Top 50 Programming Terms and Definitions for Beginners

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Top 50 Programming Terms and Definitions for Beginners

Vinay Khatri
Last updated on June 16, 2024

    Computer programming is one of the most in-demand skills, and there is a broad spectrum of job roles whose primary requirement is programming. Also, many tech giants, like Google, Facebook, Apple, and many others, hire professional programmers.

    If you are into programming and want to become a programmer, you must know the basic terminologies used in computer programming.

    This article intends to familiarize you with the top programming terms you should know before learning to program. However, let’s first take a look at the basic definition of computer programming.

    Common Coding Terms - A Quick Overview

    Computer Program

    Programming Language


    Object-Oriented Programming

    Structured Programming

    Functional Programming


    Flow Chart

    Data Types








    Data Structure


    Command-Line Interface



    High-Level Language

    Low-Level Language



    Conditional Statements



















    Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

    Operating System

    Structured Query Language (SQL)


    Version Control

    Pair Programming

    What is Computer Programming?

    Computer programming is an approach to instructing computers to perform various tasks. It is a way of communicating with machines or computer systems. Programmers write a set of instructions or commands using a language understandable by machines or computer systems, called programming language. On receiving instructions, machines or computer systems perform the specified tasks.

    Read more about it: What is Programming?

    Top 50 Programming Terms and Definitions Every Beginner Must Know

    Here is a curated list of top programming terms that every beginner should know:

    1. Computer Program

    A computer program is a set of instructions fed to a computer to perform a specific task. It enables us to communicate with computers and instruct them how to behave. Every action taken by a computer is controlled by a computer program. We can store a computer program as a file on a computer’s hard drive. When we execute that file, the central processing unit (CPU) reads the instructions stored within the file, executes it, and the computer will perform accordingly.

    To understand better what a computer program is, here are some examples:

    • Microsoft Word is a computer program that enables us to create and edit documents.
    • A web browser, like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, helps us to browse and retrieve the requested information from the web.
    • Operating system.

    2. Programming Language

    A programming language is a language that programmers use to communicate with computers. We can think of a programming language as a language used to write instructions and create programs. Some popularly used programming languages are C, C++, Python, Java, Ruby, Perl, and JavaScript.

    Programming languages are easier to understand for humans since they use common English words and punctuation. But machines do not understand these languages. A computer program developed using a particular programming language is translated into a language understandable by computers, called machine language.

    3. Coding

    Coding is a process of developing or writing an executable computer program using programming languages that instruct computers how to behave or work. It does not encompass only the task of writing computer programs but also involves several other tasks.

    There are three phases in coding, namely problem-solving, implementation, and maintenance.

    • The problem-solving phase is concerned with understanding a problem and devising a solution that has a sequence of logical steps, called an algorithm.
    • In the implementation phase, the algorithm is translated into a computer program using a specific programming language. Once the program is written, it is tested for logical and syntactical errors.
    • The maintenance phase involves the use of the developed computer program to solve the problem and modify it to meet the changing requirements.

    4. Object-oriented Programming

    Object-oriented programming , or OOP, is a programming model that organizes software design around data or objects rather than functions and logic. In other words, object-oriented programming is a computer programming paradigm built on the concept of ‘objects’ that contain data in the form of fields and code in the form of procedures. Some significant programming languages that follow the object-oriented programming paradigm include C++, Java, Python, C#, JavaScript, Ruby, Scala, Perl, and Common Lisp.

    5. Structured Programming

    Structured programming is a programming paradigm that divides a program into small modules to make the program easy to understand. In this programming paradigm, the code will execute one instruction after the other, i.e, in a serialized manner. It does not support jumping from one instruction to another.

    6. Functional Programming

    Functional programming is a programming model that primarily focuses on ‘what to solve’, instead of focusing on ‘how to solve’. It is a way of writing a software program by creating pure functions. Its primary focus is on the expressions and declarations rather than the execution of statements. The output of a functional program depends on the arguments passed to a function.

    7. Algorithm

    An algorithm in computer programming is a set of sequential instructions used to solve a specific problem. We can think of an algorithm as a step-by-step guide to accomplish a particular task. We can write an algorithm in a simple and understandable English language.

    8. Flowchart

    A flowchart in programming is a visual representation of an algorithm. The process of drawing a flowchart for an algorithm is referred to as flowcharting. A flowchart consists of different shapes connected to each other to represent the flow of program control. The following are different shapes used in a flowchart:

    • Oval: An oval-shaped symbol represents the start and end of a program’s logic flow.
    • Parallelogram: We can represent any function of input-output type using a parallelogram.
    • Square box: It represents arithmetic instructions, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
    • Diamond: It represents decision-based operations, such as yes or no questions or true or false statements.
    • Circle: It is a connector that connects flowcharts spread across more than one page.
    • Arrows: They represent the flow of control and relationships between different symbols of a flowchart.

