Verily, I Swear. Google Life Sciences Debuts a New Name

December 7, 2015
By Charles Piller


STAT logo

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google Life Sciences, the Silicon Valley giant’s new foray into health and medicine, announced a new name Monday that slips easily off the tongue but might sound antiquated to a high-tech, life-sciences ear: Verily.

“Verily, I swear,” as Shakespeare wrote in Henry VIII.

The word means “truly” or “certainly.” It dates back to 13th century Middle English and fell out of common use … well, a while ago. It often pops up, however, in the still very popular King James Bible.

So why would future-focused Google Life Sciences adopt a name that recalls an era of knights and pestilence?

CEO Andy Conrad told STAT that the name is aspirational. “Only through the truth are we going to defeat Mother Nature,” Conrad said.

He said Verily’s focus is a shift from conventional medical technologies, “from reactive to proactive, from intervention to prevention.”

Brand consultants said the Biblical connotation could be a hurdle for Verily, but could also work to its advantage.

“I can’t think of another association for verily but the Bible,” said Greg Balla, creative director of Zenmark, a San Francisco firm that was involved in the naming of Google’s spinoff Calico, focused on aging and longevity. “The challenge for them is to try to move away from the heavy-handed quality attached to Verily from association with the scripture — due to everything that’s happening in our world right now.”

But if they can deliver on the promise, “you can trust what we are doing,” Balla said, “then it fits perfectly.”

Kristen Pembroke, client services director at Catchword, an Oakland branding firm that serves many tech and life sciences companies, said in an email that the obscurity of “verily” could foster the company’s ability to “evolve its mission and vision over time.”

“Verily is easy to pronounce and approachable,” she said. “However, some may find the tonality to be light and whimsical — verily sounds similar to merrily, for instance.”

The company was spun off from Google a few months ago within Alphabet, a holding company for Google itself and affiliated entities. Verily has built a multidisciplinary team of doctors, engineers, chemists, and data gurus to tackle big mysteries of disease prevention and health. As a sign of seriousness about the bigger picture, Verily has a staff philosopher. “We have to understand the ‘why’ of what people do,” Conrad said. “A philosopher might be as important as a chemist.”


Catchword Branding is an agency that provides sustainable branding strategies and solutions to diverse clients worldwide. They specialize in creating...
Whether you’re a fan of the drug name Zepbound or, like one X user, think it sounds like “an off...
Awards are a great way to boost your business’ accolades and credibility. Here’s how UpCity customers are taking charge. Awards...