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I am looking for a term to use as the name of a software project that I am working on.

The project is a software tool, and this tool aims to be useful in virtually all software, so I am looking for a term that alludes to it being an indispensable, or perhaps even the most indispensable, tool in a profession, as in:

  • the test screwdriver being the most indispensable item for an electrician
  • the monkey wrench being the most indispensable item for a plumber
  • scissors being the most indispensable item for a tailor

etc.

A different but equally useful direction of meaning would be a term for an item which is guaranteed to be present in a certain line of business or endeavor. For example:

  • In a tire shop they are bound to have lots of tires, so tires are their ___ (fill-in the blank.)
  • If there is one thing that mountain-climbers are guaranteed to use, that is rope, so rope is their ___ (fill-in the blank.)
  • Every priest is bound to have a bible, so the bible is their ___ (You get the idea.)

Besides the word "indispensable", other terms near the meaning that I am looking for (but unsuitable) are "essential", "sine qua non", "tool of the trade" and "staple item".

I was seriously considering the term "bread and butter", but after reading about it I have formed the impression that it necessarily has a fiscal connotation, while there is none in my case. Please correct me if I am wrong.

(Other than that, "BreadAndButter" would be an awesome software project name, despite being unconventional: the modern trend in software project names is strongly towards unconventionality.)

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    Swiss army knife? Aug 28, 2023 at 23:38
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    Someone outside your team could argue you are overstating the claim a tad with a tool indispensable in virtually all software. I'll give you one countless for your "virtually all." Aug 28, 2023 at 23:42
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    If it's specifically being used in all software, "infrastructural" might be right, especially if it's not something the programmer or end user has to worry about too much. SSH is an infrastructural piece of software, in that basically every company and computer uses it in some way. This doesn't work in the other example sentences though.
    – Kaia
    Aug 29, 2023 at 16:16
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    "Bread and butter" would fit perfectly as far as I'm concerned. I was about to suggest it. Aug 29, 2023 at 20:07
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    As a software developer, I am doubtful that anything at all could be indispensable. After all, software has been developed for around 100 years, without whatever-this-tool-is, so it can't really be indispensable, bread and butter, or anything else of the sort. "Very useful", maybe. Aug 31, 2023 at 6:55

12 Answers 12

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You can use must-have. From Merriam-Webster:

something that is essential to have or obtain

Example sentence:

Jaxon Lace-Up Sneaker $100 $85 Comfortable enough to be worn on even the longest walking tour yet stylish enough to be dressed up with a maxi skirt and cute top, this eye-catching sneaker is a must-have.
—Alexandra Domrongchai, Travel + Leisure, 18 Aug. 2023

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The noun "must" is a generally applicable term that you could find suitable.

(Cambridge Dictionary) must: something that is necessary

(ALD) must: something that you must do, see, buy, etc.

This term will not do for the three sentences proposed as they stand; they must be modified.

  • In a tire shop they are bound to have lots of tires, so a supply of tires is a must.
  • If there is one thing that mountain-climbers are guaranteed to use, that is rope, so rope is a must.
  • Every priest is bound to have a bible, so owning a Bible is a must.
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I offer

stock-in-trade

Farlex has

The goods or equipment that a particular professional, company, industry, profession, etc., uses or deals in for business.
Art supplies are my stock-in-trade, so I know just about all there is to know about paint.

By extension, the traits, characteristics, or behaviors that typify or are readily called upon by a particular person or thing.
A good imagination is the stock-in-trade of any good writer.

Whatever goods, skills, etc., are necessary to undertake an activity of some kind.
Packing household goods is my stock in trade.

Cambridge Dictionary has

the typical characteristics or behaviour of someone or something
The song was perfect for the soft vocals that are her stock-in-trade

the tools and other objects that you need for your job (old-fashioned)

The three sentences posted:

In a tire shop they are bound to have lots of tires, so tires are their stock-in-trade.

If there is one thing that mountain-climbers are guaranteed to use, that is rope, so rope is their stock-in-trade.

Every priest is bound to have a bible, so the bible is their stock-in-trade.

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  • The "deal in" gets me confused. In the case of an industry or wherever something is produced, is stock-in-trade used for the tools (input), or for the goods produced (output)? Or for both??
    – Pablo H
    Aug 30, 2023 at 14:32
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    @PabloH it refers to a principal interest or activity. If 90% of what an industry makes is widgets, they are its stock-in-trade, not the tools that make them. OTOH if they make all manner of intricate objects on their niche CAM tool then the tool would be it. Of course with a broad usage like this you'll find overlap in what it might mean. Aug 30, 2023 at 14:39
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There's go-to:

noun

a reliable person or thing one turns to as a preferred resource, strategy, option, etc.:

She’s our go-to for computer advice.

(Dictionary.com)

This has its own connotations in computing, which may be a pro or con depending on how punny you'd like to go with your software naming.

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I suggest you may have been premature in rejecting sine qua non. It does convey most of what you enumerate as your semantic specifications, referring, per Merriam-Webster-Webster, to “something absolutely indispensable or essential” (literally, “without which, no”).

It is pretty bookish in tone, but is colloquiality another of your specs?

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    It would be helpful to explain why sine qua non is suitable by including some detail and explanation or authority and also noting the register of the phrase.
    – Greybeard
    Aug 29, 2023 at 0:32
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    The OP already states that "sine qua non" is unsuitable. Aug 29, 2023 at 0:45
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    Good comments, I’ve edited to reflect your points. Aug 29, 2023 at 20:30
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One possibility, if it's the tool of the trade on which the person depends, would be mainstay (wiktionary):

  1. A chief support.

  2. Someone or something that can be depended on to make a regular contribution.

  3. (nautical) A stabilising rope from the high on the mainmast to the base of the foremast.

