Coding is full of buzzwords and it can be really hard to keep track of them all as you're getting started with programming, or learning new skills. So today we've pulled together a handy glossary featuring the most common coding terms and definitions for kids. It's in alphabetical order.
You can use this glossary as a quick reference for many important terms described in easy-to-understand terms. Feel free to bookmark it for fast searching in the future. Let's jump right into our coding for kids terms. Or to get started learning more about coding with live guidance from an expert online, check out our fun coding camps designed by Google, Stanford, and MIT professionals.
Top programming terms and definitions for beginners
In 3D modeling, you can use software to create 3D representations of objects in a coordinate system. The models can be generated manually, through an algorithm, or scanning an object to collect information on its shape.
Simplifying code by hiding some of the complexity from the user. One common example of abstraction is object oriented programming.
Making something useable for all people.
An active record is a way to access data and is found in software that uses databases.
Agile software development
A set of principles aimed at improving the performance of software teams through short sprints of work. It fosters collaboration, and constant evolution and improvement.
A collection of web technologies that allow a website to get information in the background without changing the display. This means the content can change without the need to reload.
The strategy that a computer program uses to solve a problem - like a set of instructions. Depending on the problem, algorithms can take many forms and range from relatively simple to extremely complex.
Android is a popular mobile operating system. You can build Android apps in Java and test them with Android Studio.
Apache is an open source server to send content through the web - and it's free. It’s the most popular HTTP client on the web.
An application programming interface (API) allows different applications to communicate and share information. That way engineers can use a product or access data or information without actually knowing the implementation. Many actions on your phone involve an API to get the necessary information.
An app, short for application, is a piece of software that achieves a certain task. A phone may have mobile apps for social media or games. A computer can have apps to help you code or join a video call.
MIT AppInventor is a web platform that helps beginners learn Android app development. The user can experiment with design and implement functionality with a block-based language.
You use arguments to pass information to a function. The arguments (a number, text, string, etc) are variables that can only be used and accessed inside that function.
Arithmetic operators are + for addition, - for subtraction, * for multiplication, / for division and % for modulo. They behave the same way in programming languages like they do in math.
An array is a data structure of ordered elements. Each element has an index associated with it.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence simulates human intelligence in computers through actions like learning and problem solving. Applications of AI include recommendation systems, self-driving cars, and natural language processing. Check out our award-winning live online AI classes to learn more.
An assignment operator assigns a value to a piece of storage, like a variable or index in an array. A common assignment operator is “=”, which assigns the value on the right to the object on the left.
Asynchronous programming languages
Asynchronous programming languages allow events to occur in parallel to the main program. This can help speed up processes.
Augmented reality (AR) is an enhanced digital representation of the real world through visual stimuli, sounds, and other sensory experiences.
The backend is the part of a software that is hidden from the user. It can deal with tasks like collecting information, processing data, and ensuring security.
A system of two possible states. In computers, everything is ultimately represented by the two numbers: 0 and 1.
The binary alphabet allows you to express the uppercase and lowercase letters of the English alphabet with only zeros and ones. These letters are encoded as seven-bit integers.
The individual 0s and 1s that create a computer program.
Blender is an open source software for 3D capabilities including animation, simulation, and motion tracking. There's an API that works with Python to build different tools, too.
Block-based programming language
Block-based programming languages are great for beginners because they allow you to focus on important coding concepts without worrying about syntax. Scratch is a popular drag-and-drop block-based programming language.
A boolean value is true (1) or false (0), which is the underlying logic powering computers.
A bug is an error in your program. Syntax bugs prevent your code from running, or semantic bugs where your code runs but doesn’t do what you want.
A byte is 8 bits.
A popular programming language, and an extension of C. It’s object oriented, a compiled language, and performs quickly. It includes more high-level features than C.
In computer-aided design (CAD), a computer helps generate and improve a design. It can provide the blueprint for products or other manufacturing operations. In addition to appearance, CAD provides information on materials and dimensions.
Call (a function)
When you call a function, you are giving it inputs so it can perform the task you’ve written inside the function. This could be many things, like returning a value, or displaying output to the screen.
