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[ih-nish-uh-lahyz] /ɪˈnɪʃ əˌlaɪz/
verb (used with object), initialized, initializing. Computers.
to set (variables, counters, switches, etc.) to their starting values at the beginning of a program or subprogram.
to clear (internal memory, a disk, etc.) of previous data in preparation for use.
Also, especially British, initialise.
Origin of initialize
1955-60; initial + -ize Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for initialise
Historical Examples
  • Our fancy supplies us, and there not being many, we will just initialise them all, and let he whom the cap fits put it on.

    Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities Robert Smith Surtees
British Dictionary definitions for initialise


(transitive) to assign an initial value to (a variable or storage location) in a computer program
Derived Forms
initialization, initialisation, noun
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 initialise



1833, "to designate by initials," from initial + -ize. Meaning "to make ready for operation" is from 1957. Related: Initialized; initializing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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initialise in Technology

To give a variable its first value. This may be done automatically by some languages or it may require explicit code by the programmer. Some languages allow initialisation to be combined with variable definition, e.g. in C:
int i = 0;
Failing to initialise a variable before using it is a common programming error, but one which compilers and automatic checkers like lint can easily detect.

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