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 Shares of big data software company Splunk sank more than 17% after the company reported third-quarter earnings and revenue numbers that fell well short of analyst estimates. Benzinga, Detroit Free Press, "For S&P 500, November was its best month in history," 6 Dec. 2020 Controversial big data firm Palantir has surged after a direct listing of its shares. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, "Analysis: No profits? No problem for red hot tech IPOs," 10 Dec. 2020 The company, which listed on the New York Stock Exchange in January, gained investor interest by positioning itself not simply as a property management firm, but as a tech company that uses big data and apps to offer a seamless user experience. Jane Li, Quartz, "China’s WeWork for renters is creating a new batch of internet economy victims," 26 Nov. 2020 And big data could be processed in real time, avoiding the delays of Hadoop. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Meet Snowflake, one of the buzziest tech IPOs ever," 15 Sep. 2020 Many of these new features will bring big data to bear on a typically pen-and-paper industry. Stefanos Chen, New York Times, "Covid Pushes Real Estate Into the Future," 13 Nov. 2020 Granular, targeted and focused containment measures that are empirically based and supercharged by big data are a viable alternative. Sun Sun Lim, Scientific American, "A Sustainable Alternative to Blanket Lockdowns," 22 Oct. 2020 Another hot area: SunPower sells solar panels to big data centers, which are growing rapidly because of the increasing importance of cloud computing. Matt Egan, CNN, "Solar CEO is relieved the next president isn't a climate denier," 13 Nov. 2020 Companies like Tesla are using A.I. and big data to disrupt the automobile business. Aric Jenkins, Fortune, "The pandemic dramatically accelerated the digital shift. These CEOs explain how they got it done," 11 Nov. 2020

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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The first known use of big data was in 1996

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Last Updated

25 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Big data.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.

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