I've noticed, when major connected device OSes remove a Bluetooth device from the list of known devices, they typically use "forget", "remove", or "unpair" instead of "delete".

Remove a device

Someone posited on a separate thread here the word "delete" is avoided because the non-computer analogies in most non-digital usages refer to a permanent erasure—probably one reason other phrasings are preferred.

I was curious if there is a resource to quantitatively assess the connotation of the word. My feeling is it also carries a somewhat negative/harsh connotation, but I wanted some way of getting quantitative evidence to prove or disprove this hypothesis.

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    I've not known delete to have a negative connotation. I find it inappropriate here - I don't want to delete the device - just the device's registration.
    – Davo
    Jul 7, 2017 at 13:14
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    Do you mean 'Does delete imply non-recoverability?'? Jul 7, 2017 at 13:48
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    It isn't a negative connotation so much as a permanent connotation—typically, something that is "deleted" is gone forever (computers have changed some of this perception, but that's still the base meaning). All of your other verbs are more easily reversible in the real-world, which is appropriate for the action you describe.
    – 1006a
    Jul 7, 2017 at 13:51
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    I know that I prefer 'forget', 'remove', or 'unpair' and I worry about 'delete'. One of the concerns might be that the app reaches onto the device and delete's something on the device. ... . At any rate the "device" will not be deleted, it is the reference to the device that will be deleted. "delete reference to the device" would be accurate..but long.."forget" or "remove" device is shorter.
    – Tom22
    Jul 7, 2017 at 15:43

2 Answers 2


It's not necessarily "negative". The reason you are seeing the phenomenon is two-fold.

The first is that you can't really "delete" something that cannot be "permanently gone". That is essentially the definition of delete. So, for example, we can delete files and we can delete applications (which are really just more files). That's the main reason you don't see it that often. We could technically call the removal of paired connections, such as Wifi, Bluetooth, USB devices, etc... a "deletion". But it wouldn't make as much sense as "forget", "unpair", "disconnect", "remove".

And that brings us to the second reason that you see those words more frequently. It's because they do carry a preferable connotation that it can be recovered. We could technically say we want to call it "deleting" our Bluetooth connection, for example. But it carries a heavy suggestion that this is forever, that it's gone....forever.

Delete is usually reserved for items that are meant to be destroyed and gone forever. Delete is a scary word to end-users. As the science of user interface design has progressed we have avoided the word "delete" because it just seems a littler scarier to most basic users.


You can't delete a physical item. You can only delete a file (directories are in fact files).
We often speak of "breaking a connection" by means of deleting a file which controls the connection at the software level. However, this is not necessary: changing some values in the file will terminate the dataflow (the "connection") even though the file itself remains.

To "forget" a connection is a simple way of indicating that the file which contains the necessary info for that connection is deleted or at least cleared of the necessary data.

To "unpair" means to break the connection, not necessarily by "forgetting" it but simply not building up the software stack which allows data flow. If you look at a GUI for Bluetooth or WiFi, you typically see a list of potential devices or networks, only one of which is connected at a given time.

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