As a software engineer, Emacs is my mainstay.

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Hallmark might fit the bill (from Merriam-Webster):

a distinguishing characteristic, trait, or feature
the dramatic flourishes which are the hallmark of the trial lawyer

Although naming an app that might cause confusion with the greeting card company or the television channel.

I also like the swiss army knife suggestion in the comments. You could abbreviate "application swiss army knife" and call your app ASAK or something like that. Maybe swark (SWiss ARmy Kife)

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Flagship (product) comes to mind which works with your software example. It is a metaphor that crossed over into general usage from its original usage in naval terminology, a ship that carries the commander of a fleet and bears the commander's flag. It can be used both as a noun and an adjective.

the best or most important product, idea, building, etc. that an organization owns or produces:

  • This machine is the flagship in our new range of computers.

Cambridge

A more comprehensive definition including examples from tech world from computerlanguage.com:

A major product of a company, which is typically why the company was founded or what made it well known. For example, MS-DOS, Windows and the Microsoft Office suite have been flagship products of Microsoft. Photoshop is a major product of Adobe Systems, and the Mac, iPhone and iPad are flagship products of Apple.

Flagship may also refer to the most advanced product in the line. For example, a flagship smartphone is the top-end phone line made by the company.

The term dates back to the 1700s where the lead ship in a naval convoy would fly the country's flag. Today, it refers to a company's most important product or service, but it can refer to the leader in almost anything such as a flagship university or flagship automobile.

You also have three different examples with a blank where they can be better filled with different words/phrases. The first one can be flagship or core product, the second one can be go-to or lifeline, and the third one can be be-all and end-all.

...tires are their flagship/core product.

...rope is their go-to/lifeline.

...the bible is their be-all and end-all.

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Software engineer here. I've heard bread and butter used in enough of a variety of circumstances that I'd consider that. It doesn't immediately conjure finances to my mind. Part and Parcel is another phrase that roughly means the same thing.

That said, both are four syllables, a mouthful for a catchy software name. Consider Butter (BUTR) or Parcel for short? Staple actually sounds really good to me, but it might depend on what your tool does. Enlighten me to its purpose (Code completion? Dependency management? Version control?) and I can edit with some better suggestions

Edit: Wow, that is quite the ambitious undertaking. Given that the aim is to be a lightweight way to unify data models, Staple would lend the double meaning of "indispensable" and "a tiny thing that joins larger pieces together." That would be my personal choice.

Other words for "indispensable" include Vital, Crucial, and Key. There's also Axiom and Prime as very tech-sounding words meaning "fundamental," which is fairly synonymous.

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  • Thanks for the suggestions. A couple of years ago I wrote my thoughts down in a little paper which could now serve as an introduction to the concept: blog.michael.gr/2021/01/data-modelling.html
    – Mike Nakis
    Aug 29, 2023 at 22:22
  • Wow, that is quite the ambitious undertaking. Given that the aim is to be a lightweight way to unify data models, Staple would lend the double meaning of "indispensable" and "a tiny thing that joins larger pieces together." That would be my personal choice. Other words for "indispensable" include Vital, Crucial, and Key. There's also Axiom and Prime as very tech-sounding words meaning "fundamental," which is fairly synonymous.
    – automaton
    Aug 30, 2023 at 17:37
  • Thanks. It is not that ambitious. I have already done it in Java, and I am redoing it in C#.
    – Mike Nakis
    Aug 31, 2023 at 13:41
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"Staple" is in itself a good title. It is a mandatory must-have but like a staple food (bread,rice,grain,wheat), it is also boring, routine and mundane in that it is used daily, constantly and by the hour so much so that everyone is too "used to it" but it's importance is more than any junk food or recent market trend. Anyone who wonders why it is named such will figure it out once they use it everywhere and it becomes their staple. The category of this question might be more in the advertising/marketing range rather than English usage (not sure if that SE community exists).

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Based on your description, I'd say 'essential' is the best word in my opinion. I do wonder though, how essential this really is. A wrench is pretty essential for a plumber, but is this software a necessity for your users?

Reading from context, perhaps '(core) utility' would be a fitting label instead.

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Consider the phrase "sine qua non," originally a Latin expression meaning "without which there is none," but one used commonly enough in English writing to mean something which cannot be done without. For instance, here's the New York Times:

The research team determined that the finger holes had been made with a flint tool so precise that the holes could be sealed with a fingertip, the sine qua non of wind instruments.

Here's an article presented by K&L Gates:

After exhausting his administrative remedies, Mr. Thaler filed suit against the Copyright Office, asking that its decision denying registration be reversed as arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Granting the Copyright Office’s motion for summary judgment, the Court affirmed that “human creativity is the sine qua non at the core of copyrightability, even as that human creativity is channeled through new tools or into new media.”

Here is History Today:

This is not an easy book to read for those who are not versed in the theology. Bunzel is rigorous when establishing the meaning of Arabic texts, always quoting important or technical terms in the original alongside his own, thoughtful, translations. Sadly, sometimes the subtleties he is conveying will be lost on those who do not have a good knowledge of Arabic. A background in Islamic studies is almost a sine qua non in order to appreciate this book properly.

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  • This expression was mentioned in the question; and also in another answer. But yes, you are right that it is an expression that fits the bill.
    – ermanen
    Aug 31, 2023 at 7:16
  • @ermanrn I guess I missed it. Oh well. I think the examples are still useful enough to leave it up.
    – Casey
    Sep 1, 2023 at 17:27

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