Browse Definitions:

natural language understanding (NLU)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Natural language understanding (NLU) is a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) that uses computer software to understand input made in the form of sentences in text or speech format.

NLU directly enables human-computer interaction (HCI). NLU understanding of natural human languages enables computers to understand commands without the formalized syntax of computer languages and for computers to communicate back to humans in their own languages.

The field of NLU is an important and challenging subset of natural language processing (NLP). While both understand human language, NLU is tasked with communicating with untrained individuals and understanding their intent, meaning that NLU goes beyond understanding words and interprets meaning. NLU is even programmed with the ability to understand meaning in spite of common human errors like mispronunciations or transposed letters or words.

NLU uses algorithms to reduce human speech into a structured ontology. AI fishes out such things as intent, timing, locations and sentiments. For example, a request for an island camping trip on Vancouver Island on the 18th of august might break down something like this: Ferry tickets [intent] / need: camping lot reservation [intent] / Vancouver Island [location] / August 18th [date].

The main drive behind NLU is to create chat and speech enabled bots that can interact effectively with the public without supervision. NLU is a pursuit of many start up and major IT companies. Companies working on NLU include Medium's Lola, Amazon's with Alexis and Lex, Apple's Siri, Google's Assistant and Microsoft's Cortana.

This was last updated in October 2017

Continue Reading About natural language understanding (NLU)

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.


Dateiendungen und Dateiformate

Gesponsert von:


  • risk map (risk heat map)

    A risk map, also known as a risk heat map, is a data visualization tool for communicating specific risks an organization faces.

  • internal audit (IA)

    An internal audit (IA) is an organizational initiative to monitor and analyze its own business operations in order to determine ...

  • pure risk (absolute risk)

    Pure risk, also called absolute risk, is a category of threat that is beyond human control and has only one possible outcome if ...


  • federated identity management (FIM)

    Federated identity management (FIM) is an arrangement that can be made among multiple enterprises to let subscribers use the same...

  • cross-site scripting (XSS)

    Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a type of injection security attack in which an attacker injects data, such as a malicious script, ...

  • firewall

    In computing, a firewall is software or firmware that enforces a set of rules about what data packets will be allowed to enter or...



  • business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR)

    Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) are closely related practices that describe an organization's preparation for ...

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...


  • volume manager

    A volume manager is software within an operating system (OS) that controls capacity allocation for storage arrays.

  • external storage device

    An external storage device, also referred to as auxiliary storage and secondary storage, is a device that contains all the ...

  • NetApp SolidFire

    NetApp SolidFire is a business division of NetApp Inc. that specializes in all-flash storage systems.


  • hybrid hard disk drive (HDD)

    A hybrid hard disk drive is an electromechanical spinning hard disk that contains some amount of NAND Flash memory.