Call (a variable)
When you call a variable, you are doing something with the value it stores. This may be using the value in another part of the code or reassigning the value the variable stores.
Camel case is a naming convention for variables. The first word of the name is lowercase and each new word after that is capitalized ("forExample"), resembling the humps of a camel.
A circuit is a theoretical model of computation where inputs go through gates that each perform a task. Circuits are defined by the different inputs and outputs. Examples include boolean circuits and integer circuits. Explore our live, online, award-winning Circuit Wizards for kids class to learn more.
Class (HTML and CSS)
An HTML class attribute is used to reference a class defined in a CSS file. This can improve readability and lead to consistent style throughout a website.
Clicking is the action you take with your mouse. It allows you to interact with what’s on your screen. You can write code to only execute if a click is detected.
Clone (in Scratch)
You can clone your sprites in Scratch. Each clone can perform the exact same action as each other or slightly different ones. Clones can create moving effects or help to hide parts of the screen in a game.
The cloud refers to the central computer system that you can access to run software or store large amounts of data. This allows you to use higher computing power than what’s directly available on your own computer.
Cloud computer is the process of accessing a central computer system (the cloud) through the internet. Amazon Web Services is one of the most popular cloud computing providers. Try our fun live online class, Cloud Computing for Web Apps, to learn more.
Code is the instructions in a program that tell your computer what to do. These programs can range from simple calculations to complex applications. There are many different languages used to write code.
Code.org is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups. Their Hour of Code is a fun way to try coding with 1-hour activities.
Code reviews are a common practice in software development. After you write code, another engineer will look at your code and offer feedback to improve functionality and style.
Coding languages are the different ways to write code to tell the computer what to do. These languages differ in syntax, speed, and ideal purposes. For example, Python is a coding language.
A command is an instruction that you give your computer on its command line interface. Some common examples are running a program, changing the directory, or listing the contents of a file.
A user can directly give their computer instructions through commands in the command line interface (CLI). The CLI offers the same capabilities as graphical interfaces on modern computers like interacting with the file system.
Computational biology is the interdisciplinary field of computer science, math, and biology. It can be used to solve biology-based problems relating to topics like the genome and protein folding. Learn more with our live online Intro to Computational Biology class.
A computer program contains lines of code to tell a computer how to perform a task. Sometimes a program contains multiple files written with different programming languages.
Computer science is a broad topic covering the theory of computing, ways to instruct your computer through code and so much more! Computer scientists build the hardware and software that’s become an everyday part of our lives.
Conditionals are statements that are only executed when a certain condition is met. An example of this is an if-statement.
Constants are values in your program that don’t change. Including them improves reading them. Some values that may not change in your program are days of the week or a maximum value.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a language often used alongside HTML to specify the style of a page. This may include things like text color, background, heights and widths.
Cybersecurity is the important practice of protecting computer systems. This may involve protecting data from malicious intruders, maintaining hardware, and ensuring that information is properly sent.
Data refers to information collected on a topic. This may be numeric or may already have an associated structure. Many computer scientists focus on data processing and analysis.
Data science is the field of analyzing large amounts of data to find patterns or make predictions based on past data. This involves data collection, data processing, and then data analysis. Learn more about data science with our fun live online class Data Superpower.
Data structures are ways to organize information so that you can more effectively use it in your code. Some examples of data structures are arrays which store ordered data or dictionaries in Python that map a key to a value.
Data types refer to the type of information that a variable can store. For integers, the data type might be int or long. The data type of a decimal number might be float or double. In certain languages like Java, you need to specify the data type when declaring a variable.
A database is a way to organize data. A database management system allows users and apps to work with the data in order to access and analyze it.
Debugging is the process of finding bugs or errors in your program and fixing them. A popular debugging technique is using print statements to see what your code is doing at different points.
When you declare a variable or function, you are introducing it into your program. In a function declaration, you indicate the name of the function, the parameters it takes and the task it performs. In a variable declaration, you indicate the name of the variable and you can give it an initial value.
Decomposing your code is a great practice where you break a large task in your code into smaller sub-tasks. It allows for greater readability and code reuse.