    9. Data Types

    A data type in computer programming is simply a type or attribute of data that informs a compiler or interpreter about how a programmer wants to use that data. As humans, we can understand the difference between numbers and characters, but computers cannot differentiate. Therefore, for computers to understand the type of data it receives, we use data types.

    Some common data types in computer programming are integer, float, boolean, string, and char.

    • Integer: It represents whole numbers.
    • Float: It represents numbers with decimal points.
    • String: It represents alphanumeric characters.
    • Boolean: It represents logical values, such as true or false.
    • Character: It represents a single character.

    10. Functions

    A function is a separate block of organized code intended to perform a specific task. It takes input, processes it, and produces output. It is ideal to use functions in a software program when it is required to implement the same functionality at multiple places. Instead of repeatedly writing the same code, we can create a function for that functionality once and call it wherever required in a program. The basic form of a function is:

    return_type function_name([ arg1_type arg1_name,  arg2_type arg2_name, ... argN_type argN_name ]) 

    11. Parameters

    A parameter is a variable defined during the declaration of a function. It is always defined by its data type and receives an argument passed during a functional call. To understand what a parameter is, let us take one example. Consider a function, sum(), to calculate the sum of two numbers. The two numbers whose sum is to be calculated are called parameters. We define these numbers while declaring the function sum().

    12. Arguments

    Arguments, also referred to as actual parameters, are values that are passed to a function when it is called. Each argument is assigned to a parameter when a function is called. We use arguments in a function call statement to pass values from the calling function to the receiving function. Let us write a simple C++ program to calculate the sum of two numbers to understand what arguments and parameters are.

    int sum( int a, int b) 
       return a+b; 
    int main() 
       int num1 = 10; 
       int num2 = 35; 
       int total_sum; 
       total_sum = sum(num1, num2); 
       printf("The sum of two numbers is:" %d", total_sum); 
    return 0; 


    The sum of two numbers is: 45

    In the above example, we have a sum() function that calculates the sum of two numbers. Parameters are int a, int b defined while declaring the sum() function. On the other hand, arguments are num1, num2 passed to a function when it is called.

    13. Operators

    In computer programming, an operator is a symbol that instructs a compiler or interpreter to perform mathematical, logical, or relational operations to produce a specific result. There are three basic types of operators in computer programming, namely arithmetic, relational, and logical.

    • An arithmetic operator performs addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and modulus.
    • A relation operator compares two numbers.
    • A logical operator combines two or more conditions.

    14. Variable

    A variable is a name that we assign to a computer memory location that stores data values within a program. The value of a variable may change during the execution of a program. For example, consider an integer variable with the name ‘sum’ that stores a value of 50. If a programmer initiates a variable with another value, say 60, the variable ‘sum’ will store the value 60.

    15. Keyword

    Keywords are pre-defined or reserved words that have special meanings to a compiler. They are part of the syntax, and we cannot use keywords as variable names. Every programming language has its own set of keywords. For example, consider a code of line, int age;. Here, int is a keyword representing the variable ‘age’ of the integer type.

    16. Constant

    Constants are fixed values, i.e., we cannot change the values of constants anytime during the execution of a program. They can be of any data type, like integer, float, character, or string. Like a variable, a constant is also the name of a memory location that stores a fixed value throughout a program.

    17. Data Structure

    A data structure is a format to organize, manage, and store data efficiently such that it becomes easier to access and modify data. Some popular data structures in computer programming are array, lists, stack, graph, linked list, queue, tree, and many more.

    18. Array

    An array in computer programming is a collection of similar data elements stored at contiguous memory locations. It consists of data items of the same type. Each data item in an array has an index value. We can access data items in an array using their indexes. The index value of the first element in an array is 0. For example, an array can be a collection of ages of students in a class, where age is of integer type. Similarly, an array can also be the name of students in a class since all the names of students are of String type.

    19. Command-line Interface

    A command-line interface (CLI) is a text-based user interface that processes commands which are input by users in the form of text. It is also referred to as a character user interface or console user interface. In simple words, a command-line interface enables users to interact with a computer program or operating system using commands.

    20. Compiler

    In computer programming, a compiler is a program that translates a source code written in one programming language into another programming language. It converts source code written in a high-level programming language into a low-level or machine-level language. Some popular compiled programming languages are C, C++, and COBOL.

    21. Interpreter

    An interpreter in computer programming is a special program that executes the source code directly without converting it into low-level or machine-level language. Some popular interpreted programming languages are Python, Perl, and MATLAB.

