meta·​da·​ta ˌme-tə-ˈdā-tə How to pronounce metadata (audio)
 also  -ˈdä-
plural in form but singular or plural in construction
: 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 Adobe recently released the Content Credentials system that puts content provenance information into the metadata of images. Emilia David, The Verge, 6 Feb. 2024 In some cases, the metadata is often not even finalized and input until weeks or months after a song is released, making matters even more complicated. Kristin Robinson, Billboard, 2 Feb. 2024 These techniques posed significant risks to user security and privacy, including the potential for metadata exposure and enabling unwanted messages, spam, and phishing attacks. Chris Velazco, Washington Post, 12 Dec. 2023 The United States government and foreign law enforcement can demand Apple and Google share metadata associated with push notifications from apps on iOS and Android, according to a US senator and court records reviewed by WIRED. Andrew Couts, WIRED, 6 Dec. 2023 Modifying existing metadata will be difficult due to encrypted signing backed by an online certification authority, but if metadata is stripped away, the piece of media could theoretically be signed by another author. Benj Edwards, Ars Technica, 11 Oct. 2023 This metadata may be a bit harder to scrub clean than removing the watermark. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, 23 Jan. 2024 In its system, any alteration of the file is automatically reflected in the metadata, breaking the cryptographic seal and making evident any tampering. IEEE Spectrum, 27 Dec. 2023 There has, at least, been more substantial progress on the metadata and transparency working groups, with an Industry Agreement on Music Streaming Data published in May, and sources telling Variety that an industry code of practise for transparency is likely to be ratified soon. Mark Sutherland, Variety, 21 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'metadata.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1983, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of metadata was in 1983


Dictionary Entries Near metadata

Cite this Entry

“Metadata.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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