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This has been bugging me for ages, I'm assuming it's not just "etcetera"..!?

I don't like not knowing the meaning of stuff, especially important directories!

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My guess is that it's just a carry-over from some UNIX programmer who switched to hacking windows in the early days of System32 windows. /etc in UNIX/Linux holds two (or more) potential meanings: et cetera or Extended Tool Chest (Here's a Slashdot debate arguing the point), and it's just a place to store configuration files and some minor utility scripts for a given program. Many times you will see hierarchical breakdowns within smaller software projects (such as a windows driver) that resemble the breakdown of the UNIX directory structure, no matter what OS you are on.

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Two points about this answer: On Unix systems, abbreviations are used a lot for main directories, so etc fits right in next to opt, usr, bin and so on. Second, sometimes in badly programmed programs, spaces in directory names can cause problems. It's best to avoid the issue when it comes to critical operating system components. –  AndrejaKo Aug 6 '10 at 10:35
    
More precisely, it's a carry-over from BSD Unix. WinSock was initially based upon BSD Sockets, and the directory only contains network configuration files such as /etc/hosts and /etc/services. –  grawity Aug 6 '10 at 16:45
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