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Where Does the Name Nylon Originate?

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 29 Aug 2020 | comments*Discuss
 
Nylon New York London Dupont Silk

Q.

Was NYLON named after New York and London? If so - why?

(T.S, 7 May 2009)

A.

The story that the name nylon came from combining the names of New York and London has been around for a long time – almost as long as nylon itself. It’s a good tale, and one with possibly even a little romance to it. Unfortunately, however, it’s not true.

Nylon was first produced in 1935 (on February 28, if you want to be precise) by a chemist working for DuPont named Wallace Carothers. A silky thermoplastic material, there is nothing organic about nylon – it’s completely man-made. First used to replace real bristles in toothbrushes, it found its great fame as a substitute for silk stockings, so much so that nylons became the generic term.

The uses for nylon multiplied, and now it can be found in so many things, from carpets to tyres. It’s become so universal that it can sometimes seem hard to believe there was a world before it, and it was especially useful during World War II, where there was a shortage of natural materials.

As to the word nylon, it’s actually quite arbitrary. DuPont itself has stated that originally the name was intended to be No-Run (that’s run as in the sense of the compound chain of the substance unravelling), but at the time there was no real justification for the claim, so it needed to be changed. It was the discoverer, Carothers, who was responsible for that. He changed the name, letter by letter, until finally the management at DuPont accept what he’d come up with – which was nylon. Unfortunately, he reportedly committed suicide prior to the name being finalised, and actually wasn’t even working on nylon in his last year of life, which casts some doubt on the veracity of that.

That, at least, was the explanation in 1978. Back in 1940 it was a little different. In that year, the company’s John W. Eckelberry stated that the first three letters – the nyl – had no read meaning at all, whilst the on suffix was inspired by that used in other fibres.

So there are two contrasting, and both official, stories. But neither mention nylon as coming from NY and London.

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I remember seeing a BBC documentary about Wallace Carothers,in which the New York-London idea was debunked. It seems a lot of people do not want to accept the real origin of the name. i.e. nothing to do with 2 cities. Funny how folk cling to fallacies. In all walks of life.
Boab - 29-Aug-20 @ 1:13 PM
The best answer Thanks
The Fighter man - 20-Aug-17 @ 4:29 PM
As to what i have studied, NYLON is the acronym to Now You Lost Out, Nippon, in which Nippon was the japanese name for Japan, and it was named so to taunt japanese silk companies because at that time, japan was at the top of the silk industry
njfnkjf - 6-Aug-16 @ 5:56 PM
I worked for a manufacturer of carpets in South Africa during the mid to late 1960s and was told by a senior (in both position and age) Du Pont man at that time, that the name Nylon came about as a combination of the two cities because the first large and meaningful customer for the product was the English government of the time (1938/9) who were looking for a replacement for the cotton that had been diverted from civilian clothing to military clothing. That was good enough for me both then and now.
michael - 13-Apr-16 @ 4:14 PM
We learned at school that it meant Now You, Lazy Old Nippon!
Joël - 18-Dec-15 @ 9:11 PM
Nylon Is organic - organic refers to substances having a carbon chemistry
johnp - 29-May-15 @ 5:30 PM
Wow! There's a lot of story behind a simple piece of string! Who knew that little thread held a MASSIVE story!
Beckony100 - 5-Apr-15 @ 11:15 PM
I was told in the polytechnic that one of the possible meanings was Now You Loose Old Nippon.
Burbrook - 10-Jan-15 @ 8:56 PM
I too was told by a senior management person from Dupont in about 2002 in Martha's Vineyard that the name was derived from a visit to the UK with a bundle of the fiber in hand with an apocryphal name, let's say 57444 which was what it was called and when pressed insistently for a 'real name' and not a number, looked down at the luggage that he had and saw NY Lon and thus the name. It sounded real and sincere to me. MT
Michael T - 22-Dec-14 @ 12:37 AM
hola me gusto mucho el articulo gracias. btw me gusta automatizar hola yo soy el niquito :*
deliciosa - 13-Apr-14 @ 6:35 AM
I worked for a manufacturer of carpets in South Africa during the mid to late 1960s and was told by a senior (in both position and age) Du Pont man at that time, that the name Nylon came about as a combination of the two cities because the first large and meaningful customer for the product was the English government of the time (1938/9) who were looking for a replacement for the cotton that had been diverted from civilian clothing to military clothing. That was good enough for me both then and now.
Michael - 9-Dec-13 @ 11:34 AM
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