For example, as part of the information message of some computer script:

Snapshotting the file...

Can we write snapshotting instead of taking the snapshot? Is it still correct?

I've found an example usage of that word on Wikipedia, in the following context:

... is not a snapshotting scheme but a system-level incremental backup service ...


Time Machine is not a file system and it does not make use of a snapshotting feature. It is only included here as a reference.

Source: Snapshot (computer storage)

  • 1
    What is a "correct" word? What do dictionaries say?
    – tchrist
    Jul 4, 2019 at 13:13
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    Most of the online dictionaries redirects snapshotting to the main 'snapshot' word, so it's not clear whether this word is correct. I haven't found much details about this usage of word, it's not very popular. For example Dictionary.com mentions snap·shot·ting as to photograph informally and quickly, but for me this still doesn't prove whether it's a valid English word or not. This could be similar to timeouting word, which is not a word, but I'm not sure, that's why I'm asking.
    – kenorb
    Jul 4, 2019 at 13:18
  • Are you asking whether we can derive the verb to snapshot from the noun a snapshot, and then whether that verb has a regular -ing inflection we can use as a gerund and then rederive that back from a verb into a deverbal noun again to be used attributively to modify another noun like scheme with? If so, then that seems so fundamental and thus wholly unremarkable a process of English grammar that I remain confused about why you are asking whether English works this way. ;)
    – tchrist
    Jul 4, 2019 at 13:28
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    The -ing inflection is one of the few perfectly regular features of English verbs.The only verbs to lack them are those which also lack infinitive forms: specifically, the modals. We therefore say that modal verbs are “defective” in English because they lack certain inflections. But timeout is not a modal, and it is not defective. Moreover, timeouts is also never a verb: it is only ever a noun, just as logins, screwups, and hangouts are. Break them up to inflect as verbs: timing out a process, logging in a user, screwing up the grammar, hanging out casually. See how that works?
    – tchrist
    Jul 4, 2019 at 13:44
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    The only free online dictionary that I would cite as at least something of an authority to give the verbal polyseme is Wiktionary; it adds the totally predictable inflections @tchrist mentions. I'd not shrink from using the verb in informal situations or in computerese, but I'd avoid it in formal non-technical English. Jul 4, 2019 at 14:42

1 Answer 1


Yes, snapshotting is a recognized word!

The OED says that snapshotting derives from the verb to snapshot, which in turn derives from the noun a snapshot. [paywalled link]

They provide this citation:

ˈsnapshotting adj.

  • 1978   Nature   7 Dec. 647/2
    Mr Sankhala also remarks that the snap-shotting tourist is so preoccupied with shutter speeds, lens apertures and focussing that he fails to see anything around him.

That entry is from the Second Edition of 1989, and has not yet been updated for the Third Edition.

Snapshotting a process or file in the context of computing is probably newer than that citation.

On inflectional morphology applied to verb+particle compounds

I’ve asserted that if snapshot is a verb, then it should come as no surprise to learn that it has an ‑ing inflection by way of snapshotting. However, the asker has suggested in comments that not all verbs have ‑ing inflections. They have offered timeout as one example of a verb that lacking ‑ing form.

The first statement is true only in a special, technical way involving defective verbs. The second statement is based on a misunderstanding.

That’s because the ‑ing inflection is one of the few perfectly regular features of English verbs. The only verbs to lack nonfinite inflections like present participles (same form as gerunds) and past participles also lack infinitive forms: specifically, the modals.

We therefore say that modal verbs are “defective” in English because they lack certain inflections. So for example the modal verb should has no nonfinite forms like *shoulding or *shoulded, nor can it be used as either a bare- or to-infinitive. You cannot make someone *should anything.

But timeout is not a modal, and it is not defective. It works exactly as snapshot does.

But unlike snapshots, timeouts is only ever a noun and never a verb — just as logins, screwups, and hangouts are. Just as the plural of the noun passerby is the noun passersby where we think of those pieces individually when we want to inflect them, you must first break up compounds that were originally made up of a verb plus a particle smashed together when you want to inflect them as verbs.

  • NOT: *timeouting a process, BUT RATHER: timing out a process, timing a process out
    NOT: *timeouted a process, BUT RATHER: timed out a process, timed a process out
  • NOT: loginning a user, BUT RATHER logging in a user, logging a user in
    NOT: a *loginned user, BUT RATHER a logged in user
  • NOT: *screwupping the grammar, BUT RATHER: screwing up the grammar, screwing the grammar up
    NOT: *a screwupped grammar, BUT RATHER: a screwed up grammar
  • NOT: *hangouting casually, BUT RATHER: hanging out casually, casually hanging out
    NOT: we *hangouted yesterday, BUT RATHER: we hung out yesterday

Just as tomorrow was once written to-morrow, nowadays was once written now-a-days, and passersby once written passers-by, often when first coined these compounds begin life as open ones separated by blanks or as conjoined ones written with hyphens, but these all seem to get worn down with time.

  • a few time-outs > a few timeouts
  • some snap shots > some snap-shots > some snapshots
  • snap-shotting > snapshotting

Snapshotting or Snapshooting?

On the subject of snapshotting, there is also a long-attested noun snap-shooting, meaning the process of taking snap-shots — or snap shots or snapshots :)

Via the citations given in the OED,[paywalled link] we can see the historical progression from writing this word as an open compound to writing it as a hyphenated one to writing it with neither hyphens nor spaces:

  • 1872   Gentleman's Mag.   Dec. 664
    Snap shooting, as it is termed, is very effective sometimes by experienced gunners.
  • 1883   Cent. Mag.   Aug. 493
    Snap-shooting is generally understood to consist in putting the gun to the shoulder and firing the instant it is in position.
  • 1979   G. Macdonald Camera   iv. 57
    Snapshooting was..a..haphazard affair... Most snaps were still portraits of family and friends.

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