hot spot

or hot·spot

[ hot-spot ]
/ ˈhɒtˌspɒt /
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Origin of hot spot

An Americanism dating back to 1925–30

Other definitions for hot spot (2 of 2)

[ hot-spot ]
/ ˈhɒtˌspɒt /

verb (used with object), hot-spot·ted, hot-spot·ting.
to stop (a forest fire) at a hot spot.

Origin of hot-spot

First recorded in 1950–55; v. use of hot spot
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What else does hotspot mean?

A hotspot is a public place that offers wireless internet. A mobile or personal hotspot lets a user go online by connecting a device to their smartphone.

How is hotspot pronounced?

[ hot-spot ]

What are some other forms of hotspot?

hot spot or hot-spot

What are some other words related to hotspot?


Where does hotspot come from?

Long before the internet, the phrase hot spot was referring to all sorts of “active” (hot) places (spots). In the 19th century, for instance, a hot spot could refer to a dangerous region due to armed conflict, or it could refer to a patch of skin warmer than another. In the early 20th century, a hot spot came to refer to an exciting social venue in slang, and, in ecology, an area teeming with biodiversity, to name a few more examples.

The technology for internet hotspots came in the early 1990s, called public access wireless local area networks. Hotspot is a much catchier name, though, and is recorded as early as 1999. Hot refers to internet connection (think “live” or “operating”) and spot refers to the access point between a device and a router in public. One early pioneer was T-Mobile Hotspot.

During the 2000s, hotspots spread in public spaces where people might want or need internet connection to do work or for entertainment, including airports, coffee shops, and libraries. These became called Wi-Fi hotspots, prominently featured on signage in businesses and institutions to entice (or comfort!) patrons. Major cities began offering more and more free Wi-Fi, turning whole towns into hotspots.

The 2010s saw the rise of smartphones, such iPhones and Android devices, which used a technology called tethering to use a person’s phone as a mobile or personal hotspot for other devices, such as tablets or laptops. While public Wi-Fi hotspots have limited range and speed, slowed down with too many users, mobile or personal hotspots broadened high-speed internet access to the modern person on the go.

As of 2018, the vast majority of smartphones provided mobile hotspots, and the U.S. alone offers tens of millions of public Wi-Fi hotspots.

How is hotspot used in real life?

Hotspots are widely offered to customers by businesses such as bars, coffee shops, hotels, and transportation hubs as a perk beloved (er, desperately relied upon) by travelers, students, and businesspeople.

A handy rule of thumb: hotspot, one word, generally refers to internet hotspots while hot spot, two words, refers to various other concepts in other domains like ecology and slang.

As noted, hotspots are frequently called Wi-Fi hotspots when you’re connecting to an establishment’s Wi-Fi versus mobile or personal hotspots when tethering devices.

More examples of hotspot:

“A WiFi hotspot will soon be available at the Mariposa County Visitor Center/Chamber of Commerce building.”

—Matt Johnson, Mariposa Gazette, May 2018

How to use hot spot in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for hot spot

hot spot

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

Scientific definitions for hot spot

hot spot

A volcanic area that forms as a tectonic plate moves over a point heated from deep within the Earth's mantle. The source of the heat is thought to be the decay of radioactive elements. The Hawaiian Islands formed as a series of hot spots. See more at tectonic boundary.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for hot spot

hot spot

A place deep within the Earth where hot magma rises to just underneath the surface, creating a bulge and volcanic activity (see volcano). The chain of Hawaiian Islands (see Hawaii) is thought to have been created by the movement of a tectonic plate over a hot spot.

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.