meta·​da·​ta | \ ˌme-tə-ˈdā-tə How to pronounce metadata (audio) , -ˈda- also -ˈdä- \

Definition of metadata

: data that provides information about other data

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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 The Shin Bet has been quietly but routinely collecting cellphone metadata since at least 2002, officials confirmed. David M. Halbfinger, New York Times, "To Track Coronavirus, Israel Moves to Tap Secret Trove of Cellphone Data," 16 Mar. 2020 Other metadata, like the specific location, can help determine if a person may be in dangerous contact with another: a restaurant, the researchers note, is a far more risky location than a bike path. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "Can Bluetooth Contact Tracing Apps Really Help Fight Pandemics?," 13 Apr. 2020 Soon after going viral, the app raised tons of questions about privacy after it was reported that a Russian startup was harvesting metadata from users. Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY, "Gradient Photo Editor: The latest viral app will try to show you your celebrity lookalike," 18 Oct. 2019 Every minute of every day, the metadata and verification problem is getting worse. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "Revealed: Billboard's 2019 Women In Music Top Executives," 12 Dec. 2019 In total, the ads received just over 80 clicks, according to the metadata released by Facebook. Issie Lapowsky, WIRED, "Russia-Linked Facebook Ads Targeted a Sketchy Chrome Extension at Teen Girls," 12 May 2018 Lorena said the video’s metadata had been manipulated, an easy trick. Christine Smallwood, Harper's Magazine, "In Harm’s Way," 30 Mar. 2020 For example, the government’s telephone-metadata program, the need for which was never compellingly justified, has been mothballed. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "No to ‘FISA Reform’," 14 Mar. 2020 Using video metadata and analyzing the position of the sun, The Times confirmed that he was shot around 8:30 a.m., matching a conclusion reached by Forensic Architecture, an investigative research group. Sarah Almukhtar, New York Times, "‘We Are Like Animals’: Inside Greece’s Secret Site for Migrants," 10 Mar. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of metadata

1983, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler

The first known use of metadata was in 1983

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Last Updated

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Metadata.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2020.

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