Known originally simply by its technical designation IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence, Wi-Fi technology was a technology in need of a catchy name. In 1999, the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) hired the brand-consulting firm Interbrand to come up with a memorable name for the soon to be ubiquitous communication protocol.
Of all the proposed names, WECA selected Wi-Fi, a play on the stereo term hi-fi—high fidelity—the high-quality reproduction of sound via well-engineered stereo components and speakers. High-fidelity home equipment, like that seen in the vintage Motorola advertisement here, was common throughout the mid-to-late 20th century. Other almost-adopted names pitched by Interbrand included Hornet, Trapeze, Skybridge, and Dragonfly.
Initially, there was no attempt made to explain what Wi-Fi meant. In response to consumer curiosity, the Wi-Fi Alliance (previously WECA), added a tagline to their advertising that read “The Standard for Wireless Fidelity”. The tagline was dropped shortly after it was introduced and all references to Wi-Fi having anything to do, play on words or otherwise, with high-fidelity sound vanished. The current stance of the Wi-Fi Alliance is that Wi-Fi has no definition and is simply a name.