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 25 most important English computer terms to know—including the ones above—whether you are looking for a technology job or just trying to modernize your language skills.
Why Learn Computer English Vocabulary?
- Launch a career in English tech. English is one of the most spoken languages in the world. And technology-based jobs are continuing to grow.
If you want to get a job in the English tech space, you need more than a basic English vocabulary. Employers will expect you to understand key technical phrases.
- Expand your overall English vocabulary. Even if you do not want a tech job, learning computer English is important, because it will help you grow your general English vocabulary. Computer terms will help you keep up in the 21st century where technology dominates our world (and our daily conversations).
- Keep up in online conversations. Speaking of conversations, learning technical terms will help you keep up with English speakers online. Several computer English terms will help if you want to use English in a chat room or on social media.
- Browse the English internet with ease. Tired of being confused while browsing the internet in English? Once you understand English computer terms, English-language websites, blogs, memes, videos and social media sites will start making more sense.
How to Learn Technical Computer English Terms
- Take an online web development class. Jump right in and take a technology or web development class. You can find some great options on the popular online education site Udemy. Check out the “Development” and “IT & Software” categories from the top menu.
Sure, you might not initially understand what you are learning. But immersing yourself in an English technology class will expose you to hundreds of computer English terms.
- Watch real English videos on FluentU.
The videos are organized by genre and learning level—there is even a “Science and Tech” category. You can explore the full video library for free with a FluentU trial.
- Read English tech job postings. Search online job boards or LinkedIn for English technology jobs. As you read job postings, pay close attention to any technical terms you see. Note if the job postings use similar terms. These are probably essential terms that you should learn.
- Write down and research any technical terms you do not recognize. Keep a list of English technical terms you encounter online, at work or anywhere else. Anytime you read or hear a technical term you do not recognize, write it down.
Then, look up the definition in an English technology dictionary. TechTerms is a great option (it was the base of our research for the terms below).
Technical Terms Matter Too: 25 Essential English Computer Vocabulary Words
What are the most essential computer English terms?
Now you know how and why to learn technical English terms. But if you want a quick overview of the key tech terms, you have come to the right place.
Below are the 25 essential phrases that every English learner should know. These are the English computer words that will help you as you pursue English fluency in the 21st century.
An algorithm is a set of instructions. Computer programmers design algorithms to make websites, apps or programs perform certain tasks.
An app, or application, is a term that was first popularized by Apple. This refers to computer programs that are commonly seen on smartphones.
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.
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.
Another term for the internet.
“Cloud-based storage” means that data is stored online. This saves storage space on a computer device.
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.
Information that is stored by your web browser after you visit a website. They record information about your activity on the website (like your username or items in an online shopping cart).
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.
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.
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.
The online network that connects all web-based devices.
The unique code that identifies a device on the internet.
The physical board that allows you to type information into a computer.
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.
A computer device that is easily portable.
Another term for a physical computer screen.
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.
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.
The virtual information that makes a computer function. This refers to the codes that create computer programs.
Spam (yes, it was named after the canned meat product) refers to any unwelcome email you receive. Basically, this is the junk mail that you did not sign up for and do not want to read.
The toolbar usually sits at the top of your web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer or Google Chrome), 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.
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).
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.)
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.
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!
Stephanie Brown is a New York City-based freelance writer. You can find her at The Adventuring Millennial.
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 FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.