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In terms of electronic screens (computers, cell phones, PDAs, tablets) what would be more accurate to say: wallpaper or background?

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    It depends what your intentions are. The 'wallpaper' is an image displayed in the background. It you are pointing out that a context-sensitive menu may be opened by right-clicking on the background then the presence of a wallpaper image in the background is immaterial. If you are pointing out that I found a great site with lots of wallpaper images to choose from, 'wallpaper' might be preferable. Bottom line: wallpaper refers to the image, background refers to a concept in a multi-windowed environment. – Jim Apr 8 '12 at 18:37
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    @Jim: I think you should post your comment as an answer. – JLG Apr 8 '12 at 19:36
  • This question should have been asked on Programmer's forum. It is due to the history of computer software and systems. – Blessed Geek Apr 8 '12 at 22:53
  • "Wallpaper" = "Background Image" (for those who prefer to avoid the architecture and interior design term) – SF. May 15 '12 at 14:01
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Wallpaper is a Windows-specific term. On a Mac it is called the desktop background. I believe Linux and many other platforms follow the same generic term (background or desktop background).

Background image/desktop background are more appropriate general-use terms.

  • You are right there. On Ubuntu it is called 'background/desktop background', even in Win7 it is called 'Desktop background', but still most people use 'wallpaper' term. – RhymeGuy Apr 9 '12 at 20:49
  • Also, in CSS it's referred to as background/background-image. – Karl Morrison Oct 19 '19 at 16:16
  • Aaaand it's also called background in Windows 10 now. Just forget the term wallpaper. – Karl Morrison Oct 19 '19 at 16:18
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It depends what your intentions are. The 'wallpaper' is an image displayed in the background.

If you are pointing out that a context-sensitive menu may be opened by right-clicking on the background then the presence of a wallpaper image in the background is immaterial.

If you are pointing out that I found a great site with lots of wallpaper images to choose from, 'wallpaper' might be preferable.

Bottom line: wallpaper refers to the image, background refers to a concept in a multi-windowed environment.

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It would be more appropriate to use "background". Windows declared that it was wallpaper a long time ago, but I hesitate to use that term.

It is a background (before anything else) and can be referred to as such.

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Technically the more apt term would be background-image, rather than background. Considering the two, the difference could be that wallpaper refers to the background-image of the desktop, the window with the lowest z-order in a multi-windowed environment, while a background-image refers to the background of any particular window.

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