In English usage in many disciplines, like articles on Web designing, people frequently use the word "screen real estate" or "viewport (browser window size) real estate" or even "mobile or browser real estate."

Estate essentially means "an area or amount of land (property)."

So when we're talking about screen area, why don't we use "virtual estate"?

  • 2
    IIRC the real in real estate is not the English real, but the Spanish real (as in Real Madrid)
    – Raestloz
    Sep 13, 2014 at 9:47
  • 2
    An excellent point, Raestloz ... many English speakers think it means "real" (actual, etc) .. of course it means Royal from Spanish. (Although it's worth pointing out there is some etymological debate over this issue.)
    – Fattie
    Sep 13, 2014 at 10:21
  • Oh, well if that's the case, then it's fine to use screen real estate. I thought real meant really real. Sep 15, 2014 at 2:27
  • "Estate essentially means 'an area or amount of land (property).'" The real mystery to me is why you don't want "screen estate" then, instead of "virtual estate".
    – Sz.
    Aug 22, 2019 at 10:04

1 Answer 1


The key term is "real estate," not just "estate," and this is important since "real estate" has the connotation of an expensive resource whose purchase should be carefully considered, whereas "estate" describes a single property or an inheritance.

Note also that screen real estate is definitely a physical thing (an area on the screen) so dscribing it as virtual would be incorrect.

  • 1
    Right. Rose, it simply has "nothing to do" with virtual. You're talking about the actual "glass" as programmers say. Note! in fact, it is very common for programmers to speak about a "virtual screen!!" It means something quite different, it's a "pretend" screen you have off-screen (for example, you may prepare an animation there, or whatever, and then slide it on to the real screen -- hopefully not using too much real estate there!)
    – Fattie
    Sep 13, 2014 at 10:22
  • In those contexts that I mentioned, screen real estate is not used for the computer screen. "You can make a column that's 20% of the screen real estate as your sidebar." The 20% will be 20% of a computer screen, of a mobile screen, and is calculated by the browser. If you resize your browser window, the 20% is recalculated. It's not the actual computer screen but really an internal thing of the software that's just displayed on the computer screen. Sep 15, 2014 at 2:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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