• synonyms


noun Computers.
  1. adjacent bits, usually eight, processed by a computer as a unit.
  2. the combination of bits used to represent a particular letter, number, or special character.
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Origin of byte

First recorded in 1959; origin uncertain
Can be confusedbight bite byte
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for bytes

data, unit

Examples from the Web for bytes

Historical Examples of bytes

  • It cannot even be expressed in our new measurement of bits and bytes and all kinds of flops.

    The Civilization of Illiteracy

    Mihai Nadin

British Dictionary definitions for bytes


noun computing
  1. a group of bits, usually eight, processed as a single unit of data
  2. the storage space in a memory or other storage device that is allocated to such a group of bits
  3. a subdivision of a word
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Word Origin for byte

C20: probably a blend of bit 4 + bite
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

Word Origin and History for bytes



1956, American English; see bit (n.2). Reputedly coined by Dr. Werner Buchholz at IBM.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

bytes in Science


  1. A sequence of adjacent bits operated on as a unit by a computer. A byte usually consists of eight bits. Amounts of computer memory are often expressed in terms of megabytes (1,048,576 bytes) or gigabytes (1,073,741,824 bytes).
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Usage: The word bit is short for binary digit. A bit consists of one of two values, usually 0 or 1. Computers use bits because their system of counting is based on two options: switches on a microchip that are either on or off. Thus, a computer counts to seven in bits as follows: 0, 1, 10 [2], 11 [3], 100 [4], 101 [5], 110 [6], 111 [7]. Notice that the higher the count, the more adjacent bits are needed to represent the number. For example, it requires two adjacent bits to count from 0 to 3, and it takes three adjacent bits to count from 0 to 7. A sequence of bits can represent not just numbers but other kinds of data, such as the letters and symbols on a keyboard. The sequence of 0s and 1s that make up data are usually counted in groups of 8, and these groups of 8 bits are called bytes. In origin byte is simply a respelling of bite, a byte being the number of bits that a computer can take at one bite, so to speak. The spelling change was intended to avoid confusion in written documents, since bite becomes identical to bit if the e at the end of bite is accidentally dropped. To transmit one keystroke on a typical keyboard requires one byte of information (or 8 bits). To transmit a three-letter word requires three bytes of information (or 24 bits).
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

bytes in Culture



In computer technology, a unit of information made up of bits (often eight bits). The memory capacity of a typical personal computer runs from millions to billions of bytes.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.