What do you call an image, usually fragmented, that appears on a computer screen for a split second, such as when a webpage is loading or an app is launching? I know the term exists, but can't remember it for the life of me.

An example of what I'm talking about: scroll bar

In this example, the scroll bar to the left appears for a split second when changing the size of the window and immediately disappears.

  • 3
    Maybe a "splash screen"? Is the image intentional, or is it just a accidental "artifact" of loading. Is it designed, or a simple placeholder?
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 19, 2018 at 18:37
  • @DanBron Good question. The latter. I'm talking about unintentional, blink-and-you-miss-it kinds of images.
    – Nardog
    Oct 19, 2018 at 18:41
  • Given how ephemeral these are, I expect this is a hard request for you to fulfill for us, but: a screenshot would be super helpful.
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 19, 2018 at 18:42
  • @DanBron Screenshot added, I hope it helps you understand what I'm talking about. It's usually something that is about to disappear or that something is about to be drawn onto.
    – Nardog
    Oct 19, 2018 at 19:11

4 Answers 4


The term I was looking for was FOUC, short for "flash of unstyled content". It is specifically about web pages before CSS is loaded, so I was a little off in terms of what I thought it meant.


One term is toast — because it pops up! Please read this stackoverflow question. I searched three dictionaries but did not find this meaning for toast.

  • Unfortunately, no, toast is not the word. I'm talking about images that usually appear very, very briefly, like the shadow of a window of an application that is just about to be drawn, or a frame of a window that you see - or that you might unconsciously unsee unless you pay really close attention - when you minimize or maximize it.
    – Nardog
    Oct 19, 2018 at 19:12
  • This answer was posted before you clarified the question. Sometimes a sketch of the window is drawn from minimal information, before being replaced by the full rendering. Oct 19, 2018 at 19:18

These are called skeleton screens.

While explaining the history of the technique, writer Parimala Hariprasad defines a skeleton screen:

A skeleton screen is essentially a blank version of a page into which information is gradually loaded

Her first example image looks similar to what you asked about: enter image description here

A recent Viget Article notes:

Progressive loading with skeleton screens is thought to benefit the user by indicating that progress is being made, thereby shortening the perceived wait time. Google, Medium, and Slack all use skeleton screens to make their apps feel more performant.

  • This is a really cool and useful term. Though I think it's not what OP is looking for here, which is specifically unintentional rendering errors. Check out the comments under his question and also the answer he posted himself.
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 19, 2018 at 19:27

I believe the term you're looking for is the happily intuitively named ghost, which is briefly defined as "a spurious image resulting from an echo".

A more in-depth definition can be found on the dedicated Wikipedia page for video ghosts:


In television, a ghost is a replica of the transmitted image, offset in position, that is super-imposed on top of the main image. It is often caused when a TV signal travels by two different paths to a receiving antenna, with a slight difference in timing.

The more general term for unintentional issues during rendering is artifact. From Wikipedia's glossary of video terminology:

Artifact (video)

A defect or distortion of the video image, introduced along the sequence from origination and image capture to final display. Artifacts may arise from the overload of channel capacity by excess signal bandwidth. Artifacts may also result from: sampling effects in temporal, spatial, or frequency domains; processing by the transfer functions; compromises and inadequacies in the system employed; cascading of minor defects; basically any other departure of the total system from “complete transparency” resulting in visual errors.

A related term is noise, mostly used for widespread and random effects impacting the entire image (like snow on old TV sets or static on the radio).

If there is a more specific term, I didn't find it in a quick scan of that entire glossary.

  • I found the word myself, which was "FOUC", but perhaps your answer better suits what I described I was looking for.
    – Nardog
    Oct 19, 2018 at 19:22
  • Add that as an answer (make sure to expand the acronym and cite a reliable source, with a quote & link). It'll help the next guy, and you're guaranteed my upvote anyway. Also, if you can, put a blurb in on how you went about your research in order to land on such a useful and specific term.
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 19, 2018 at 19:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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