.

Open Dictionary

drive-by handshake

a brief handshake that is made without pausing or making eye contact, because you are upset or angry

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