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

Over eight weeks, the 350th Special Warfare Training Squadron in Lackland will use big data, video analysis, wearable sensors, and extreme exercise to teach air-men how to optimize their bodies like machines. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "The Air Force Is Changing How Special Ops Fighters Are Trained," 12 Feb. 2019 The rapid growth is a testament to how algorithms and big data can quickly improve genetic science. Dieter Holger, PCWorld, "DNA testing for ancestry is more detailed for white people. Here’s why, and how it's changing," 4 Dec. 2018 Major League Baseball has lagged behind many professional sports leagues, including the NBA, Premier Soccer and others, in using big data to assist in both injury prevention and peak performance. Ryan Divish, The Seattle Times, "After being fired, Lorena Martin levels accusations of racism at Mariners, who call them ‘false’," 13 Nov. 2018 Lately, all the advances in computing—big data, faster computers—make deep learning better and better. Phred Dvorak, WSJ, "Which Country Is Winning the AI Race—the U.S. or China?," 12 Nov. 2018 Although the self driving-industry has debated the issue for years, some say too many years, the new study advances the debate by offering up something that computers can easily understand: big data. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Out of Two Million People, Most Prefer That a Self-Driving Car Kill the Elderly," 25 Oct. 2018 By partnering with Google, Goop has an opportunity to affiliate its brand with big data and proven fact, without actually validating any of its own claims. Kaitlyn Tiffany, Vox, "Why Google wants to sell its gadgets in Goop stores," 17 Oct. 2018 The cofounder of Cambridge Analytica says big data should be placed in a public trust. Fox News, "Kevin McCarthy leads charge against social media censorship," 30 Aug. 2018 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

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

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Statistics for big data

Last Updated

25 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for big data

The first known use of big data was in 1996

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