IT-men’s terms and their meanings

August 30, 2017 10:27 am

Terminology as a collection of terms (words or phrases, used to name concepts in any field of science, technology, art, etc.) is an integral part of the modern world. Since the terms designating the key concepts are the fundamental part of different processes like standardization, marketing, technical industries and standardization institutes and other bodies and organizations compile their own glossaries. This kind of vocabulary standardization provides the consistency needed in the various areas the core terminology to work with. In many languages, it happens that special terms, coined in one particular source language, often do not have equivalents in those target languages. In this case, the most convenient solution is the use of the already existing term from the source language, or the transliteration of the term, if the written system of the target language is fundamentally distinct.

a laptop and a notebook next to each other on the table, in the notebook there is a phrase: "Theory of Computing Systems"

A good example would be IT terminology. Most languages use English IT terms. For example such terms as ‘server’, ‘virus’, ‘intranet’ and others, are duplicated in most European languages, but sometimes with adaptations of writing and grammar, and target language equivalents are coined only in exceptional cases.

examples of IT terms from IATE: virus, server, intranet

Despite the verbal shell of the term, its content is always the same, or should be, at least. However, content can change over time due to technical, social or linguistic developments according to findings of a little research. Here, we are not speaking of conventional terminology in its original form, but rather an example of how an established term acquires a new slang meaning, when used in certain circles. Such changes, or rather deviations, of definitions most often carry an evaluative meaning not of a specific term, but of an object or process hidden behind it. To pick up again the topic of IT, it would be interesting mention some terms that are akin to the original but carrying a ‘joking’ or ridiculing meaning in the community of IT professionals in Russian.

In the conventional sense, the programmer is a person capable of producing a working programme. Sometimes distinguished from a coder by the implication that a programmer is capable of designing a program while a coder is limited to writing instructions to meet a design [IATE: 1449858]. However, according to the slang of Russian IT specialists, a programmer is an individual who has suffered many failures in normal professions to become a specialist in software engineering. (Программист  – индивидуум, потерпевший достаточно много неудач в нормальных профессиях, чтобы стать специалистом в области программной инженерии)

The Theory of Computing Systems (theory of computation) in the IT world is the branch that deals with how efficiently problems can be solved using an algorithm on a computational model. The field divides into three major branches: automata theory and language, computability theory, and computational complexity theory. According to a Russian glossary of IT slang, it could mean also ‘science akin to numerology and astrology, which however lacks the accuracy of the first and the success of the second’.

A systems analyst is a specialist in analysing systems, who investigates the field of application of ADP, organises the requisite files and prepares the way for writing programs [IATE: 1239229]. At the same time, it is used derogatory for a poor programmer, who should be kept away from any keyboard to ensure the system integrity.

The spiral model is a model of the software development process in which the constituent activities, typically requirements analysis, preliminary and detailed design, coding, integration, and testing, are performed iteratively until the software is complete [IATE: 1695510]. Russian glossary of IT slang defines it as ‘the model that allows the repetition of small fails several times in a row within the framework of a single project’.

Optical character recognition (OCR) in common sense is the recognition of printed or written text characters by a computer, which involves scanning of the text, analysis of the scanned-in image, and then translation of the character image into character codes, such as ASCII [IATE: 880054]. In Russian programmer slang, it means the method of mistakenly entering data directly into the system, avoiding errors in manual typing.

The background task is usually defined as an operation that can take place while another program or processing routine is running without apparent interruption to that program or routine[IATE: 1693644]. At the same time, it is used for a task that does not require much of a mental effort, for which the programmer is taken when he does not want to do the main task.

Multi-user mode is a mode of the use of database supporting access through several interactive terminals at the same time [IATE: 1388379]. The Russian programmers slang version sounds like “the mode, in which several users (two it is already enough) can simultaneously spoil the same database”.

These examples show how despite the generalization of special terminology, within the framework of certain disciplines and in the communication amongst experts, it is possible to create additional meanings for certain terms. Such use of terms is rather a demonstration of the users’ attitude towards certain objects (also persons) hidden behind the term within a certain field.


  • Chandor: The Penguin Dictionary of Microprocessors, 1982
  • Dictionary of office automation, Centre de Terminologie de Bruxelles, Elsevier, 1991
  • Glossary of Computerized System and Software Development Terminology, Pharm Comm, Wilmington, NC, USA, 1998
  • Keithley Instruments, Glossary, 1997
  • Lico. Толковые словари IT-терминов. Слэнг для айтишников / Glossaries of IT terms. IT-men’s slang. Available at: (Accessed 25 August 2017)
  • Theory of computation. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Last edition on 6 August 2017, at 21:37. Available at: (Accessed 25 August 2017)
  • University of Toronto – Archives and Records Management Systems – Glossary. Available at: (Accessed 25 August 2017)

Written by Alena Liashova, Study visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit and a student of the Master programme in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. Alena has a Master’s degree Theoretical and applied aspects of language communication, and Bachelor’s degree in German and English Philology.

Post prepared by Elena Sychkova, Study visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit and a student of the Master programme in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. Elena has a Master’s degree in the Russian language and Literature, and Bachelor’s degree in English Philology.


973 total views, 8 views today

Categorised in: , ,