Deployment refers to making a piece of software available for use. Engineers may be working on and improving a development version of software. When the software is finished, they will deploy it to production.
Django is an open-source Python framework that helps build data-driven websites. It provides a create, read, update and delete interface. Instagram and Nextdoor use Django.
A domain name system (DNS) is a naming system for computers and other services connected to the Internet. It maps more common domain names (www.create-learn.us for example) to the numerical IP addresses needed for network protocols.
When you double-click your mouse, you click twice very quickly. This allows two actions to be associated with the same mouse button: namely single-click and double-click.
Dragging is an important part of block-based languages like Scratch. You drag the blocks to different locations in the code to change the functionality. To learn more about creating with Scratch check out our awesome live online Scratch classes created by Google and Stanford experts.
Dropping is the other important part of block-based languages like Scratch. Together, they comprise the action drag and drop.
Else statements always need to be tied to an if or else-if statement. They will be executed if none of the conditions above have been met. They tell the computer to do one thing if something is true, or else do another thing if it’s not true.
These are loops that never happen. You can have an endless while loop if the condition you specify to continue looping never becomes false.
An event in computer programming is something like a user action, outputs or a message. In event-driven programming, the logic of the program is determined by these events.
An event handler is a block of code that responds to an event to do something with it. For example, this might be writing the action when a user clicks a button or presses a key.
An expression is a piece of syntax that's an arithmetic statement. It may include variables, operators or constants. The expression can also return a value to use later in the code.
Fiber optic cable
A fiber optic cable is made of very thin cables of glass or plastic coated in plastic. They carry light which is used for long distance communication or sending large amounts of data.
Firebase is a platform for mobile and web app development. Firebase provides integration with Google services like GoogleAd and Google Cloud Messaging.
First Lego League
First Lego League (FLL) is a competition for elementary and middle school students. The teams are given a specific task to find a problem, and then they meet throughout the year to compete with their robots.
First Robotics Competition
First Robotics Competition (FRC) is a competition for high school students. Teams have six weeks to build a robot to compete in a specific game.
A for loop repeats a block code based on iterating through values. This may be iterating through a range of numbers or iterating through items in a data structure.
A framework is a generic piece of software that a user can add their own functionality to. Frameworks provide a starting work and then you can add customizations to suit your needs.
A full-stack developer builds code for both the front end and back end. This might involve working with databases, servers, and web applications.
A function is a block of code that performs a specific task. In well-written code, the task is well-defined and not exceedingly long. A function that is very long or completes multiple tasks should be broken down into smaller functions.
A function call is using a function that has been defined elsewhere. In a function call you pass the necessary parameters and may store the return value of the function for later use.
A function definition includes the name of the function, the parameter it takes, and the block of code that performs the task of the function.
A geographic information system (GIS) is a framework that allows users to work with geographic data. You can query the data, store it, and share the data as maps.
Git is a software for version control and tracking changes across files in a project. It is often used for developing software in a team.
Github is an internet host for version control with Git. It has its own features like issue flagging, feature requests, and a system for reviewing pull requests.
A hacker is a person that breaches cybersecurity defenses to gain unauthorized access to information.
Haml is a system that allows you to write cleaner HTML. It also allows you to add dynamic content in HTML. Haml can be used in the command line.
Hardcoding is the practice of putting values directly in your code. This should be avoided, as it makes repetition and editing harder since you must remember to change every occurrence of the number and reduces readability.
A high-level language allows you to write code without worrying about details of the computer since it’s abstracted away. Popular examples include Python, Java, and C++.
HTML is the markup language to build webpages for a browser. It’s often accompanied by CSS to add style elements. You can think of HTML as the skeleton of the website and CSS as the embellishments.
An HTTP request is sent by a client to a host on a server, requesting to access information. The client uses the URL of the request to include information about what they are trying to access.
An if statement has a condition and a block of code associated with it. The block of code will only execute if the condition is true.
Input refers to the generic concept of giving your code information. This may be through user actions like a mouse click or passing parameters to a function.
