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[desk-top] /ˈdɛskˌtɒp/
small or compact enough to fit or be used on a desk:
a desktop calendar.
the surface of a desk.
  1. Also called desktop computer. a computer that is not portable, often consisting of a CPU, monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
    Compare laptop.
  2. the primary display screen of a graphical user interface, on which various icons represent files, groups of files, programs, or the like, which can be moved, accessed, added to, put away, or thrown away in ways analogous to the handling of file folders, documents, notes, etc., on a real desk.
Origin of desktop
First recorded in 1925-30; desk + top1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for desktop
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Suddenly he gasped, and jabbed one of the many buttons that patterned his desktop.

    A Knyght Ther Was Robert F. Young
  • The three microcards and the order itself appeared simultaneously on the desktop viewer of the Star Watch personnel officer.

    The Dueling Machine Benjamin William Bova
  • The beneficiary rose to his feet, seeming not to see the hand the old Judge had extended across the desktop toward him.

    From Place to Place

    Irvin S. Cobb
  • He crested the desktop and joined his brother in ferrying out more parts.


    Cory Doctorow
  • Plug them in and they show up on your desktop like a little hard drive.

British Dictionary definitions for desktop


the main screen display on a personal computer, from which windows may be opened and programs run
(modifier) denoting a computer system, esp for word processing, that is small enough to use at a desk
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 desktop

1929, from desk + top. As an adjective meaning "suitable for use on a desktop," it is recorded from 1958 (in reference to computers). As a shortening of desktop computer, recorded from 1983. Desktop publishing recorded from 1984.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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