Imagine meeting a friend, but when they open their mouth to speak to you, all you hear is gibberish. When you ask them to explain, the explanation sounds like gibberish too. 

When you’re hearing new programming terms for the first time, it can easily feel like that! Command-line? An array? Huh?

Kids who learn coding are learning a new language that is complete with its own syntax and vocabulary. While not exactly gibberish, it probably seems like it from the outside. Many of these coding terms, definitions, and concepts can feel as foreign as being on a new planet. So, it’s important to understand and feel comfortable with coding jargon before diving into the written portion.

Code documentation and terminology gives a foundation for how a language works and how specific parts of your code will function. By learning the most common programming terms and concepts, kids can feel confident as they read and learn more about specific languages.

This list of the 200 common programming and coding terms is simplified for kids to be easy to understand. Kids can use it as a reference if they are learning or as a refresher if they’ve already started coding.

Browse Terms: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

Abstraction

Simplified code or technology that’s easy to use without knowing how it works.

Active Record

Information in a database that’s presented to a user. This term is common in MVC (Model, View, Controller) development.

Agile Software Development

A process of building software in stages. Work is divided into short bursts called sprints. Separate teams may work on different parts of a project.

AJAX

A method for getting data from a web server that uses XML, JavaScript, and HTML.

Algorithm

A sequence of problem-solving steps. For example: Add a series of values together, and then divide by the number of values. These steps produce a mean or average.

Angular.js

A JavaScript front end framework for building websites. A collection of templates and pre-written code. 

Apache

Apache, or Apache HTTP Server, is an open-source and free web server software. Apache had a significant role in the initial growth of the internet and is also the “A” in LAMP Stack.

API

An application programming interface (API) allows interactions between multiple software programs so programmers have access to data and info from external software. The Google Maps API lets people use satellite photos and maps in their own programs. 

Apprenticeship

An agreement between an employer and an employee. The apprentice (employee) gets training and pay in exchange for work.

Argument

A number, text string, or other value required for a function to run its code. An argument is the x in f(x) = y.

Arithmetic Operators

These operators are used with numbers to perform basic math, for example “+” for addition. Computers have to add and subtract, multiply and divide to do almost anything. 

Array

A single variable that contains a list of data. For example, myNumbers = [0,1,2,3]. Here, myNumbers is an array of numbers.

ASCII  

American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) is a system for electronic communication. It has 128 numbers that stand for letters and other symbols. ASCII is the same all over the world. 

Assignment Operators

An operator that assigns a value to a variable. For example, “=” in Python assigns a value on the right to the variable on the left. 

Asynchronous Learning

Learning that may take place at a different time for each student. The material is usually recorded or pre-made.

Asynchronous Programming Languages

A programming language that doesn’t have to do things in the order they are written. Instead, it can do many things at once. For example, JavaScript.

Augmented Reality

Software that puts digital objects on images or videos of the real world. AR (Augmented Reality) is popular on smartphones.

Autonomous

Self-guiding and able to work independently without input from a person. Many drones and some cars are autonomous.

Recommended: Coding for Teens

B

Back End

The server side of the internet that the user can’t see. The back end stores, retrieves, and modifies data, it’s essentially the brains of a website. 

Backbone.js

A JavaScript library used mostly for one-page web apps to give structure and handle user input and interactivity.

Binary

A system of two possible states, zero and one. Computers operate in binary, meaning they store data and perform calculations using only zeros and ones.

Binary Alphabet

The numbers 0 and 1.

Binary Numbers

Combinations of zeroes and ones that make up a computer program. 

Bit

A single 0 or 1. It’s the smallest unit of information in computing and digital communications.

Block-based Programming Language

A visual programming language. Block-based programming lets users drag and drop blocks of code to make programs (as opposed to writing text). For example, Scratch is a block programming language.

Blockly

A block programming language created by Code.org. It’s used to teach kids how to code.

Boolean

The “true or false” logic that powers computers. The boolean data type has one of two possible values: it’s either true or false. 

Bootstrap (aka Twitter Bootstrap)

An open-source framework. A group of templates for building the front end of a website. A large set of HTML files, CSS stylesheets, and JavaScript. 

