From very beginning of my presence on SE sites I did not and still do not understand, why "Area 51" is named "Area 51". What's the purpose? What's the inner meaning?

I'd say that SE prefers to name every site in clear and appropriate way. Yet "Area 51" is an exception. Does this negatively affect perception and popularity of the site?

The most natural and self explanatory name would be "Incubator", imho.

  • On the contrary, most popular site names (at least for the oldest sites) reference something that has to do with the category (Stack Overflow, Server Fault, Ask Different, etc.)
    – intcreator
    Jul 29, 2015 at 3:59
  • 4
    Well, I must say that Stack Overflow or Server Fault is much more clear in meaning than Area 51. May be that's ok for US people but since the sites are worldwide the site naming might have been more universal and recognizable. Also I'm not sure aliens provide good metaphor for laboratory of non mature and still evolving sites.
    – Stan
    Jul 30, 2015 at 10:25

3 Answers 3


Area 51 is a reference to a U.S. Airforce Installation in Nevada. It is popular with conspiracy theorists (humorous or not) connecting it to aliens. Quoting from the Wikipedia article:

Its secretive nature and undoubted connection to classified aircraft research, together with reports of unusual phenomena, have led Area 51 to become a focus of modern UFO and conspiracy theories. Some of the activities mentioned in such theories at Area 51 include:

  • The storage, examination, and reverse engineering of crashed alien spacecraft (including material supposedly recovered at Roswell), the study of their occupants (living and dead), and the manufacture of aircraft based on alien technology.

  • Meetings or joint undertakings with extraterrestrials.

Hence the aliens.

  • 3
    Thanks, this is the answer. But it makes me think even more deliberately that the name is not appropriate. Alas.
    – Stan
    Oct 27, 2012 at 13:51

Why do you call it Area 51?

We like the little aliens. (ref)

No, really. That was about it.

Area 51: We Come in Peace

If there was more to it than that, I have long since forgotten.

Rest assured, the next-generation of Area 51 will not be called "Area 51." It will be called the much more-aptly named "Area 52." kidding

  • 1
    That's not an answer, imho. All this (inluding the "little aliens", which I have read about before) is a kind of humor, that provides no origin or idea where the name comes from. If it's just out of thin air, and it could be "Zone B" or "Level 33" as well, then please just post this - I don't know or don't answer at all. It's strange, that SE does not allow humor in general at all sites, but gives the toyish name to one of its sites.
    – Stan
    Oct 27, 2012 at 10:08
  • Sorry to downvote this answer, but as @Stan says: this does not answer the question What does the name mean at all.
    – gerrit
    Oct 27, 2012 at 13:27
  • 2
    Is it not because basically every user starts with 51 reputation on this subsite (after confirming the email adress)?
    – Till B
    Oct 29, 2012 at 12:44

Area 51 is one of a series of military testing sites, used for testing out experimental technology, most notably by the USA air forces.

The name is perfectly relative as a site devoted to (initially) private testing of new concepts which may be later integrated into regular usage under the Stack Exchange umbrella.

The design choices featuring aliens and spaceships refer to conspiracy theories from the 1950s and the "real" Area 51's association with aerospace.

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