big data


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

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…."

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web ChatGPT alone consumed 570GB and 300 billion words of big data—among them conversations and content from Reddit’s forums. Faustine Ngila, Quartz, 19 Apr. 2023 With cloud-scale big data, combined with learning over time, security algorithms get smarter, improving their ability to identify and stop bad actors. Roey Eliyahu, Forbes, 29 June 2022 That’s why it is called big data. Neil Senturia, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 Apr. 2023 The advent of big data, along with artificial intelligence and machine learning, has helped experts understand the mechanics of aging. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, 5 Apr. 2023 The technologies do different things and work together in different ways, but AI, AR/VR, MES, wireless, big data and advanced analytics all help manufacturing companies accelerate their business growth. John Clemons, Forbes, 23 Mar. 2023 Image compression could become better adjusted to human perception, in turn making the transfer of big data less expensive and more efficient. Adrienne Bernhard, Popular Mechanics, 20 Mar. 2023 Another important tool is big data. Leroy Hood, Scientific American, 7 Dec. 2022 Farnsworth and Lowe allegedly made false claims that Helios and Matheson possessed and used technologies—like big data and artificial intelligence platforms—to generate revenue by analyzing and monetizing the data MoviePass collected from subscribers. Jessica Mathews, Fortune, 7 Nov. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'big data.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1996, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of big data was in 1996


Dictionary Entries Near big data

Cite this Entry

“Big data.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jun. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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