meta·​da·​ta | \-ˈdā-tə, -ˈda- also -ˈdä-\

Definition of metadata 

: data that provides information about other data

Keep scrolling for more

How Metadata Was Formed

It's easy to find data on the source of "metadata": the word was formed by combining "data" with "meta-," which means "transcending" and is often used to describe a new but related discipline designed to deal critically with the original one. "Meta-" was first used in that way in "metaphysics" and has been extended to a number of other disciplines, giving us such words as "metapsychology" and "metamathematics." "Metadata" takes the "transcending" aspect a step further, applying it to the concept of pure information instead of a discipline. "Metadata" is a fairly new word (it appeared in the latter half of the 20th century), whereas "data" can be traced back to the middle of the 17th century.

Examples of metadata in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Paul had cited Kavanaugh’s 2015 defense of the National Security Agency’s widescale secret collection of telephone metadata — records of callers and recipients’ phone numbers and times and durations of the calls. Dan Sewell, The Seattle Times, "Kavanaugh’s support for surveilling Americans raises concern," 27 Aug. 2018 For longer-term storage, historians could store GIF and video versions of an animation alongside detailed metadata about the original GIF file, which would serve as a sort of instruction manual for authentic rendering. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "The Absurdly Complicated Art of GIF Preservation," 24 May 2018 The aim is to make K-pop more searchable and discoverable by standardizing the metadata of Korean songs by applying industry-standard descriptors such as genre, mood, era, origin, tempo and artist language. Tamar Herman, Billboard, "YG Plus Teams Up With Gracenote to Bring K-pop to More Listeners Around the Globe," 25 Jan. 2018 In effect, metadata helps turn data into intelligence by making it searchable. Sharon Weinberger, Popular Mechanics, "How ESPN Taught the Pentagon to Handle a Deluge of Drone Data," 11 June 2012 These tools were never popular, will never be popular, and don’t even encrypt most of the metadata leaked by email. Quinn Norton, The Atlantic, "Email Is Dangerous," 21 May 2018 As Boris points out in his public explainer post, HDR-10's metadata contains exact nit output values, not relative ones, that account for a luminance maximum of 10,000 nits. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "HDR is less confusing—and even geekier—when broken down by detailed heatmaps," 16 Feb. 2018 Dolby Vision adjusts the brightness and color of scenes with metadata, and supports up to a 12-bit color depth and higher peak brightness targets than HDR10. Tom Warren, The Verge, "Xbox One is getting Dolby Vision support," 12 July 2018 Potomac Watch Podcast Judge Kavanaugh has also demonstrated judicial modesty on foreign policy by upholding the executive’s collection of metadata and use of military commissions to prosecute enemy combatants. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Kavanaugh for the Court," 9 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'metadata.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of metadata

1983, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about metadata

Listen to Our Podcast about metadata

Statistics for metadata

Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for metadata

The first known use of metadata was in 1983

See more words from the same year

Comments on metadata

What made you want to look up metadata? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a nest or breeding place

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!