Bug

Broken code that causes a program to malfunction. Bugs often crash a program or make an error message appear.

Build

To build a program is to make it ready for users. Coders may use special tools to create “builds”, or finished applications.  First, coding, testing, and debugging must be completed.

Byte

A byte is eight bits. For example, 0000 0001.

C

C++

A powerful programming language. It’s used to build fast programs. C++ is common in computerized electronic devices. 

Call (a function)

A snippet of code that makes a function begin.

Call (a variable)

To call a variable is to use it somewhere in a program.

Camel Case

A form of capitalization used for naming variables. The first letter is always lowercase, and the first letter of every word after that is uppercase. For example, “thisVariable” is in camelcase.

Char

An abbreviation of the word “character.” It refers to a single letter, number, or symbol.

Class (HTML and CSS)

The class attribute specifies one or more class names for an HTML element. It’s mostly used to point to a class in a CSS page.

Class (Object Oriented Programming)

A template that defines the qualities of everything that belongs to it. Each member of a class is an object. 

Click

To press the button on a computer mouse.

Cloud

A remote data storage location, such as Dropbox. The cloud is a broad term that refers to general internet storage or services.

Code

The written content of a computer program. Code tells the computer what to do, where to store information, and what to show the user. 

Code Review

A process of looking through code for mistakes or bugs. Programmers sometimes do code reviews in teams. This increases their ability to find and fix errors. 

Coding

The process of writing a computer program. Coding is often the majority of what software engineers do. 

Coding Challenge

A problem given to a programmer during a job interview or at school. The programmer must solve it with code, and in the most efficient or effective way possible. 

Coding Languages

A human-readable language used to make computer programs. C, Java, and Python are examples of coding languages.

Command

An order the computer must carry out. Copy, Paste, and Print are examples of commands. 

Command-line

A computer program that works with text-only input from a user. 

Command-line Interface

A text-based way to interact with a computer. There are no buttons, dropdowns, or clickable elements.

Compilation

The procedure that translates code into a format the computer can use. Some programming languages are called compiled languages. They have to be compiled before they can be used. 

Compiler

A program that changes text-based code into the code a computer understands. The result is an application, often a .exe file. 

Computational Thinking

Reformatting a problem so it becomes solvable by a computer. 

Computer Program

A bundle of code that tells a computer what to do. Computer programs do all sorts of things. Some solve math problems. Some play music. Even video games are computer programs.   

Computer Science

The ideas that make it possible to solve problems with computers. A computer scientist knows about bits, bytes, code, and memory. 

Recommended: Computer Science Classes for Kids

Conditional Statements

A statement that helps a computer decide what to do next. A condition statement has an If/Then format. For example, If a = 1, then add a to b.

Constants

A number, text string, or symbol that never changes value while a program is running. Variables can increase or decrease in value. But a constant stays the same.

Crowdsourcing

The act of recruiting big groups of people to work on a project. People may work for free or for pay. But everyone contributes to the final goal.

CSS

The code that controls the appearance of a website. This includes things like font styles, colors, and margins. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. 

Cybersecurity

A field of computing that deals with the safety of anything stored on a computer. The primary goal is to prevent hackers from stealing data or money. 

D

Data

Any information that can be stored or used in a computer program. Names, addresses, and phone numbers are data. 

Data Science

The science of finding patterns in data with computers. Facebook, Google, and even the government rely on data science. It helps them make better decisions and more useful products. 

Data Structures

The formats used to store and organize data in a computer program. Data structures make information as easy to access as possible. 

Data Types

The kind of information that a variable or constant can hold. Examples include strings, integers, and booleans.

Database (dbms)

A digital vault that stores information. Databases look like tables in a spreadsheet. A website stores usernames and passwords in a database. 

Debugging

The process of looking for and repairing coding errors. Debugging is an important part of software development.  

Declaration

A single word or symbol used to describe a function or variable. It defines the type of variable or function so the compiler or interpreter knows what to do with it. 

Decompose

To divide a complex challenge into smaller chunks. The goal is to make it easier to solve.

Define (a function)

To create a function and the code that goes inside it. After defining a function, the programmer can call it when needed.