Integrated development environment
An integrated development environment (IDE) is an application that provides programmers many features for software development like an editor or a debugger. Popular IDEs include VS Code and PyCharm.
The Internet is a set of computer networks connected to each other through internet protocol. These networks are connected through electronic and wireless technology, and help transmit lots of information like with the world wide web.
iOS Swift is a programming language developed by Apple. It is the more modern version of Objective-C and part of the C-family of programming languages.
An internet protocol (IP) address is an identifier for a device connected to a computer network that’s part of the internet protocol. IP addresses identify the host and its location in the network so other devices can send information.
Iteration refers to doing something many times. In for loops, you iterate through values, like a range of numbers or a data structure, and repeat a certain block of code.
Java is a powerful object-oriented programming language and a successor to C/C++. Syntax features of Java include curly braces, semicolons and declaring variables with their types. To learn more, check out our Java Primer with Android live online class.
Keys are used to identify or authenticate users trying to access data inside an API. Keys are generally unique.
Linux is a group of Unix-like operating systems. It was developed for personal computers and has become very popular, as many servers, smartphones and cloud infrastructure run with Linux.
In a local environment, you are running a project on your personal computer rather than a server. This allows you to make changes, like through testing, that won’t affect a live version of the project.
Loops are an important coding concept that allow you to repeat code. In for loops, you repeat the code while iterating through certain values. In while loops, you repeat the code as long as a certain condition is true.
Lua is a programming language designed in the 1990s to allow for more customization. It’s widely used by video game developers because it’s relatively easy to learn and runs quickly.
Machine language is the fundamental language of computers, made up of zeros and ones. Each instruction in machine language is read by the central processing unit (CPU) and allows it to execute a specific task.
Machine learning is a part of artificial intelligence that focuses on algorithms that can improve with additional data and training. Data is often split into training and test sets, where the algorithm learns to make predictions on the training set and the accuracy is evaluated on the test set.
The main function serves as the starting point for many programs to be executed. The main function will call other functions and variables written in the program.
A markup language controls text to be displayed on a document and instructions on how to format or structure the text. A popular markup language is HTML, which is used for websites.
In Scratch, messaging allows you to control the order that events happen. When you finish writing one section of code, you can add a message. When that message is reached, a second section of code is listening for it and starts running.
A micro:bit is a tiny computer that has a processor, sensors, Bluetooth connectivity, and the ability to accept input and output. Microsoft MakeCode and MicroPython are the code editors for the micro:bit hardware. Explore more in our live online class Lights & Beats with Micro:bit.
Minecraft is a video game created in Java. Players explore a 3D world where they can create buildings or find materials. With Minecraft: Education Edition, you can practice school subjects in the Minecraft world. Get started coding Minecraft with our fun Minecraft Coding Quest live online class.
Mobile coding is writing code that can run on mobile devices like apps. Android is the most popular mobile operating system, and using Android Studio and Java you can start writing apps for Android. Learn Mobile Coding for Apps and Games in our fun online class.
MySQL is a relational database management system. MySQL allows users to work with a database through SQL. It’s also used by social media sites and database-dependent web apps.
Neural networks are important concepts in machine learning. They’re made up of artificial neurons connected by weights. Neural networks can be trained to make predictions with a data set. They send information from an input layer, through hidden layers, to the output layer.
In programming, null refers to an empty or missing value.
Object oriented programming
Object oriented programming (OOP) is a concept that uses the ideas of classes and objects. Programmers can write classes which are reused in different instances called objects. Java is a popular object oriented language.
In object oriented programming, an object is an instance of a class. For example, you may write a class with instance variables like color, license plate, and model. Then you’ll create an instance of a class as a Car object that’s blue, has a license plate number of ABC-123 and is a Ford Mustang.
Online refers to a device being connected to a network, like the Internet. This allows the device to access information shared by other servers on the network.
Onshape is a software used for computer-aided design. You can use it through iOS or Android apps. Onshape uses cloud computing and generates the images on internet-based servers.
Open-source software development
Open source means the software has a copyright license means anyone can use, change or share the code. It allows for broad collaboration across communities.
