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[boot-strap] /ˈbutˌstræp/
a loop of leather or cloth sewn at the top rear, or sometimes on each side, of a boot to facilitate pulling it on.
a means of advancing oneself or accomplishing something:
He used his business experience as a bootstrap to win voters.
relying entirely on one's efforts and resources:
The business was a bootstrap operation for the first ten years.
self-generating or self-sustaining:
a bootstrap process.
verb (used with object), bootstrapped, bootstrapping.
Computers. boot1 (defs 24, 28).
to help (oneself) without the aid of others:
She spent years bootstrapping herself through college.
pull oneself up by one's bootstraps, to help oneself without the aid of others; use one's resources:
I admire him for pulling himself up by his own bootstraps.
Origin of bootstrap
1890-95; boot1 + strap Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for bootstrap
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • One man turned up in bootstrap with radiation burns, but he had not offered himself for check over at the hospital.

    Space Platform Murray Leinster
  • In the desert near bootstrap there was a gigantic construction shed.

    Space Platform Murray Leinster
  • They were the pilot and co-pilot, respectively, of the fateful plane that had brought him to bootstrap.

    Space Platform Murray Leinster
  • Once they met a convoy of empty vehicles on the way back to bootstrap.

    Space Platform Murray Leinster
  • In the few minutes before bootstrap loomed near, they filled the bottom of the cabin with blankets.

    Space Platform Murray Leinster
  • Then they went out into the neon-lighted business street of bootstrap.

    Space Platform Murray Leinster
  • They headed for bootstrap in a convoy, a long, long string of lighted vehicles running one behind the other.

    Space Platform Murray Leinster
  • They arrived in bootstrap some forty-six hours after the crashing of their ship.

    Space Tug Murray Leinster
  • The skeleton compiler acts as a bootstrap for introducing more sophisticated facilities.

British Dictionary definitions for bootstrap


a leather or fabric loop on the back or side of a boot for pulling it on
by one's bootstraps, by one's own bootstraps, by one's own efforts; unaided
(modifier) self-acting or self-sufficient, as an electronic amplifier that uses its output voltage to bias its input
  1. Also boot. a technique for loading the first few program instructions into a computer main store to enable the rest of the program to be introduced from an input device
  2. (as modifier): a bootstrap loader
(commerce) an offer to purchase a controlling interest in a company, esp with the intention of purchasing the remainder of the equity at a lower price
verb (transitive) -straps, -strapping, -strapped
to set up or achieve (something) using minimal resources
(foll by to) to attach (something) to a larger or more important thing
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for bootstrap

also boot-strap, tab or loop at the back of the top of a men's boot, which the wearer hooked a finger through to pull the boots on, 1870, from boot (n.) + strap (n.).

Circa 1900, to pull (oneself) up by (one's) bootstraps was used figuratively of an impossible task (Among the "practical questions" at the end of chapter one of Steele's "Popular Physics" schoolbook (1888) is, "30. Why can not a man lift himself by pulling up on his boot-straps?"). By 1916 its meaning expanded to include "better oneself by rigorous, unaided effort." The meaning "fixed sequence of instructions to load the operating system of a computer" (1953) is from the notion of the first-loaded program pulling itself, and the rest, up by the bootstrap.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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bootstrap in Technology

operating system, compiler
To load and initialise the operating system on a computer. Normally abbreviated to "boot". From the curious expression "to pull oneself up by one's bootstraps", one of the legendary feats of Baron von Munchhausen. The bootstrap loader is the program that runs on the computer before any (normal) program can run. Derived terms include reboot, cold boot, warm boot, soft boot and hard boot.
The term also applies to the use of a compiler to compile itself. The usual process is to write an interpreter for a language, L, in some other existing language. The compiler is then written in L and the interpreter is used to run it. This produces an executable for compiling programs in L from the source of the compiler in L. This technique is often used to verify the correctness of a compiler. It was first used in the LISP community.
See also My Favourite Toy Language.
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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