big data


Definition of big data 

: an accumulation of data that is too large and complex for processing by traditional database management tools

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Did You Know?

Big data is a new addition to our language, but exactly how new is not an easy matter to determine. A 1980 paper by Charles Tilly provides an early documented use of big data, but Tilly wasn't using the word in the exact same way we use it today; rather, he used the phrase "big-data people" to refer to historians engaged in data-rich fields such as cliometrics. Today, big data can refer to large data sets or to systems and solutions developed to manage such large accumulations of data, as well as for the branch of computing devoted to this development. Francis X. Diebold, a University of Pennsylvania economist, who has written a paper exploring the origin of big data as a term, a phenomenon, and a field of study, believes the term "probably originated in lunch-table conversations at Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) in the mid 1990s…."

Examples of big data in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The bargain that for years so many willingly struck — volunteering the intimate details of their lives in exchange for free Web services — is under siege as big data is increasingly seen by consumers as creating big problems. Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY, "Google I/O conference likely to address privacy concerns raised by Facebook scandal," 7 May 2018 In the shale play, big data is capturing and applying information in real time. Houston Chronicle, "Competition for top talent keeps pay scale high in oil industry," 13 July 2018 Now, Beim is on a quest to bring other women out of the dark by bringing big data to the womb. Megan Molteni, WIRED, "This Company Wants Your Fertility Data," 13 July 2018 Two House Science subcommittees hold a joint hearing on big data on July 12. Derek Hawkins, Washington Post, "The Cybersecurity 202: Here's an early look at how states are spending federal election security cash," 10 July 2018 Human rights groups say Chinese authorities have been zealously using big data collection, A.I. and facial-recognition technology to upgrade Beijing’s mass surveillance efforts. Dan Levin, New York Times, "A Tech Guru Captivated Canada. Then He Fled to China.," 10 July 2018 As things stand, most of it accrues to the big data distilleries. The Economist, "What if people were paid for their data?," 7 July 2018 Arabesque uses the tool to run its own in-house mutual fund, and is a quantitative asset manager that uses self-learning quantitative models and big data to assess the performance and sustainability of companies. Erin Arvedlund,, "We rank Philly companies on diversity, governance, & transparency. The winners may surprise you," 29 June 2018 Palantir is not the only big data operation making millions off of ICE’s more aggressive policies. Ben Collins And Meghan Sullivan /, NBC News, "Tech companies quietly work with ICE as border crisis continues," 20 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'big data.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of big data

1996, in the meaning defined above

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Dictionary Entries near big data

big crab

big crunch

big daddy

big data

big deal

Big Dick

Big Dipper

Statistics for big data

Last Updated

26 Aug 2018

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Time Traveler for big data

The first known use of big data was in 1996

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exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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