An operand is the value the operator acts on. For example, the addition operator will act on two operands to be summed together.
An operator performs a task on certain values like a function. The arithmetic operators perform tasks like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The logical operators perform tasks like evaluating whether a statement is true.
An operating system (OS) manages the software, hardware, storage and other tasks on a computer. Common examples include Windows, Mac and Linux.
Output is a general term to refer to the product of an operation. The output of a function is its return value. Some programs may output text or graphics to the console.
In Java, a package is a group of related classes and interfaces. They provide another layer of organization since Java programs can have many classes.
Packets are a concept in computer networks. Information sent over a network like the internet is broken into packets and the device that receives them puts the packets back together.
Pair programming is a development technique where two people sit at one computer. One person types code while the other reviews the code. It leads to increased discussion and collaboration.
A parameter is a value passed to a function when the function is called. The function uses that value in the task it performs.
Checking a sequence for certain characters that make up a pattern. Usually the pattern match must be exact.
Persistence is when something exists longer than what created it. This can involve saving files in storage.
PHP is a scripting language used in web development. It’s processed on a web server which would contribute to an HTTP response.
A pixel is the smallest unit of a computer image. Each pixel has a red, green, and blue component. The size and clarity of the pixel depends on the computer screen’s resolution.
A pointer stores a memory address of an object. Pointers are useful for dynamically allocating memory on the heap, or in data structures like linked lists.
A program is a script of code written in a certain language to instruct the computer. Programs can be made of multiple functions that all work together.
Programming is the act of typing code into a program to achieve a larger task. This could be writing software like a game or implementing an algorithm.
A programming language defines the syntax that code needs to be written in. While languages can differ greatly in their implementation, they generally achieve the same purpose of allowing a person to give instructions to their computer.
Python is a widely used programming language. It’s a great choice for beginners since the syntax is easy to read and resembles English. There are many packages written for Python to help with tasks like graphics and machine learning. Learn more with our fun online Python for AI class - you can even start free!
The turtle is a pre-installed graphics library in Python. You can control a pen, called the turtle, to draw shapes and lines on a canvas.
R is a programming language often used for statistics. R libraries allow for modeling and statistical testing. RStudio is an IDE designed for programming in R.
React Native is a framework to build software by combining native iOS and Android platforms and React. The React components are wrappers for native code.
Relational Database Management System
A relational database structures data by organizing it into tables that are related to each other. A relational database management system (RDBMS) allows for a relational database in a computer’s storage system.
Oftentimes we want to repeat actions in code. This can be done with a loop. We can also write code in functions for reusability.
REST / RESTful
REST is a software architectural style guide for the creation of the world wide web making it possible for computers to communicate with each other. It includes principles like scalability, security, and reducing delays. A RESTful web API follows the REST ideology.
Roblox is a video game platform that also provides resources so anyone can build a game. They provide tutorials and sample projects so that anyone, even a beginner, can create their own game. Have fun with Roblox coding in our live online Coding with Roblox Studio class.
Robotics is the field of designing and building robots to perform tasks. Robots can automate simple and repetitive tasks done by humans, or they can work in environments that are dangerous to people.
Ruby is a programming language often used to build the front-end and back-end of web applications. It can also be used for other tasks such as data analysis.
Ruby on Rails
When you run a program, you can see the result of the code you wrote. Many IDEs provide an option to run code but this can also be done from the command line.
During runtime, a program is executed on a computer’s CPU as machine code. A runtime error is found while the program is executing, and may include something like a divide by zero error.
Scratch is a very popular drag-and-drop, block-based programming language. It encourages beginner programmers to get creative as they tell stories with sprites and backdrops. Scratch also introduces fundamental concepts like if statements, loops, and variables. Get started with our Scratch Junior or Scratch Ninja live online classes for kids to learn more.
A scripting language automates the running of different tasks through a script that would otherwise have to be done by a person. A scripting language also enables these tasks to be put together into programs.
A script is a set of instructions that is executed by another program rather than the computer processors like a compiled program.
A server provides information to other computers, and can do so over long distances over the internet. Examples include web servers and file servers.
