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Computer science uses the term "persistence" to describe, basically, data that sticks around after the device is turned off. The corresponding verb is "to persist".

What I'm looking for is a noun to describe the object doing the persisting. Should it be persister or persistor? And more importantly, why?

"Persister" is actually recognized by the dictionary and the spell-checker, so it would seem to be the obvious choice. It is also far more common on a NGram comparison. However, most of the uses appear to be education-related (one who persists with their education) or biology-related, not computer-related.

On the other hand, a Google search for "persistor" turns up mainly computer science results, like Persistor.Net and mongo-persistor. Personally, this usage feels like a more intuitive spelling, perhaps due to the correspondence with "actor".

I know from this related question about -er and -or that both are valid suffixes to form an "agent noun" and that -er is more common in English. But does that make -er more correct in this case? Is there some linguistic reason driving the more prevalent use of -or in computer science circles, or is it simply a stylistic choice?

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  • I'd be interested to know what audience would be aware of the word being used where -er or -or would be the point of consternation rather than the word choice itself. – SrJoven Nov 7 '14 at 17:16
  • @SrJoven - Among a computer science audience familiar with the persist/persistance usage mentioned above, the intended meaning would, I think, be obvious. – Lynn Nov 7 '14 at 18:36
  • -er because the dictionary says so. – SrJoven Nov 7 '14 at 18:45
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    Persistence is the name of the concept. The objects doing the mechanics are usually called by what they do - Save, Restore, or Cache the data.. ObjectSaver or some such rather than Persister – Oldcat Nov 7 '14 at 19:16
  • If there is a clear distinction of roles, then it's usually Reader and Writer. But I think the question if what happens when it's all in one function, that it can read, write, cache, etc. – garbagecollector Sep 10 '15 at 21:35
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I don't know that this is supported by any authority, but I feel that "persister" means "something that persists", whereas "persistor" means "something that provides persistence".

That said, I am a computer professional and this may just be in the realm of jargon.

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    "resister" and "resistor" would back up your feeling. – AndyT Jul 12 '17 at 11:07
  • Google Ngrams and the onward links give support. The two words seem to be both used in a scientific or technical sense and are usually synonyms with "persister" being far more common. books.google.com/ngrams/… – Greybeard Mar 21 '20 at 21:19
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I know this is an old question, but it's one that I had too. Given the definition of persistor from Wiktionary:

(sociology) A person who persists in unsocial behavior

and the definition of persist (where the noun is "persister") from Dictionary.com:

to continue steadfastly or firmly in some state, purpose, course of action, or the like, especially in spite of opposition, remonstrance, etc.

while I kind of prefer the -or suffix for it's computer science-y feel, I'm going with "Persister" in my code because 1) the definition fits (i.e., continuing in state) and 2) the colloquial meaning of "persistor" (unsocial behavior) gives the word a negative connotation.

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    Hi and welcome to the ELU, can I recommend that when you get a chance you take the tour to learn a bit more about what makes a good answer. Yours could be improved if you gave us some information on the 'colloquial meaning' of persistor which you find objectionable, assuming that by 'dirty' you mean something more than general 'unsocial behaviour'. – Spagirl Jul 12 '17 at 13:11
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    @Spagirl, sorry about that. I've edited my answer to be more specific. I didn't intend the word 'dirty' to mean anything more than 'unsocial behavior' but, in hindsight, I can see how ambiguous it was the way I used it. – David Jul 12 '17 at 16:10
  • Wiktionary also has persister entry: (1) Something that persists (2) (biology) Any organism that survives a period of extreme conditions (such as winter). The latter fits well "data that survives loss of power", except data is not active, we don't want word for "persisted data", but for the software that ensures its persistence. BTW Wiktionary desistor and desister definitions are same "person who desists"; I'm not sure if Wiktionary is reliable on such distinctions or just random.... – Beni Cherniavsky-Paskin Jul 27 '17 at 8:08

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