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 Open Culture blog notes that thousands of these beautiful pieces of art from the 1880s through the 1920s are now online at the site Artcyclopedia, cataloged by artist, date, and other metadata. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "John Legere will go down in corporate history as one of the greatest turnaround stories of all time," 12 Feb. 2020 The court found a huge lack of oversight over the FBI's querying of FISA metadata and ordered the FBI to revise its search procedures. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "FBI misused surveillance data, spied on its own, FISA ruling finds," 9 Oct. 2019 Another protection option is to embed copyright metadata in your photos before sharing them online. Harry Guinness, Popular Science, "Keep your photos from getting stolen on the internet," 15 Jan. 2020 While the image depicting Trump had no metadata attached to it, another image with text had Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) data indicating it had been created with Adobe Photoshop CS 6 for Windows in 2015. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Unpatched US government website gets pwned by pro-Iran script kiddie," 6 Jan. 2020 The entire saga has set off perhaps the most heated debate about phone metadata in Washington since former government contractor Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations of the intelligence community's broad collection of such records. Cat Zakrzewski, Washington Post, "The Technology 202: Phone records from AT&T and Verizon obtained in impeachment inquiry spark controversy," 6 Dec. 2019 Using multiple sensors, the UFO Data Acquisition Unit is designed to record and track UAP, as well as provide metadata which can be analyzed. Mj Banias, Popular Mechanics, "Ufology: From Fringe Field to Serious Science," 22 Nov. 2019 Like FaceApp, Instagram collects metadata such as the location of a photo or the date the file was created. Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY, "FaceApp's privacy concerns: How the app compares to Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat terms," 18 July 2019 Stealing metadata, Serper says, is hardly an unprecedented trick for intelligence agencies. Andy Greenberg, WIRED, "A Likely Chinese Hacker Crew Targeted 10 Phone Carriers to Steal Metadata," 24 June 2019

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 for metadata

Time Traveler

The first known use of metadata was in 1983

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Last Updated

15 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Metadata.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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