Your A-Z Programming Jargon Buster

If you’re just getting started with coding, you’ve probably experienced the following scenario…

Step 1: You say ‘I should learn to code. It’ll be fun, it’ll boost my career credentials, and if kids in schools can learn then it’ll be a piece of cake for me!’

Step 2: You read a few articles about coding for beginners. They’re either too dumbed down (you already know what a computer is and how to browse the web, thank you very much) or they’re tutorials full of lines of code with little explanation.

Step 3: You go with the ‘too advanced’ option – how hard can it be? The answer: harder than you expected. You’re bewildered by all the jargon and don’t know what the hell you’re doing.

Step 4: You seriously consider just giving up.

Step 5: The Stone River A-Z Programming Jargon Buster! We’ve collected the most common programming terms that often bewilder beginners, and explained them in good old fashioned English. Read, then revisit your failed tutorial. You’ll be surprised at how much more you understand…


A principle used to reduce complexity and increase efficiency when implementing designs and complex software systems. Abstraction defines an object in terms of its most basic properties, functionality and interface to simplify things. Usually found in object-oriented programming.

API (Application Programming Interface)

An API is a set of programming instructions, routines and standards for building software and applications.It’s the road map, and the programmer follows it to create things. An API allows two programs to communicate with one another and exchange information and functions.


A data structure that holds a series of objects of the same size and type. Each object is known as an array element, and they can be anything from integers to characters. You’ll see these cropping up in the C family.


Another OOP term. A class is an extendable piece of program code that forms a template. That template defines the methods and variables of a chosen object. Classes can have subclasses and the structure of ‘class + subclass’ is known as the ‘class hierarchy’.


A compiler is basically a code translator. It’s a special program that analyses code written in one language by a programmer (line by line), then rewrites it into another language for the computer to read and execute.

Conditional Statements

Also known as conditional expressions or conditional constructs, these are features of a programming language which perform different actions if specific conditions are met. In other words, it’s all those ‘if/then, else/if’ stuff you’re always seeing.


A function is a type of procedure or routine that a programming language will execute. Most languages come with a pre-written set of functions that are stated in a library. These often work in conjunction with compilers.

Garbage Collector

This is exactly what you think it is. A garbage collector is a form of automatic memory management. It reclaims memory space occupied by objects that are no longer in use by a program. A feature of Java and many modern languages.

Hello World

This is the first program you’ll learn in any language. It’s used as standard across all languages to illustrate a particular language’s syntax, as well as as a basic test to prove you’re doing it right. The first step to becoming a master!


A high-level programming language is one that is closer to a human language than a machine language, and can be written independent of a particular type of computer. C is a high-level programming language.

IDE (Integrated Development Environment)

An IDE is a software application that usually includes a source code editor, compiler and debugger all accessed through one interface. It’s a one-stop-shop for building and developing programs. Dreamweaver, FrontPage and Visual Studio are all IDEs.

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation)

JSON is a data interchange format based on a subset of the Java Programming Language. Basically it’s a scripting notation used to pass data between a server and a web app. It’s beloved for its lightweight, efficient qualities.


A collection of pre-written code and routines that can be used to write your own code, saving you the time of writing it yourself. The code has been written and stored there by others with the intention of it being shared and used.


A sequence of instructions or requests that is continually repeated until it receives an instruction to stop, or until the request is answered. Useful for such actions like processing weekly payrolls, but otherwise can slow down your software!


In OOP, a method is the procedure or behaviour associated with an object. A method is defined as part of a class and included in any object of that class. A class can have more than one method, but a method will only be associated with one object.


A type of programming centred on objects rather than actions and data as opposed to logic. Instead of the input/process/output approach, OOP combines independent objects and passes data between them. Examples include Java, Python and C++.


A special kind of variable used to pass information between functions or procedures.Parameters are used in subroutines to refer pieces on data that have been inputted into the subroutine. These pieces of data/information are called arguments.


A property is a kind of class member somewhere between a field and a method. It’s a flexible mechanism to read, write or compute the value of a private field. It’s largely used in context with OOP. Not all languages use properties.

Source Code

The fundamental ingredient of programming. Source code is any collection of instructions written in a human-readable programming language, often by a human too! Source code is compiled and then processed by a machine language to build things.

Statically Typed

A statically typed language is one in which variables do not need to be defined before they’re used. Dynamically typed languages on the other hand, do. C, C++ and Java are all statically typed languages.


Much like in spoken languages, syntax refers to the spelling and grammar of a programming language. It defines how declarations, functions, commands and other statements should be arranged. A program’s source code must have correct syntax to compile.


Variables are used to store information to be referenced and used by programs. It is a value that can change depending on conditions or information passed to the program They also label and store data in memory which can then be used throughout a program.