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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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 In fact, big data powers much of our modern-day business. Nick Dearden, Forbes, 5 Jan. 2022 The survey results combine big data, questionnaires, site visits and expert opinions and take into account everything from income and medical services to the standards of city living. Maggie Hiufu Wong, CNN, 17 Dec. 2021 These events all took place during the age of fast internet, big data, and cheap storage; holding, let alone distributing (or acquiring by Freedom of Information Act request), terabytes of documents was by then a trivial affair. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, 29 Oct. 2021 The Globe is hosting a virtual event at noon that will feature a discussion on how big data can solve critical challenges., 19 Oct. 2021 Going deeper Reshaping Services: The investment implications of technological disruption takes a look at how advances in AI, big data, cloud computing, and machine learning are impacting health care, finance, and logistics. Sheryl Estrada, Fortune, 18 Oct. 2021 One examined how big data is revealing what training patterns are most effective for optimal performance in longer races like the marathon. Outside Online, 12 May 2021 Huge computing power and big data enable us to translate impacts into monetary terms that investors, consumers and companies can readily understand and compare. Ronald Cohen, Time, 1 Nov. 2021 The last big data release of 2021, published Wednesday, shows why. Nathaniel Taplin, WSJ, 15 Dec. 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near big data

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big data

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Last Updated

24 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Big data.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jan. 2022.

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