    22. High-level Language

    A high-level programming language is a language that enables us to develop a program in a user-friendly programming context, and it is considered closer to humans. Such a language is easy to understand, read, and write. A high-level language provides a higher-level abstraction from a computer.

    High-level languages are independent of a computer’s hardware architecture. Also, while developing a program in a high-level language, there is no need to address hardware constraints. A compiler or interpreter must translate a program written in a high-level language into machine language before a computer executes it. Examples of high-level languages are C, C++, BASIC, FORTRAN, and Pascal.

    23. Low-level Language

    Unlike a high-level language, a low-level language concerns a computer’s hardware components and constraints. It provides little to no abstraction of programming languages. A low-level language is considered closer to computers and is referred to as a computer’s native language. We can directly execute programs written in a low-level language without compilation or translation. Examples of low-level languages are machine language and assembly language.

    24. Identifier

    An identifier is a name assigned to a variable, function, or array in a program. It is a user-defined name consisting of a sequence of letters and digits. An identifier should always begin with either a letter or the underscore (_) symbol. It should not be the same as keywords since keywords are reserved words.

    25. Token

    A token is a program's smallest unit or element, which is meaningful to a compiler. Various types of tokens are keywords, variables, constants, identifiers, special symbols, operators, and strings.

    26. Conditional Statements

    Conditional statements, also known as conditionals, conditional constructs, or conditional expressions, are commands used to make decisions based on specified conditions. These statements perform different actions depending upon whether the boolean condition evaluates to true or false. Examples of conditional statements are ‘if-else’, ‘while’, ‘if’, and ‘else-if’.

    27. Loops

    The concept of a loop in computer programming comes into play when we need to execute a particular set of instructions repetitively until a specified condition is met. For example, consider we need to print “Hello everyone” 10 times. Writing separate 10 lines for printing each “Hello everyone” is inconvenient and inefficient.

    A loop eliminates the need to write separate lines for printing “Hello everyone” 10 times. We can print “Hello everyone” as many times as we want by writing just a single line. Here is a C++ program that prints “Hello everyone” 10 times.

    #include <stdio.h>   
    int main() 
        int i=0;           
        for (i = 1; i <= 10; i++)     
            printf( "Hello everyone\n");        
    return 0; 


    Hello everyone 
    Hello everyone 
    Hello everyone 
    Hello everyone 
    Hello everyone 
    Hello everyone 
    Hello everyone 
    Hello everyone 
    Hello everyone 
    Hello everyone

    28. Expression

    An expression in computer programming is a combination of operators, variables, and constants. It can consist of one or more operators and operands. For example, A+B*C is an expression where A, B, and C are operands, and + and * are operators.

    29. Pointer

    A pointer in computer programming is an object that stores the address of a memory location. It refers to a location in memory, and retrieving the value stored at that location is called dereferencing a pointer.

    30. Null

    Null in computer programming is a value and also a pointer. It represents a character with no value, missing characters, or an end of a string. In other terms, we can define null as a built-in constant with a value of 0.

    31. ASCII

    ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It is a standard character set for computers and electronic devices. ASCII codes represent text in computers, electronic devices, and telecommunications equipment. It is a 7-bit code containing 128 characters, where each bit represents a unique character. In addition, the ASCII code consists of 0-9 numbers, A-Z lowercase and upper-case letters, and some special symbols.

    32. Bug

    A bug, known as a software bug or computer bug, is an unexpected error or flaw in a computer program. It causes a system to behave unexpectedly and produce inaccurate and unexpected results.

    33. Byte

    A byte is the fundamental data unit consisting of 8 binary bits, each with a value of either 0 or 1. Alternatively, we can define a byte as a string of 8 bits. For example, 00111101 is a string of 8 bits that represents one byte.

    34.  Syntax

    A syntax in computer programming is a set of rules that define the correct sequence of symbols that can be used to form a syntactically correct and structured program. In other words, syntax is a set of rules that control the structure of symbols, punctuations, and keywords of a specific programming language. Each programming language has its own syntax.

    35. Framework

    A framework in computer programming is a basic building block or a foundation structure for building software applications. It combines support programs, compilers, toolsets, application program interfaces ( APIs ), and libraries altogether and facilitates the development of software applications.

    In short, we can define a framework as a template or conceptual structure consisting of a set of tools and modules that we can use for developing software applications quickly and efficiently. A framework lets developers focus on high-level functionalities of an application under development since it manages all low-level features. Therefore, using a framework for developing software applications can save a lot of time.

    36. Library

    A library is a set of non-volatile resources, such as configuration data, help data, message templates, documentation, pre-written code, and subroutines, values, type specifications, or values. These resources are used for software development. Developers generally use libraries to add specific functionality to a software application.