Operations performed on the server are called server-side. This is in contrast to client-side operations involving the user. Tasks may use the server because it is quicker or clients may not need to access certain information.
Source code is the code in a program written by the programmer. You can use a text editor or an IDE to write your source code.
A sprite is a character in Scratch. The default sprite is the cat. You can add code for a sprite to make it do things like talk, move, or change color.
A sprint is a period of time in software development when certain tasks must be completed. Software development teams will organize the work they have to do by sprints.
SQL (Structured Query Language)
SQL is a programming language that allows users to add, update or extract information from a database. It works well for structured data.
The stack is a component of memory. Whenever you create a variable or call a function, your computer makes space on the stack. The other type of memory is the heap, which must be dynamically allocated by the programmer.
A statement refers to a single instruction in your program. This statement can do many things like checking a condition, calling a function or assigning a variable.
STEM is a grouping of four overlapping disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and math. The acronym is commonly used to summarize the education approach that unites the disciplines into one structured program
Syntax refers to the characters that make up the statements in a programming language. Languages differ by their syntax. For example, Python and Java have different syntax for declaring functions.
A table is a common method for storing and displaying data. Data is organized into columns and rows. Typically the columns have headers representing that information and the data in a row is all related.
TensorFlow is a library for machine learning available for many languages. It is commonly used for training neural networks.
A terminal is a piece of computer software that serves as a command line interface. Users can type commands into the terminal to interact with their computer.
A token allows you to perform an action on your computer. Examples include a security token which authenticates your device.
When creating a model, such as one used for machine learning, the model is fit on the training data set. The model is run with this model and makes predictions which are compared to the known values. Then the model is adjusted based on the results of the training.
Unity is a software framework for game development. It’s very popular for building both 3D and 2D games for iOS and Android. You can also use Unity to build desktop games. Check out our five-star rated Unity Game Development live online class to learn more.
A URL (universal resource locator) is also known as a web address. It provides information on where a web resource is located and how to access it.
Usability testing involves analyzing how a software works for the user. This includes tasks like making sure the software performs effectively and efficiently and provides an enjoyable experience for the user.
User experience design
User experience design (UX) is the process of making a piece of software as smoothly as possible for the user. UX designers ensure that software is easy, intuitive and enjoyable to use.
User interface design
User interface (UI) designers ensure that a user and the software can work well together, often through input mechanisms. User interfaces are often graphical and allow the user to type and click to enter input.
A variable stores information in your program. Giving your variable good names improves readability. A variable can be passed as a parameter in a function and its value can change.
A variable type refers to the data type of the object stored inside the variable. Common examples include int, double, and string. In languages like Java, you need to set the type when you declare a variable.
Version control is about tracking changes made in a software project. This is very helpful when multiple people are working on the same project. Team members may use version control to verify the new changes made to a program.
VEXcode VR lets you code a virtual robot using a block-based coding environment powered by Scratch Blocks or a text-based coding powered by Python.
Virtual reality (VR) creates a simulated environment. One common use case is video games. In most VR systems, a user wears a headset that provides sensory stimuli to create a realistic presence for the user in their virtual environment.
A website is a group of webpages that can be accessed through the same domain name, like create-learn.us. The collection of public websites makes up the world wide web.
A while loop allows you to repeat a block of code as long as a certain condition is true. Be careful to make sure there’s a condition where you can break out of the loop; otherwise it’s an infinite loop!
A wireless technology that allows users to connect to networks like the internet without a cable. Devices connect to the internet wirelessly through a router.
A markup language that promotes simplicity and usability. In Android programming, you can use an XML file to design the layout and components of your app.
Use the kids guide to common programming terms and definitions
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Written by Sophie Andrews, a Create & Learn instructor. Sophie Andrews is a student at Stanford University studying Math andComputational Sciences. She loves teaching and is a teaching assistant for Stanford's introductory computer science classes. Her work focuses on data science. Last year she built the online National Vote Trackers for The Cook Political Report, and she currently leads the Data Team at The Stanford Daily. She's also interned with the FCC and the National Renewable Energy Lab.