What is the real meaning of Nickelodeon in Latin? Debunking TikTok theory

Eve Edwards

A conspiracy theory about the children’s TV network, Nickelodeon, is going viral thanks to TikTok, which seems to question the meaning of the network’s name in Latin.

Throughout this fall, we have seen a number of conspiracy theories go viral on the video-sharing social media platform. Whether you’ve been spooked by the First Contact Paranoia Theory or fallen into the Soul Trap matrix, there are a number of anxiety-provoking concepts being popularized online.

But the latest theory making the rounds take aim at Nickelodeon, as well as other kids’ networks such as Disney Channel. It alleges that the origin of Nickelodeon’s name has slightly sinister connotations when translated into Latin. Let’s debunk this theory to reassure all those current and former Nickelodeon fans.

Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards 2021 - Show
Photo by Rich Fury/KCA2021/Getty Images for Nickelodeon

A history of how Nickelodeon got its name

Home to the likes of Avatar: The Legend Of Aang, Drake & Josh, Kenan & Kel, SpongeBob SquarePants, iCarly, and so on, Nickelodeon has been a favorite amongst young viewers since the network launched in 1979.

The concept for this first-ever children’s network in the United States was created by educator Dr Vivian Horner. Horner also worked as the director of research on the PBS series, The Electric Company. Nickelodeon first found its home on Warner Cable however has since become a unit of the Paramount Media Networks division of Paramount Global.

Horner created the idea for Nickelodeon’s first show, Pinwheel. But it wasn’t Horner who came up with the network’s name. Pinwheel’s producer, Sandy Kavanaugh, was the one who pitched the idea for the network to be called Nickelodeon, according to Pinwheel star George James. The word ‘nickelodeon’ was used in early 20th century North America as indoor spaces to watch motion pictures. Nickelodeons have been seen as precursors to modern-day movie theatres.

TikTok user breaks down the meaning of Nickelodeon in Latin

This month has seen a theory popularized on TikTok that Nickelodeon has a secret meaning hidden in its name. This meaning is revealed once you translate ‘nickelodeon’ into Latin.

Earlier this month, a TikTok user shared a video stating that “Nickelodeon used to be my favorite show and Disney Channel, until I found this out.”

In the video, the TikTok user breaks down Nickelodeon into three segments – ‘nic kelo deo’ – which they put into Google Translate. The translator tool then allegedly reveals that these three words ‘nic kelo deo’ translate to ‘I don’t care about God’ in Latin.

The video has been viewed over 31,000 times as of publication and has since spawned a number of follow-up videos commenting on the Latin translation.

‘Nic kelo deo’ can be translated into Latin but finds little meaning

‘Deo’ does have a Latin translation to ‘God’, however, ‘Deus’ is the more common translation of the Christian God in the Latin language. ‘Deo’ (plural ‘dei’) is a noun describing a god or a deity. It is also the dative/ablative singular of ‘deus’.

‘Nic’ offers a translation to ‘nothing’ when using Google Translate, although when looking through Latin Dictionary, there is no such word as ‘nic’. Closely related words translate to ‘nothing’, ‘nothingness’, or ‘something without value’.

When ‘kelo’ appears in the sentence ‘nic kelo deo’, it adds meaning to the overall sentence. Yet, alone, the word has no translation in Latin. This means that we can’t quite trust the Latin translation offered by Google, which is going viral on social media.

What is the real meaning of the Nickelodeon name?

Before you become too concerned about a secret hidden meaning in Nickelodeon, we’re here to break down the true translation of the network’s name.

Nickelodeon is a portmanteau of ‘nickel’ and ‘odeon’. In ancient Greek, the word ‘odeon’ is used for a roofed-over theatre, literally meaning a “singing place.” Over time, the word became Odeon or Odeum and was used widely in ancient Rome and Greece as a term for small-sized theatres. They were around a quarter of the size of traditional Greek and Roman theatres.

The use of nickel in the term ‘nickelodeon’ is because the small movie theatres cost just five cents (a nickel) for admission. Thus, they are a ‘nickel-odeon’.

In this photo illustration a Nickelodeon (Nick) logo of an...
Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images