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Some Data on Data

This morning, as I have been training in a new position within the tech space, I’ve heard and seen many words used and used and used. And used again!

Data is a word utilized in virtually every space of the tech industry. It’s a bit of an empty vessel like "content," in the sense that it encapsulates a large swath of ideas, information, etc. So then I was thinking: what exactly does data mean aside from a catchall term for information? Where exactly did the word come from and how is it to be used properly?


I pulled out my trusty 2000-era dictionary (that I happened to win as the Buffalo News Spelling Bee champion in eighth grade; a subtle self-congratulatory plug there!) and I observed the following definition:

  1. [Latin plural of Datum] Information, esp. information organized for analysis or used as the basis for decision-making.

  2. Numerical information suitable for computer processing.

  3. 3. Pl of Datum

  4. Usage:

  5. Data, as the Latin plural of Datum, in traditional use requires a plural verb, as in These data are inconclusive. However, the widespread occurrence of such a sentence as This data is inconclusive indicates that data can now function as a singular form in English.

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