In software development, one often has multiple individual files that are referenced or "included" by others. What is the noun for each one of those individual files, and what would you call the collection of them?

  • I call them includes - one include, all includes – mplungjan Oct 7 '13 at 21:03
  • What do you mean by included by each other? Are these separate files that are called upon by a master file? Do each of the files somehow reference or access every other file? Is there some other relationship? – bib Oct 7 '13 at 21:05
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about computing/programming terminology - not about the English language. – TrevorD Oct 7 '13 at 22:57
  • I vote on-topic since this is specifically a discussion which pops up occasionally when talking about code with non-technical testers or associated staff, like the boss. I'm a coder and systems designer – Bob Davies Oct 8 '13 at 1:22

For simplicity's sake

The program's source is a collection of source files

This is suitable for all programming languages in all use-cases, whereas dependencies or includes are generally applicable to only a single language or language-group, or to specify the purpose of files, without enough data to be able to specify which is intended.

Source files are not dependencies unless the program specifically depends upon that source code to function, and are not includes unless they are actually included in the program; in which case it wouldn't necessarily cover manifests, remote loaded source (like jQuery for example) or resource assets.

  • This does of course raise the question of where a program's source was sourced, though this is resolved by the context of the statement/question: "I sourced the software" is clear that you didn't necessarily obtain the source code, and "I sourced the source" would suggest you purchased or provisioned the source from a software developer/agency. – Bob Davies Oct 8 '13 at 1:29

This may not be in a dictionary anywhere yet, but programmers call them 'includes'.


I have written an include for the application controller.

The main file has twenty includes.

If you are looking for a collective noun, it probably depends on context, but a 'set' or a 'collection' would be words that would usually make sense.

A set of ten includes are required for the application to work.


What is the noun for each one of those individual files, and what would you call the collection of them?

The name of "files that play the role of being included elsewhere" might be called dependencies (single or collective) (or header files, if your programming language uses those). Yes, dependencies can be other things as well, but usually you don't need to distinguish. If so, you can say "source code dependencies."

The name of the declaration that declares the dependency might best be called an 'include', but to use it for the files thereby included bears the potential for confusion.


Source Code is a mass/collective noun. The file inclusions are objects or any number of names depending on the terminology for the programming language you are using.

For example C Source Code can include applets and classes.

This is not really an English language question as you will most likely describe what you are referring to when talking with another programmer.

  • True, but applets and classes are not necessarily in separate files (albeit they usually are). I interpreted the OP as referring to the more specific matter of one source code file that is loaded into another file via something like an include function. – fred2 Oct 7 '13 at 21:15
  • Yeah, that makes sense, but my point is you are using terms like set or collection which imply a mass of individual objects. So apart from naming the individual "includes" I do not feel this question can be objectively answered unless a congress of computer programmers decides to create a word for a collection of include function objects. – Tom Burchell Oct 7 '13 at 21:22

Library is one option. Remember .lib files?
The library consists of individual modules.

In computer science, a library is a collection of implementations of behavior, written in terms of a language, that has a well-defined interface by which the behavior is invoked.[clarification needed] In addition, the behavior is provided for reuse by multiple independent programs. A program invokes the library-provided behavior via a mechanism of the language. For example, in a simple imperative language such as C, the behavior in a library is invoked by using C's normal function-call. What distinguishes the call as being to a library, versus being to another function in the same program, is the way that the code is organized in the system.

Library code is organized in such a way that it can be used by multiple programs that have no connection to each other, while code that is part of a program is organized to only be used within that one program.

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