When playing videos with slow connectivity from YouTube, I often pause the video to allow the loaded video portion to grow. I was wondering if any of the technophiles could weigh in on a possible term for this practice. It seems to me that preloading could work, but I figured I could ask about a better term.

  • 3
    You could perhaps say you're caching the video. In computing terms this just means you're moving the data to somewhere physically nearer the processor that will subsequently access it. Often, moving data from disc-based file to memory, or slow to fast memory, but in your case it's probably from website to local temporary file (in practice, to memory, if your PC has enough). Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 16:23
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    You can say "buffering"
    – Gapton
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 16:23
  • @FumbleFingers I think caching is too general and for online video, its more common to use 'buffering'. Caching as you suggest is related to OS, hardware, offline application, system storage etc etc. It is too wide for the OP's specific situation IMHO. Just my 2c, peace.
    – Gapton
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 16:26
  • @Gapton: I can't disagree that buffering is "better", providing your audience is familiar with the term as used in computing. But even if they're not, I'd have thought people would probably understand caching well enough. Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 16:36
  • @FumbleFingers caching is usually used to refer to data that will be read/accessed more than once, such as a web page cached on a proxy server. Buffers are (usually) read once, and are used to prevent loss of data (keyboard/mouse input) or to synchronize data consumption (video playback).
    – yoozer8
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 18:00

2 Answers 2


The word you are looking for is buffer. Since the playback speed of a video is typically faster than the download speed, the video can't be played immediately. As it is downloaded, it is buffered until there is enough data stored to be able to play the video at its proper speed while the rest of the data is downloaded.

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    YouTube's help page on Buffering and playback problems uses buffering as the term for preloading a video for playback. The buffer used is your web browser's cache, hence the contention above.
    – Gnawme
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 19:06
  • @Gnawme Yes, there is slight overlap between the two terms. The primary difference, as I understand it, is that a buffer holds something waiting to be processed (newly arrived data, hardware input), whereas a cache holds something to shortcut requests (load a webpage locally rather than connecting across the internet). The difference here is if you while your browser may hold onto the page containing the video, it is unlikely to hold onto the video itself, necessitating a request to the host next time you try to watch the video.
    – yoozer8
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 19:23
  • This answer (and of course @Gapton's comment above) is absolutely correct. It is also reasonably safe to consider this term integrated into common parlance, as advertisers have already done. (Customers of "slow" Internet providers are shown waiting for their video to load, muttering "buffering... buffering... buffering...".)
    – John Y
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 22:47

Depends on whom you're addressing. You're probably asking the wrong people. Videophiles may well have a specific term for this.

You could make one up or adapt a general term like caching or buffering as suggested in the comments if you want to. But in a language where we still talk about dialing a telephone anything can happen.

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