What terms that are encountered primarily in computer science are now used in regular English, whether the original meaning has been strictly preserved or not?

I'm curious about the linguistic influence of information technology in everyday life and have made the question community wiki.

  • Well, to start with there's "computer". Yes, the word already existed, but it was given a new meaning.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 12:13

3 Answers 3


In reverse order of popularity, by the number of Google search hits:

  • hashtag - used in commercials aired during Superbowl, so it qualifies as "everyday English"
  • reboot - as in, "reboot your life by [...]"
  • ...and of course "reboot" in the film franchise sense.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 14:34

A few suggestions for you:

  • Bug can now be applied to a design flaw in a wide range of products.
  • Similarly user error.
  • Brain dump as a derivative perhaps of core dump - for example when about to leave a job, giving an unstructured transfer of information to a successor.
  • In flowchart-style instructions for not-computing processes, I've seen subroutine a few times.
  • Ping has acquired a meaning applicable to people; while normally still in a computing sense (like IRC) it does get used offline as well.
  • Smart --phones could be described as computers, but "Smart cars" and many of the other uses couldn't be, despite the relationship to smart systems. (Thanks HotLicks)

Browsing any list off management buzzwords is likely to throw up a few more examples, some rather odd if you're familiar with the computing sense.

But computing itself has become mainstream, which slightly confuses the issue, by leading to uses like portable in the sense of usable of on different systems without installation in not strictly computer-related cases.

  • 1
    Let's not forget "smart"!
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 13:23
  • 1
    @HotLicks after the smartphone question I answered last week I'm slightly embarassed to have missed that one.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 14:35
  • Looks like my question is going to be closed for some reason. :( Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 0:12

Be wary that the "Internet" and the "World Wide Web" are capitalized in prose, dialogue, and text. As for the rest, consult the latest edition of your dictionary of choice. In America, the standard is Webster's Eleventh Edition which also has an online version (no pun intended).

  • I don't think this answers the question, which as I read it asks for terms that originated in computing and are now applied outside that field.
    – bdsl
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 15:02

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