When I was doing my IT degree in the 80s we learned that, in programming terms, concatenation was the act of joining two strings together.

Recently I was reading a technical manual and came across the word catenate in the same context.

A quick look at dictionary.com seems to indicate that catenate is used in a biological context. Another post on this site discusses concatenate and decatenate — the use of con- and de- as prefixes on catenate to indicate the construction or destruction of string sequences.

I'm curious as to whether IT professionals are now using the simpler word catenate when talking about concatenation?

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    I did my IT degree in late 80's but I still know what's what, only sometimes doing IT things now being a BA. Where have you been Bill? Have you gone to the other side? Shock and horror. Seriously it's always been and always will be concatenate. Incidentally, when I need to see all the non-printables in a file then I "send the cat to the vet" i.e. cat -vet the_file.
    – Chris
    Nov 14, 2012 at 22:46
  • I think this is General Reference. Google "software concatenate": 81,600 hits. But "software catenate" gets only 49 hits, many of which clearly aren't even English. Nov 14, 2012 at 23:03
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    @FumbleFingers You just need to Google harder.
    – tchrist
    Nov 15, 2012 at 0:35
  • @tchrist: I already Googled "tighter" - you'll note that my search terms are in quotes - doing that with "perl catenate" returns just 2 hits. Your favourite language is well below the radar! Nov 15, 2012 at 1:58
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    @FumbleFingers That is because you are doing the query wrong. There are many instances of catenate used in conjunction with perl. It just is not a literal bigram, is all. So what?
    – tchrist
    Nov 15, 2012 at 2:18

1 Answer 1


No, IT professionals are (mostly) still using the word concatenate. I've never heard anyone use catenate.

There's a command called cat, but it's short for the longer word rather than catenate. According to its own help:

Concatenate FILE(s), or standard input, to standard output.

On Stack Overflow there's 4,150 results for concatenate (98.3%) but only 70 for catenate (1.7%), and 5,000+ results for concatenated (~99.8%) but only 11 for catenated (~0.2%).

Likewise, searching code on GitHub gives 619,288 results for concatenate (97.8%) and 14,225 for catenate (2.2%).

Finally, despite the suggestion elsewhere that discatenate would be the opposite of concatenate, discatenate is not in common IT use: 1 result on Stack Overflow and 0 code results at GitHub. This is a problem with single word requests: someone has asked what the opposite would be, and in the accepted answer someone has come up with a new word by looking at the roots. The answer with the most votes is the much clearer split, which has 3,110 Stack Overflow results and 8,001,847 on GitHub's code search.

  • 1
    I’ve used catenate, but it gets me funny looks.
    – tchrist
    Nov 15, 2012 at 0:33

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