Glossary of computer science

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This glossary of computer science terms is a list of definitions about computer science, its sub-disciplines, and related fields.








  • Game theory – is the study of mathematical models of strategic interaction between rational decision-makers.[96] It has applications in all fields of social science, as well as in logic and computer science. Originally, it addressed zero-sum games, in which each participant's gains or losses are exactly balanced by those of the other participants. Today, game theory applies to a wide range of behavioral relations, and is now an umbrella term for the science of logical decision making in humans, animals, and computers.
  • Garbage in, garbage out – (GIGO), describes the concept that flawed, or nonsense input data produces nonsense output or "garbage".
  • GIF – Graphics Interchange Format.
  • Gigabyte – is a multiple of the unit byte for digital information. The prefix giga means 109 in the International System of Units (SI). Therefore, one gigabyte is 1000000000bytes. The unit symbol for the gigabyte is GB.
  • Global variable – In computer programming, a global variable is a variable with global scope, meaning that it is visible (hence accessible) throughout the program, unless shadowed. The set of all global variables is known as the global environment or global state. In compiled languages, global variables are generally static variables, whose extent (lifetime) is the entire runtime of the program, though in interpreted languages (including command-line interpreters), global variables are generally dynamically allocated when declared, since they are not known ahead of time.
  • Graph theory – In mathematics, graph theory is the study of graphs, which are mathematical structures used to model pairwise relations between objects. A graph in this context is made up of vertices (also called nodes or points) which are connected by edges (also called links or lines). A distinction is made between undirected graphs, where edges link two vertices symmetrically, and directed graphs, where edges link two vertices asymmetrically.


  • Hard problem – Computational complexity theory focuses on classifying computational problems according to their inherent difficulty, and relating these classes to each other. A computational problem is a task solved by a computer. A computation problem is solvable by mechanical application of mathematical steps, such as an algorithm.
  • Hash function – is any function that can be used to map data of arbitrary size to data of a fixed size. The values returned by a hash function are called hash values, hash codes, digests, or simply hashes. Hash functions are often used in combination with a hash table, a common data structure used in computer software for rapid data lookup. Hash functions accelerate table or database lookup by detecting duplicated records in a large file.
  • Hash table – In computing, a hash table (hash map) is a data structure that implements an associative array abstract data type, a structure that can map keys to values. A hash table uses a hash function to compute an index into an array of buckets or slots, from which the desired value can be found.
  • Heap – is a specialized tree-based data structure which is essentially an almost complete[97] tree that satisfies the heap property: if P is a parent node of C, then the key (the value) of P is either greater than or equal to (in a max heap) or less than or equal to (in a min heap) the key of C.[98] The node at the "top" of the heap (with no parents) is called the root node.
  • Heapsort – is a comparison-based sorting algorithm. Heapsort can be thought of as an improved selection sort: like that algorithm, it divides its input into a sorted and an unsorted region, and it iteratively shrinks the unsorted region by extracting the largest element and moving that to the sorted region. The improvement consists of the use of a heap data structure rather than a linear-time search to find the maximum.[99]
  • Human-computer interaction – (HCI) researches the design and use of computer technology, focused on the interfaces between people (users) and computers. Researchers in the field of HCI both observe the ways in which humans interact with computers and design technologies that let humans interact with computers in novel ways. As a field of research, human–computer interaction is situated at the intersection of computer science, behavioral sciences, design, media studies, and several other fields of study.




  • Kernel – When referring to an operating system, the kernel is the first section of the operating system to load into memory. As the center of the operating system, the kernel needs to be small, efficient and loaded into a protected area in the memory so as not to be overwritten. It can be responsible for such things as disk drive management, file management, memory management, process management, etc.


  • Library (computing) – is a collection of non-volatile resources used by computer programs, often for software development. These may include configuration data, documentation, help data, message templates, pre-written code and subroutines, classes, values or type specifications.
  • Linear search – or sequential search, is a method for finding an element within a list. It sequentially checks each element of the list until a match is found or the whole list has been searched.[116]
  • Linked list – is a linear collection of data elements, whose order is not given by their physical placement in memory. Instead, each element points to the next. It is a data structure consisting of a collection of nodes which together represent a sequence.
  • Linker – or link editor, is a computer utility program that takes one or more object files generated by a compiler or an assembler and combines them into a single executable file, library file, or another 'object' file. A simpler version that writes its output directly to memory is called the loader, though loading is typically considered a separate process.[117]
  • List – or sequence, is an abstract data type that represents a countable number of ordered values, where the same value may occur more than once. An instance of a list is a computer representation of the mathematical concept of a finite sequence; the (potentially) infinite analog of a list is a stream.[118]:§3.5 Lists are a basic example of containers, as they contain other values. If the same value occurs multiple times, each occurrence is considered a distinct item.
  • Loader – is the part of an operating system that is responsible for loading programs and libraries. It is one of the essential stages in the process of starting a program, as it places programs into memory and prepares them for execution. Loading a program involves reading the contents of the executable file containing the program instructions into memory, and then carrying out other required preparatory tasks to prepare the executable for running. Once loading is complete, the operating system starts the program by passing control to the loaded program code.
  • Logic error – In computer programming, a logic error is a bug in a program that causes it to operate incorrectly, but not to terminate abnormally (or crash). A logic error produces unintended or undesired output or other behaviour, although it may not immediately be recognized as such.
  • Logic programming – is a type of programming paradigm which is largely based on formal logic. Any program written in a logic programming language is a set of sentences in logical form, expressing facts and rules about some problem domain. Major logic programming language families include Prolog, answer set programming (ASP) and Datalog.











  • Variable – In computer programming, a variable, or scalar, is a storage location (identified by a memory address) paired with an associated symbolic name (an identifier), which contains some known or unknown quantity of information referred to as a value. The variable name is the usual way to reference the stored value, in addition to referring to the variable itself, depending on the context. This separation of name and content allows the name to be used independently of the exact information it represents. The identifier in computer source code can be bound to a value during run time, and the value of the variable may thus change during the course of program execution.[140][141]
  • Virtual machine – (VM), is an emulation of a computer system. Virtual machines are based on computer architectures and provide functionality of a physical computer. Their implementations may involve specialized hardware, software, or a combination.
  • V-Model – In software development, the V-model[142] represents a development process that may be considered an extension of the waterfall model, and is an example of the more general V-model. Instead of moving down in a linear way, the process steps are bent upwards after the coding phase, to form the typical V shape. The V-Model demonstrates the relationships between each phase of the development life cycle and its associated phase of testing. The horizontal and vertical axes represent time or project completeness (left-to-right) and level of abstraction (coarsest-grain abstraction uppermost), respectively.





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  1. The function may be stored as a reference to a function, such as a function pointer.
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