Wi-Fi & Apps: 9 Words of the Internet Age

Wi-Fi & Apps: 9 Words of the Internet Age

1. Hashtag

The Internet has transformed this symbol from the rarely used button on your phone into one of the most common symbols on the web. This symbol has many names including hash-mark, number sign, and octothorpe (for the eight lines emanating from the center square), but hashtag specifically refers to a word or clause preceded by the # which can be used to search for or identify a topic. It arose in the early aughts, and its usage isn’t going anywhere but up. What did the word blog originally stand for?

2. Blog

Though often maligned, blogs have become a mainstay of the web. Many well-respected media sites and companies call their regularly updated pages a blog. The word is a clipped form of the clunkier weblog which dates from the early 1990s. In 1999 Peter Merholz coined blog when he decided to call his weblog his “wee blog,” or just “blog” for short. This term took off, and soon people were using blog as a verb. When was LOL first used? The answer will surprise you.

3. LOL

Dating back to the late 1980s, LOL may be the first widely used Internet initialism. As you probably already know, it stands for “laughing out loud” and is used to express laughter when communicating online. Previously, though, this same abbreviation was used in a very different way to describe an elderly woman, or a “little old lady.” What does Wi-Fi really mean? Find out in the next slide.

4. Wi-Fi

Whether in Starbucks or McDonalds, businesses have been offering free Wi-Fi for years now, but what does it stand for? Well, there is little evidence that the term Wi-Fi is a shortening of “wireless fidelity.” However it is most likely an iteration of hi-fi, meaning “high fidelity” which refers to the sound quality of a vinyl record. Today Wi-Fi is a trademarked term that refers to any device that connects to broadband wireless.

5. App

Since the launch of the Apple App Store in 2008 and the successful ad campaign (“There’s an app for that.”), the term app has become very prominent. It is a clipped form of the word application which once meant “the act of putting to a special use or purpose.” However with the rise of personal computing, it came to refer to a computer program used for a particular purpose, usually a kind of software. Apps are a type of software application, but they are typically delivered via the web, not another tool like a CD-ROM.


The newest addition to the English language in this slideshow, the abbreviation MOOC stands for massive (or massively) open online course. Many online companies and not-for-profits have started producing classes with video instruction, student forums, and quizzes or exams that are open to thousands, and potentially millions, of students. How long and in what forms these MOOCs will persist is yet to be seen, but the term has definitely proved useful in discussing this new style of education.

7. Malware

Often spread via a virus, malware is a computer program that is intended to damage or control a computer, computer system, or mobile device. The term is a portmanteau of malicious (a term of Latin origin meaning “desiring to cause injury or harm”) and the new-fangled suffix -ware. The combining form-ware is an extracted form from the term software and has been used to refer to any specific kind of software, as in spyware and shareware.

8. Download

Though this ubiquitous term may seem familiar, it wasn’t invented until the late 1970s, as the Internet was getting into its groove. Unlike many of the other words that the Internet bequeathed to us, download sounds like it could have existed before because it is a portmanteau of two common English words: down and load. The computing sense of download coevolved with the term upload, as one must upload something before it can be downloaded. Today, though, the term download is used much more often than its counterpart.

9. Internet

The word Internet is actually an abbreviation of the term internetwork which was used to describe a large connection of computer networks. The longer original term reminds us what the Internet really is: a gigantic connection of computers talking to each other. What about words like spam and meme that the Internet has breathed new life into? Stay tuned for a slideshow about the Internet’s influence on existing English words.

(Found on dictionary.com.)


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