    37. Exception

    An exception is an unexpected event occurring during the execution of a software program that disturbs the normal flow of that program’s instructions. One simple example of an exception is when a program tries to access or load a file from the disk, but the file does not exist.

    38. Class

    A class in object-oriented programming is a user-defined data type that binds data members and member functions together. We can access those data members and member functions only by creating the instance of that class. Data members are variables, and member functions are functions, and together they define the properties and behavior of that class’s objects.

    For example, consider a class named students . There are a number of students with different names, but all of them will have the same properties, like Roll_no, Address, Contant_number, and Age. Therefore, students is the class, and Roll_no, Address, Contant_number, and Age are its properties.

    49. Objects

    An object in object-oriented programming is an instance of a class. It contains data in the form of fields called attributes and codes in the form of procedures known as methods. It provides a structured approach to programming. When we create a class, the memory is not allocated. But when we create an object for that class or instantiate that class, the memory is allocated.

    40. Inheritance

    Inheritance in object-oriented programming is a mechanism of creating or deriving new classes from the existing ones to form a hierarchy of classes. The newly created class is referred to as a child class, whereas the class used as the base is called a parent class or base class.

    41. Database

    A database is an organized and systematic collection of data stored electronically in computer systems. It serves as a container for data. Database management systems ( DBMS ) are responsible for managing databases. A database system is referred to as the database, DBMS, and associated applications collectively.

    42. Debugging

    Debugging in computer programming and software development is a process of identifying and fixing bugs or defects that disturbs or prevents the correct operation of a computer program or software.

    43. Testing

    Testing in computer programming is the process of executing a computer program with the intention of identifying errors in it. It is essential for a software program to be error-free and perform a specific task without any issues. Besides finding errors, testing also ensures that a software program performs as expected.

    44. DRY

    DRY stands for Don’t Repeat Yourself. As its name suggests, DRY implies that there should be only one copy of any piece of information. The primary purpose of the DRY principle is to avoid creating multiple copies of a piece of information since maintaining only one copy is easier. Also, making changes in a single copy is far easier than in multiple copies.

    45. Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

    An integrated development environment (IDE) is a platform that provides various developer tools under one roof to facilitate the software development process. It consists of at least a source code editor, build automation tools, and a debugger. However, many IDEs incorporate a compiler, an interpreter, or both.

    • Source code editor: It is a text editor that helps programmers to write code. It offers various features, such as syntax highlighting, language-specific code completion, and error detection.
    • Build automation tools: They are the utilities that automate several repetitive tasks, such as running automated tests and compiling source code into binary code.
    • Debugger: It is a program that identifies and fixes bugs and errors in a software program.

    46. Operating System

    An operating system is a software that manages software resources and computer hardware, and it also offers different services for computer applications. It acts as an interface between computer hardware and users. In addition, an operating system performs fundamental tasks, such as file management, memory management, input and output, process management, and peripheral devices.

    47. Structured Query Language (SQL)

    A structured query language (SQL) is a domain-specific language used for accessing and manipulating data stored in relational databases . Following are some of the key tasks that one can perform using SQL.

    • Create new databases.
    • Create views and store procedures in a database.
    • Retrieve data from a database.
    • Insert records in a database.
    • Delete records from a database.
    • Update records in a database.

    48. API

    API stands for Application Program Interface. It acts as a mediator between two different applications. It is an interface that facilitates communication between two different applications without user intervention. In other words, we can define an API as a set of functions and procedures that enables data transmission between two different software applications.

    49. Version Control

    Version control is a component of a software configuration system, and it is also referred to as source control, source code management, and revision control. It is a class of systems that tracks and manages changes made to computer programs, websites, documentation, and other collections of information.

    50. Pair Programming

    Pair programming is an agile software development technique where two programmers work at a single workstation. One programmer is called a driver who writes code, and the other is called a navigator who navigates each line of the code. A driver and a programmer can frequently change their role during software development. The following are the three pairing variations:

    • Newbie-Newbie: Both programmers are newbies in the field of programming.
    • Expert-Newbie: One programmer is an expert, and the other is a newbie. Therefore, a newbie can learn many things from an expert, whereas an expert can get a chance to share knowledge with a newbie.
    • Expert-Expert: Both programmers are experts and form a great pair since they can efficiently develop high-performing and fully functional software.


    Every novice needs to know these common coding terms before they start learning to code. As the programming domain is quite extensive, there are several terms associated with it, and having knowledge of them is absolutely essential.

    This article explains some of the most commonly used terminologies in computer programming, including computer program, object-oriented programming, variable, loop, bug, framework, and API.

    If you have any queries or suggestions, feel free to share them with us in the comments section below.

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