file

1 of 8

noun (1)

1
: a tool usually of hardened steel with cutting ridges for forming or smoothing surfaces especially of metal
2
: a shrewd or crafty person

file

2 of 8

verb (1)

filed; filing

transitive verb

: to rub, smooth, or cut away with or as if with a file
She filed her nails.

file

3 of 8

verb (2)

filed; filing

transitive verb

chiefly dialectal

file

4 of 8

verb (3)

filed; filing

transitive verb

1
: to arrange in order for preservation and reference
file letters
2
a
: to place among official records as prescribed by law
file a mortgage
b
: to send (copy) to a newspaper
filed a story
c
: to return to the office of the clerk of a court without action on the merits
3
: to initiate (something, such as a legal action) through proper formal procedure
threatened to file charges

intransitive verb

1
: to register as a candidate especially in a primary election
2
: to place items in a file
3
: to submit documents necessary to initiate a legal proceeding
file for bankruptcy
filer noun

file

5 of 8

noun (2)

1
: a device (such as a folder, case, or cabinet) by means of which papers are kept in order
2
a
archaic : roll, list
b
: a collection of papers or publications usually arranged or classified
c(1)
: a collection of related data records (as for a computer)
(2)
: a complete collection of data (such as text or a program) treated by a computer as a unit especially for purposes of input and output

file

6 of 8

noun (3)

1
2
: any of the rows of squares that extend across a chessboard from one player's side to the other player's side

file

7 of 8

verb (4)

filed; filing

intransitive verb

: to march or proceed in single file

filé

8 of 8

noun (4)

fi·​lé fə-ˈlā How to pronounce filé (audio)
(ˌ)fē-ˈlā,
ˈfē-(ˌ)lā
variants or less commonly file
: powdered young leaves of sassafras used to thicken soups or stews
Phrases
on file
: in or as if in a file for ready reference

Word History

Etymology

Noun (1) and Verb (1)

Middle English, from Old English fēol; akin to Old High German fīla file

Verb (2)

Middle English, from Old English fȳlan, from fūl foul

Verb (3) and Noun (2)

Middle English, from Medieval Latin filare to string documents on a string or wire, from filum file of documents, literally, thread, from Latin; akin to Armenian ǰil sinew

Noun (3) and Verb (4)

Middle French, from filer to spin, draw out, from Late Latin filare, from Latin filum

Noun (4)

Louisiana French, from French, past participle of filer to twist, spin

First Known Use

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (1)

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb (3)

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun (2)

1525, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (3)

1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (4)

1614, in the meaning defined above

Noun (4)

1806, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of file was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near file

Cite this Entry

“File.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/file. Accessed 5 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

file 1 of 6

noun

: a usually steel tool with sharp ridges or teeth on its surface for smoothing hard substances

file

2 of 6

verb

filed; filing
: to rub, smooth, or cut away with a file

file

3 of 6

verb

filed; filing
1
: to arrange in order for keeping or reference
2
: to enter or record as required by law

file

4 of 6

noun

1
: a device (as a folder, case, or cabinet) for keeping papers or records in order
2
a
: a collection of papers or records arranged in order
b
: a collection of data considered as a unit (as for a computer)

file

5 of 6

noun

: a row of persons, animals, or things arranged one behind the other

file

6 of 6

verb

filed; filing
: to march or proceed in file

Medical Definition

1
: a tool usually of hardened steel with cutting ridges for forming or smoothing surfaces (as of a tooth)
2
: a narrow instrument for shaping fingernails with a fine rough metal or emery surface
file transitive verb
filed; filing

Legal Definition

file 1 of 2

verb

filed; filing

transitive verb

1
a
: to submit (a legal document) to the proper office (as the office of a clerk of court) for keeping on file among the records especially as a procedural step in a legal transaction or proceeding
filed a tax return
a financing statement filed with the Secretary of State
filing a notice of appeal
also : record
filed a mortgage in the Registry of Deeds

Note: In nearly all cases, a document is deemed to be filed when it is actually received by the office to which it is directed. A few cases, however, have held that a document is filed upon the mailing of it.

b
: to place (as a document) on file among the records of an office especially by formally receiving and endorsing
a complaint filed by the clerk despite the absence of the filing fee
2
: to return (the documentation in a case) to the records of a clerk of court without any determination of the case
broadly : to conclude (a case) without a determination on its merits
3
: to initiate (a judicial or administrative proceeding) by submitting the proper documents or following proper procedure : bring
threatened to file charges
two separate actions were filed by representatives of the estates J. H. Friedenthal et al.

intransitive verb

1
: to register as a candidate especially in a primary election
2
: to place items in a file

file

2 of 2

noun

: a collection of papers or publications usually arranged or classified
specifically : the papers that make up the record of a case
on file
: in or as if in a file for ready reference

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