Part of the Programming glossary:

In computer architecture, a word is a unit of data of a defined bit length that can be addressed and moved between storage and the computer processor. Usually, the defined bit length of a word is equivalent to the width of the computer's data bus so that a word can be moved in a single operation from storage to a processor register. For any computer architecture with an eight-bit byte, the word will be some multiple of eight bits. In IBM's evolutionary System/360 architecture, a word is 32 bits, or four contiguous eight-bit bytes. In Intel's PC processor architecture, a word is 16 bits, or two contiguous eight-bit bytes.

Some computer processor architectures support a half word, which is half the bit length of a word, and a double word (doubleword), which is two contiguous words. Intel's processor architecture also supports a quadword, two contiguous doublewords, and a double quadword, two contiguous quadwords.

A word can contain a computer instruction, a storage address, or application data that is to be manipulated (for example, added to the  data in another word space). In some architectures, a double word or larger unit is required to contain an instruction, address, or application data. Typically, an instruction is a word in length, but some architectures support halfword and doubleword-length instructions.

In general, the longer the architected word length, the more the computer processor can do in a single operation.

This was last updated in September 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms

Definitions

  • Easter Egg

    - An Easter Egg is an unexpected surprise -- an undocumented procedure or unauthorized feature that's playful in nature or gives credit to the software developer or chip designer. (WhatIs.com)

  • NetBeans

    - NetBeans is a Java-based integrated development environment (IDE). The term also refers to the IDE’s underlying application platform framework.  (SearchSOA.com)

  • scraper site

    - A scraper site is a website that features content stolen from other sites and presented as original. Scraper sites copy valuable content from legitimate websites and republish it on their own sites. (WhatIs.com)

Glossaries

  • Programming

    - Terms related to software programming, including definitions about programming languages and words and phrases about software design, coding, testing and debugging.

  • Internet applications

    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

Tech TalkComment

Share
Comments

    Results

    Contribute to the conversation

    All fields are required. Comments will appear at the bottom of the article.