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Informal. public display of affection: Many people are uncomfortable with kissing in public or any other PDA.
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Words nearby PDA

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does PDA mean?

PDA is an abbreviation for public display of affection, as when a couple makes out in public.

PDA can also stand for personal digital assistant, a kind of handheld computer … that smartphones made mostly obsolete.

In medicine, PDA is short for patent ductus arteriosus, a heart defect affecting babies.

How is PDA pronounced?

[ pee-dee-ey ]

What are some other forms of PDA?


Where does PDA come from?

Public displays of affection, as acts, are ancient, but the expression for them is much more recent. The abbreviation PDA for public display of affection is first recorded in the 1960s.

Both the full phrase and abbreviation appear to come into more widespread use in the 1980–90s, and they may have been given an additional boost in the 2000s, thanks to the frequent use of abbreviations in digital communication.

Public displays of affection aren’t the only PDA on the market. PDA also stands for personal digital assistant, a kind of handheld computer used especially as an organizer and calendar. In 1984, a pocket computer called the Psion Organiser was launched; some consider it to be the first personal digital assistant.

Both the phrase personal digital assistant and its abbreviation PDA are first recorded in the 1990s. This PDA largely dropped out of use, as smartphones became the new technology by the late 2000s. One notable PDA of this type was the PalmPilot, launched in 1997.

PDA, as a medical abbreviation for patent ductus arteriosus, is a congenital cardiac defect caused by failure of the ductus arteriosus to close at birth. The ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel that connects the left pulmonary artery and the aorta. Normally it closes at birth, but if it doesn’t, it can cause extra blood to flow into a baby’s lungs.

How is PDA used in real life?

The PalmPilot PDA is ancient history, as far as digital tech is concerned, so let’s move on to the far more common necking-and-cuddling sense of the abbreviation.

PDA, for public display of affection, has historically been used most often when people are objecting to it, as some consider it in poor taste or inappropriate (like as a school policy against such behavior in high school). One popular way to express this distaste or discomfort is no PDA—although this phrase can also be used jokingly or ironically.

Casual kissing between couples and holding hands is generally not what is meant by PDA. PDA tends to be used for much more lovey-dovey behavior—the kind of affection that might be met with a “Get a room, you two!”

Fans of celebrities, such as boy bands, or fictional characters may use PDA in a positive, fawning way to describe non-erotic displays of affections between them.

Doctors, especially cardiologists and neonatal specialists, use PDA when referring to newborns affected with this common and generally treatable heart defect.

More examples of

“Paltrow kicked off the summer break at the end of June with a trip to Italy with her beau Brad Falchuk. The couple was spotted packing on the PDA on a yacht off the coast of the island of Capri, where they were hosted by Valentino co-founder Giancarlo Giammetti and his family.”

—Jess Cohen, E! News, August 2018

How to use PDA in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for PDA


abbreviation for
personal digital assistant
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 PDA

[ pē′dē-ā ]

Short for personal digital assistant. A lightweight, handheld computer, typically employing a touch-sensitive screen rather than a keyboard, generally used for storing information such as addresses or schedules. Many PDAs include handwriting recognition software, some support voice recognition, and some have an internal cell phone and modem to link with other computers or networks.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.