50 Essential Computer Vocabulary Words with Simple Definitions and Audio
Cookies. Clouds. Bugs.
Sounds like a picnic, right?
But if we are talking about computers, these English words have totally different meanings.
English computer words can seem a bit strange to language learners, especially if you think you recognize them… but have no idea what a “bug” is doing inside your laptop.
We will clear up all the confusion in this article.
We have collected a list of the 50 most important English computer terms to know—whether you are looking for a job in technology or just trying to modernize your language skills.
- Essential English Computer Vocabulary
- And One More Thing...
Essential English Computer Vocabulary
Below are 50 essential phrases that every English learner should know in order to understand and communicate about the world of computers and technology in the 21st century.
Technically, this only refers to a programmable machine. But native English speakers commonly use it to refer to the entire personal computer (PC) device, including a monitor, keyboard, mouse or laptop.CPU
CPU stands for Central Processing Unit. It is the “brain” of a computer that executes instructions and performs calculations.Hard Drive
A storage device that permanently stores data, including the operating system, programs, and files.Hardware
The hardware are the physical components of a computer, such as the monitor, keyboard, and motherboard (the main circuit board in computers).Keyboard
The physical board that allows you to type information into a computer.Laptop
A computer device that is easily portable (can be taken from place to place).Monitor
Another term for a physical computer screen.Mouse
The pointing device used to move the cursor (the position indicator on a computer display screen) and select objects on the computer screen.Printer
An output device that produces hard copies of documents and images from a computer. You have likely printed documents from a printer before, although it is becoming less common for people to have a printer in their homes.Router
A device that allows other devices (such as computers, tablets and phones) to connect to the internet. If your internet connection is not strong enough, you may need to move closer to the router.Scanner
An input device that captures and digitizes printed documents or images for computer use. You may have used a scanner if, for example, you needed to sign a document and then send it to someone by email.USB
USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. It is a common interface used to connect devices to a computer, such as printers, keyboards, and external storage.
A USB flash drive , often simply referred to as a “flash drive” or “USB drive,” is a small and portable storage device used for storing and transferring data. It is designed to connect to a computer or other compatible device through a USB port.
Internet and Programming
An algorithm is a set of instructions. Computer programmers design algorithms to make websites, apps or programs perform certain tasks. Social media platforms also use algorithms to manage and personalize the content that users see on their feeds.Browser
Software application used to access and view websites on the internet. There are different kinds of browsers, such as Google Chrome, Safari and Firefox.Cloud
“Cloud-based storage” means that data is stored online. This saves storage space on a computer device. You may have heard someone tell you to save or upload something “to the Cloud.”Computer programming
The process of designing, writing and testing sets of instructions (code) that tell a computer how to perform specific tasks or solve problems. This is often referred to as just “programming.”Cookies
“Cookies” refer to small text files that are created and stored on a user’s device when they visit a website. Cookies are used to collect and store certain information about the user’s browsing activity and preferences.CSS
CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. This information programs a website’s layout and design. For example, CSS programs a website’s font size and color.Download
This verb refers to retrieving and saving information from the internet onto your device. It can also be used as a noun to refer to information that can be downloaded. For example, you might see a phrase like “Click here to get your free download” on a website.
The opposite of download is upload , which can also be used as a verb (loading something like an image or file onto the internet) or noun (something that has been loaded onto the internet).Email
Electronic mail sent and received through a computer network. You probably have an email account through a service such as Gmail or Outlook and an email address with an “at sign” (@) and a “dot com” (.com).Ethernet
Wired networking technology that connects computers and devices through cables.Firewall
A security measure that controls and filters network traffic to protect against unauthorized access and threats. It ensures that only desired and nondestructive content from the internet is allowed to go through.HTML
HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language, which provides the information that is displayed on a website. For example, this programs the words that display on a website’s homepage.Internet
The online network that connects all web-based devices.IP Address
A programming language used to add interactivity and dynamic features to web pages.Keyword
Short phrases that describe an image, idea, webpage or piece of data. For example, the phrases and terms you type into a search engine are considered keywords.Spam
Spam (yes, it was named after the canned meat product) refers to any unwelcome email you receive, usually from advertisers. Basically, this is the junk mail that you did not sign up for and do not want to read.Toolbar
The toolbar usually sits at the top of your web browser with icons that help you control what you see. Typically, you can find icons that help you move forward, backward or refresh a webpage. You can also type a web address here.URL
This is the address that brings you to a specific website on the internet. Typically, it starts with www. and ends with .com (or .edu or .gov).VPN
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a secure connection that encrypts data transmitted over a public network, providing privacy and anonymity.Website
This is a collection of individual webpages. When you input a URL, you are brought to a website. FluentU is an example of a website. (Its URL is www.fluentu.com.) The program is also an app, and no matter how you access it, it’s a powerful way to study the English language (like the vocabulary in this post) in an immersive and natural way.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Wi-Fi allows computers to communicate wirelessly. Once you connect to a “Wi-Fi network,” you can access the internet without plugging your device into a wire-based system.
Software and Data
An app, or application, is a term that was first popularized by Apple. This refers to computer programs that are commonly seen on smartphones and tablets.Backup
A copy of important data to protect against data loss or damage. “Back up” is the verb form of the term, referring to the action of creating a backup.
The unit of measurement for data. You might see variations like megabyte (1 million bytes) or gigabyte (1 billion bytes). These refer to the amount of data storage available on a device.Bug
A bug refers to a computer software problem. This can cause an error message or even lead to a data hack. Usually, you need to run a “debugging” program to remove the issue.Cache
A temporary storage location in a computer’s memory or on a hard drive that stores frequently accessed data to improve system performance.
The browser cache is the temporary storage where a browser keeps copies of web pages and files to speed up future access. You can clear your cache to free up space if you are running low.Database
A structured collection of data organized and stored for easy access, retrieval and management.Encryption
The process of converting information into a secret code to prevent unauthorized access.File
A file is a collection of data or information stored in a computer system under a specific name and location.
Hack / Hacker / Hacking
Hacking refers to the act of gaining unauthorized access to computer systems, networks or digital devices with the intention of exploiting or manipulating them.
Hackers, also known as cybercriminals, use their technical skills and knowledge to breach security measures and gain unauthorized control or access to sensitive information.
A data hack is an intrusion into a computer system, network or database with the intent of accessing, stealing or manipulating sensitive or confidential data.Malware
A broad term encompassing malicious (harmful) software such as viruses, ransomware and spyware. Many people have security or antivirus software to protect their computers from malware intrusions.
A virus can replicate and spread, often causing harm to computer systems and data. Ransomware encrypts or blocks access to a victim’s data, rendering it inaccessible or unusable. Spyware is designed to secretly monitor and gather information from a user’s computer or device without their knowledge or consent.Operating System
The software that manages computer hardware and software resources, and provides a user interface (the way by which the user and a computer system interact).Password
The unique string of characters that allows you to access a computer, program or website—and prevents others from accessing your information. For example, you need a password to log into your Facebook account.RAM
RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It is temporary storage space that holds data and instructions being actively used by the CPU.Screenshot
A screenshot (noun) is a digital picture of the images on a computer or smartphone screen. You can also screenshot (verb) or “take a screenshot,” which simply means creating one of those images.Software
The virtual information that makes a computer function. This refers to the codes that create computer programs.Spreadsheet
Software used to organize, analyze, and manipulate numerical data in a grid format.Zip
Zip files are small, compressed files. These files store information with less data than traditional files. When you download a zip file, you need a program to “unzip” the file so you can access the information.
So do not be afraid to start using these computer English terms. You could be on your way to an exciting tech career!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)