In regards to this question on meta Stackoverflow I had a look at what definitions one find for "browser".

My definition of to browse is in short looking for information or things of interest. In this question I concentrate on computer based browsers.

One can for example have:

  • web-browser
  • file-browser
  • code-browser
  • image-browser
  • meta-browser
  • (browser-service)
  • ...

But, if one look at various definitions for "browser" one find:

  • Merriam Webster: a computer program used for accessing sites or information on a network (as the World Wide Web)
  • Oxford: A program with a graphical user interface for displaying HTML files, used to navigate the World Wide Web: 'a web browser'
  • Collins: a software package that enables a user to find and read hypertext files, esp on the Internet
  • Cambridge: a computer program that makes it possible for you to read information on the internet
  • Google: a program with a graphical user interface for displaying HTML files, used to navigate the World Wide Web.

From these examples I'd say Oxford and Google is furthest off, esp. as it does not require a graphical user interface, nor is it limited to display HTML files.

Why is this? Why does seemingly all dictionaries limit "browser" to some software for sifting through The World Wide Web when it comes to computing?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Bradd Szonye, anongoodnurse, aedia λ, tchrist, FumbleFingers Apr 21 '14 at 17:21

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.


The definitions are very poor, all of them. They talk about html, the world wide web, and hypertext files. Both the consumer and techie in me knows that this is no better than a 3rd grade definition.

A browser is a software interface that allows you to search, find, consume, and interact in various formats with almost any computer that you are connected with.
-- RyeBread definition

Using any popular browser you can find and view websites, navigate through your computer, navigate through connected computers on your network, move files to your computer from anything that you are connected to. They also have the ability to parse through web languages and display them properly, including HTML, Javascript, and CSS.

Yes the definitions are terrible. They are a little bit wrong and a lot dumbed down.

  • 1
    Yes, that was my thought as well. Find it strange that such big publications provide those definitions. And here I emphasize definition, as in not slang, in context of XY etc. but the core definition of the word. – user13500 Apr 18 '14 at 7:22
  • @user13500 - dictionary definitions move glacially slow with anything involving technology or slang. Often by the time they get something, it is outdated. – RyeɃreḁd Apr 18 '14 at 17:46

The word browse means to scan through something. So it's not restricted to the World Wide Web only. You can use it in many contexts. When it comes to the WWW, the word browser is more like a short form of the word web-browser. It has become so ubiquitous that it can be called a synonym of web browser. The same is true about google. Most people now a days, specially tech guys, use google it. They don't say go search this on the web.

So, the definition of browser is not poor. It depends on how and where you use it.


Sometimes words grow different in English as in other languages as well. Rise of internet and being world-wide may be changed the meaning or the use habits of the word.

It does not change the exact meaning or make the word poor, but it is how people approach it. One other word which is rising these days is "google it" which means search about it.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.