Origin Story: Why We Call Them “Emmys”

Many viewers know the names and faces of the actors and actresses that walk the red carpet at the Emmy Awards, but few are familiar with the story behind the true star of the show: Emmy. Where does this popular awards show get its name?

What are the Emmys named for?

The word Emmy refers to the statuette that’s handed out during the awards ceremony. It was named after a camera tube used in television called an image orthicon, known to those in the industry as Immy. After the members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences settled on the design of the statuette—a winged woman holding an atom, symbolism intended to convey the uplifting of the art and science of television—they modified Immy to the more overtly feminine Emmy.

Another TV tube that shaped the way we talk about the small screen was the cathode ray tube, a vacuum tube inside early television sets that transmitted electrons onto a fluorescent screen.

It didn’t take long after its invention for television to begin to be referred to as the tube; out of that emerged the more pejorative boob tube, suggesting that television programming is foolish, induces foolishness, or is watched by foolish people.


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