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[bahyt] /baɪt/
noun, Computers.
adjacent bits, usually eight, processed by a computer as a unit.
the combination of bits used to represent a particular letter, number, or special character.
1959; origin uncertain
Can be confused
bight, bite, byte. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for bytes
  • Good combination of story and fact in easy sound bytes for the kids to absorb.
  • Other data, in countless bytes, arrive from instrument networks abroad.
  • It's potentially invasive, takes time to do, and eats up network bytes.
  • These are politically driven bytes of misinformation.
  • But the same advances are making life a lot harder for the kind of spy who deals with humans rather than bytes.
  • On the other hand, even technology mergers involve people and cultures as well as bytes and chips.
  • And the bases are grouped together in threes, known as codons, rather than in the eight-bit bytes of computing.
  • Forget blood and guts, tomorrow's medicine is about bits and bytes.
  • In a digital computer, information is sent around as discrete bits and bytes.
  • These bits and bytes are being added to the mountains of data already being generated by businesses and governments.
British Dictionary definitions for bytes


noun (computing)
a group of bits, usually eight, processed as a single unit of data
the storage space in a memory or other storage device that is allocated to such a group of bits
a subdivision of a word
Word Origin
C20: probably a blend of bit4 + bite
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for bytes



1956, American English; see bit (n.2). Reputedly coined by Dr. Werner Buchholz at IBM.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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bytes in Science
A sequence of adjacent bits operated on as a unit by a computer. A byte usually consists of eight bits. Amounts of computer memory are often expressed in terms of megabytes (1,048,576 bytes) or gigabytes (1,073,741,824 bytes).

Our Living Language  : The word bit is short for binary digit. A bit consists of one of two values, usually 0 or 1. Computers use bits because their system of counting is based on two options: switches on a microchip that are either on or off. Thus, a computer counts to seven in bits as follows: 0, 1, 10 [2], 11 [3], 100 [4], 101 [5], 110 [6], 111 [7]. Notice that the higher the count, the more adjacent bits are needed to represent the number. For example, it requires two adjacent bits to count from 0 to 3, and it takes three adjacent bits to count from 0 to 7. A sequence of bits can represent not just numbers but other kinds of data, such as the letters and symbols on a keyboard. The sequence of 0s and 1s that make up data are usually counted in groups of 8, and these groups of 8 bits are called bytes. The word byte is short for binary digit eight. To transmit one keystroke on a typical keyboard requires one byte of information (or 8 bits). To transmit a three-letter word requires three bytes of information (or 24 bits).
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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bytes in Culture
byte [(beyet)]

In computer technology, a unit of information made up of bits (often eight bits). The memory capacity of a typical personal computer runs from millions to billions of bytes.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for bytes


the basic unit of information in computer storage and processing. A byte consists of 8 adjacent binary digits (bits), each of which consists of a 0 or 1. The string of bits making up a byte is processed as a unit by a computer; bytes are the smallest operable units of storage in computer technology. A byte can represent the equivalent of a single character, such as the letter B, a comma, or a percentage sign; or it can represent a number from 0 to 255. Because a byte contains so little information, the processing and storage capacities of computer hardware are usually given in kilobytes (1,024 bytes) or megabytes (1,048,576 bytes). Still larger capacities are expressed in gigabytes (about one billion bytes) and terabytes (one trillion bytes).

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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