Deployment

The process of launching an application or releasing it to users. 

Digital Footprint

Any piece of information you leave on a website. A blog post, a comment, or a “like” can be a digital footprint. 

Django

A Python framework for the web. Django makes Python website development easier. It’s a collection of templates and libraries. 

DNS (Domain Name Service)

A computer system that turns a written domain name into numbers. These numbers are called an IP (Internet Protocol) address. Computers need IP addresses to find websites.

Double-click

A quick pair of mouse clicks, usually to open an application.

Drag

To press and hold the button on a computer mouse, then move the mouse before releasing.

Drop

To let up on the mouse button after clicking and dragging. 

DRY

DRY stands for Don’t Repeat Yourself. This principle states, “Every piece of knowledge must have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system.”

DSL/Cable

A type of broadband (fast) internet service. It uses phone or coaxial cables.

Recommended: Coding Websites for Kids

E

Else Statements

An alternative inside an If statement. It essentially tells the computer, “Do one thing if something is true, or else do another thing if it’s not true.”

Endless Loop

A loop that never ends because the condition it depends on is always true. An endless loop is a bug. Every loop should end, otherwise, the program would be stuck.

Event

An event is something that triggers a response in a program. For example, a mouse click or a button press.

Event Handler

Code that responds to an event such as a mouse click or button press. 

Exception

An error that may be caused by a user or missing piece of data. 

Express.js

The backend framework for Node.js. Express is useful for modules and web apps. Developers can build APIs with Express.

Expression

An arithmetic statement such as 1+2 or x-y.

F

F.A.I.L.

An acronym for First Attempt In Learning. Failure is a regular part of the learning process.

Flask

Flask is a backend web framework written in Python. It’s an API of Python that lets us build up web applications quickly and easily without special tools or libraries.

For Loop

A block of code that repeats several times. The programmer must specify the number of times the code should repeat. 

Framework

A set of “templates” that programmers use to build programs quickly. Frameworks may contain pre-written code, markup, and APIs. Web frameworks exist for the front end and back end. 

Front End

The part of a computer program that a user sees and interacts with. The front end is also called the user interface. 

Full Stack Developer

A developer who works on the back end and front end of a website. 

Function

A chunk of code that takes input, manipulates it, and produces some kind of output. Programmers create a function just once, but they can use it over and over. 

Function Call

A short snippet of code that triggers a function to run. After writing a function, you must call it whenever you want to use it. 

Function Definition

The inner workings of a function. The code inside of a function that makes it work.

Recommended: 26 Reasons Learning to Code Benefits Your Child

G

Git

A version control system that tracks changes to code. Git is open-source, meaning you can access it for free. 

Github

An internet storage hub for code that works with Git. 

H

HAML

HAML (HTML Abstraction Markup Language) is a templating system that cleans and simplifies your HTML. It’s designed to avoid writing inline code in a web document.

Hardcode

Permanent code. Code that a programmer can’t change easily or at all. 

High-level Language

A programming language a person can read and understand. Python is a high level language. Machine code (for example, 00000001) is not.

HTML

HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is a markup language used to build basic websites. HTML determines what shows up on the page. 

HTTP Request

The method a web browser uses to ask for information from a server. HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. 

I

IDE (Integrated Development Environment)

A program that developers use to write code. IDEs usually know a language’s keywords and can provide help. They can also run programs. 

If Statement

A conditional statement. It executes a certain block of code if some condition is true. 

Inheritance

The practice of basing a new piece of code on existing code. Programmers use inheritance to create an enhanced version of the original code. 

Input

The information that goes into a computer. User input is one type, which includes text, clicks, and button presses. 

IntelliJ

An integrated development environment (IDE) created for writing and running code. To start writing code in Java, you can use IntelliJ.

Internet

The internet is made of many computers and servers that are connected to each other. The web exists on the internet, but the internet is much larger than the world wide web.

IOS Swift

Swift is an Apple programming language. It combines elements from the C and Objective C languages. 

IP Address

A number associated with a website or a device on the internet. Printers and computers have IP addresses. 

Iteration

One pass of a loop. Each time a block of code is executed counts as one iteration of the for or while loop it belongs to.