Very Truthy: The Verily Name Review
‘Tis the season for Google names. Only a few months ago, Google announced that it would be reorganizing under its new holding company, Alphabet. This week, Google Life Sciences, the tech behemoth’s new foray into the biomedical field, announced that it would be changing its name to Verily. Although it hasn’t generated as much buzz as Alphabet, Verily is contributing some exciting innovations to its field, as most Google projects are known to do.
“There’s no user manual for the human being,” we’re told in a video promoting the new name. The video continues with some inspiring images of multicultural eyes and dividing cells, asking open-ended questions about detecting and understanding disease. It’s all enough to give you goosebumps and it probably should considering that the company that made this video also made contact lenses that can detect diabetics’ glucose levels in their tears. Oh, and they’re producing nanoparticle-based diagnostic tools to detect cancer at very early stages. I think it’s fair to say that they’re awesome, but what about their name?
Verily is a real word, although most dictionaries list it as archaic as it fell out of common use centuries ago. True to its suffix, it’s an adverb that means “truly” or “certainly.” Shakespeare used it in Henry VIII, but verily’s most prominent appearances can be found in the ever-popular King James Bible. Consequently, for some, Verily triggers immediate images of medieval crusades and plagues. However, as most of us have been skipping Sunday school lately, Verily functions more as an empty vessel with some nice connotations of truth and knowledge.
“Verily is easy to pronounce and approachable,” Kristen Pembroke, Catchword’s client services director told the health science publication STAT in an interview. Its obscurity will allow the company to “evolve its mission and vision over time,” she added. This is important for a company that plans to constantly develop groundbreaking technologies and tackle contemporary problems in health. On the flip side, Verily hearkens to the naming trend in which –ly was tacked on to the end of a word to make it more fun and friendly, giving the name a tonality that some may find hard to take seriously.
Overall, Verily is an impressive company with a fearless, aspirational name that just happens to be carrying some old baggage. Despite this, they found an interesting way to convey truth, and as CEO Andrew Conrad said somewhat ominously, “only through the truth are we going to defeat Mother Nature.” Drop the mike, Verily.