What Does EPCOT Stand For?

You know that Disney World's Epcot features futuristic attractions and yummy international fare—but do you know what its name actually means?

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When you hear the word “Epcot,” you probably immediately think of the giant golf ball–like structure in the Disney park—even if you’ve never set foot in Disney World. But what does the word “Epcot” actually mean, if anything? This is a question that even Disney aficionados may not know the answer to. Is it an actual word, or one coined by the powers-that-be at Disney? Or is it not a word at all, but an acronym? And if it’s an acronym, what does Epcot stand for?

Well, to answer the first question, no, “Epcot” is not a word outside of the context of Disney. You won’t find “epcot” in online dictionaries, even as a proper noun. So let’s dive into the history of the park to find out how it got its name. Disney fanatics will also want to know these 23 Disney secrets.

What does EPCOT stand for?

First of all, yes, EPCOT is an acronym. It stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.” If you’re wondering, Huh? you’re not alone—it’s probably not what you expected for the official name of this theme park. But that’s because, at its very beginnings, Epcot actually wasn’t supposed to be a theme park but, indeed, a community. Curious about other Disney secrets? This is what it means if you see a cast member in a plaid vest.

The history of Epcot

It was Walt Disney himself who came up with the acronym EPCOT. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, Disneyland, in California, had been up and running for a few years. Walt was trying to expand his reach beyond the film and theme park industry. He’d become fascinated by the American city and had been floating the idea of some kind of utopian community where engineers, inventors, and creative types would work and live together, sharing ideas to help usher in a better future.

In fact, this community was originally planned to be a major part of the “project” Walt and his firm, WED Enterprises (today called “Walt Disney Imagineering”), were pursuing in Florida. The “Florida Project” would be an East Coast Disney park, yes, since California was too far for much of the U.S. population to reasonably travel. But the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow,” Walt’s passion project, would be a major part of the park. Walt envisioned a genuine city, devoid of crime, unemployment, and those pesky automobiles that produced traffic and pollution. People would live in it, and guests could also visit it.

So then how did we get, instead, a full-blown theme park, with futuristic rides, globetrotting attractions, and a killer fireworks show (not that we’re complaining)?

Well, Walt’s plan was galaxy-brained to say the least, not to mention a little arrogant considering that Walt had no experience in urban planning. And the odd exhibitionist nature of the theme-park-attraction/real-life-city hybrid aspect didn’t sit well with executives either. After Walt passed away, somewhat unexpectedly, in 1966, the rest of WED Enterprises wasn’t sure how to move forward with the city or whether such a living community would truly work as he’d envisioned it. Walt Disney World opened in 1971 with the Magic Kingdom and the EPCOT concept was put on the back burner until 1974. In that year, Disney president Card Walker announced that it was time to move forward with Epcot, albeit a very different one from exactly what Walt envisioned. They did adopt many of his ideas and themes for the park, including his forward-thinking focus on innovation and technology, which permeates the park’s attractions. And, of course, they kept the name! Learn more about how Walt’s vision lives on in Epcot today in the book Walt Disney’s EPCOT: Creating the New World of Tomorrow. Find out more differences between Disneyland vs. Disney World.

Epcot today

When Epcot opened in 1982, it was originally called EPCOT Center, a name that better reflected its acronym-ness. In 1993, though, its name changed to just “Epcot,” and it’s remained that way. On Disney World’s website, “Epcot” actually isn’t written in all caps, which would suggest that it’s not an acronym. This may have kept you guessing and wondering what the “Epcot” meaning was. Well, now you know!

Today, Epcot is a popular stop for Disney World travelers and contains some of the resort’s best dining experiences. Its World Showcase—inspired by Walt Disney’s love of the World’s Fair—has 11 “country” pavilions filled with attractions, restaurants, and shops, an idea and design that was part of Walt’s original city plan. Epcot hosts an annual International Food & Wine Festival, and the Spaceship Earth “golf ball” is one of the most recognizable Disney symbols. A Moana-themed water attraction, a Ratatouille ride inspired by the one in Disneyland Paris, and a Wreck-It Ralph–themed “Play! Pavilion” are just some of the new attractions that will be becoming part of Epcot in the near future. We bet Epcot will be a great place to be for the Disney World 50th anniversary!


Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.