A Comprehensive List of Programming Semantics in Plain English

March 28, 2019 · Programming

Programming, like many other fields, has an extensive vocabulary and requires a solid understanding of all of it to be any good. This can be pretty daunting for beginners, however. Words like array, float, nest, and method are really just fancy ways of saying simple things, but learning how to use them is very important to learning. Documentation for languages, errors, questions and answers on services like Stack Overflow all use extensive terminology that, while correct, will seem like a foreign language to beginners who aren't familiar with this terminology. It isn't very easy to learn these terms, either. A Google search of a term will often just explain it with just-as-foreign terms. You wouldn't try to learn Spanish by looking at an all Spanish dictionary; trying to decipher the vocabulary of programming this way is just as useless. I've created a list of some fundamental and important terms explained in plain English. Let's start with one of the most important parts of programming-creating and storing data.

  • Value: (noun) Any piece of data that is stored in a variable.

  • Variable: (noun) A container for some value.

    • Declaring a variable: (verb) Creating a container that will be used later on. We'll use x as our variable.

    • Assigning a variable: (verb) Putting a value into a container that has already been created. x = 4

  • Type: (noun) what type of value is stored in a variable

    • String: (noun) Basically text. Usually shown in quotation marks. Ex. x = "string example"

    • Integer: (noun) A whole number. Ex. 4 or 5

    • Float: (noun) Short for floating-point number, a float is a number that is not a whole number; it is fractional. Ex. 4.75 or 6.2

  • Function: (noun) Some code that has been written by the programmer beforehand, that can be called.

    • Define (a function): (verb) To create a function and define what it does when called.

    • Call: (verb) To run code from a function.

    • Argument: (noun) A value that a function takes when it is called.

    • Return: (verb) The value a function returns back to you after it is called.

    • Here's an example of a function we'll create called add(). It takes two arguments, a number and another number, and adds them together. Note: This is written in JavaScript, and // starts a comment. (It is not part of the code.)
    • // We declare our function that will add our two numbers.
      function add(oneNumber, theOtherNumber) {
          return oneNumber + theOtherNumber; 
      // We declare variables to be used later on. (We are putting an integer into containers "number1" and "number2".)
      var number1 = 4;
      var number2 = 6;
      // Then we can log this in the console, where our output will be 10.
      console.log(add(number1, number2));

Most modern porgramming languages use objects. For example, a car is an object. It has properties to it, like color and brand, and actions it can perform at any time, like accelerating and braking. We'll define an object like this in terms of programming.

  • Object: (noun) A collection of properties and methods.

    • Property: (noun) Like features of a real life object, properties are variables that describe their object. They all have a value, and are defined in the object.

    • Method: (noun) Like actions a real life object can perform, methods are functions that can perform an action relating to its object. They are also defined in the object.