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Ok, I've added to this page, and maybe for now the best suggestion is that you read the page. I have clearly been confused about the meaning of host, but I don't think I'm the only one. After fooling around with Linux and networking for a while, I created the following definition of host (because I was always uncertain of the meaning):

"Host" is often used as a synonym for "computer" -- other synonyms for computer include (depending on the context):

  • machine
  • box
  • workstation
  • server

Then, after more confusion / uncertainty, I decided to look the word up. See Notes, below. Now I'm ready to say everybody is confused (or the people who write the software related to networking are confused, because the inference (implication? — I know the difference, I just don't recall whether I made an inference or the words actually implied what I inferred) that is easy to make is that as soon as a computer is assigned a TCP/IP (or LAN) address it is a host. I think the word "host" should be added to some midwestern universities' list of banned words (ran across their site a few days ago), at least with respect to computers.

See AboutThesePages.



I just removed the rants section from my Web Page Edit Topic, and now I need it again — I'm agreeing more and more with Jim Barsic, you should not refer to a computer as a host, not only for religious reasons, but also because it is a confusing and not helpful term. Maybe there is an underlying assumption that all computers are servers? (Or that, as soon as you assign a TCP/IP (or some kind of LAN) address to a computer it is a potential server?) Maybe that's potentially true, but there have been a fair number of computers that have not been servers, and some of those have had LAN addresses. I just wish the term would go away. Checking some definitions with Google, I find some conflict there, at least between my understanding of the term and some of the definitions:

from Glossary of Internet & Web Jargon: UC Berkeley - Teaching Library Internet Workshops (viewed 25 April 2003):

Computer that provides web-documents to clients or users. See also server.

from Computer & Internet Jargon:

Any computer on a network that is a repository for services available to other computers on the network.

Hmm, two in agreement so far — looks like I need to change the (my) definition on this page.

from Web Jargon:

A computer system that is accessed by a user working at a remote location. Typically, the term is used when there are two computer systems connected by modems and telephone lines. The system that contains the data is called the host, while the computer at which the user sits is called the remote terminal.

Ok, that one gives me the leverage to say I was not totally wrong (or that my confusion was not totally self generated) — "the computer at which the user sits is called the remote terminal" (not the host), yet that computer does typically get a TCP/IP addresss, and as soon as you start to do so, you run into terminology that refers to the computer you are setting the address to as the "host".

Do I want more definitions? Well, maybe the "official" jargon file definition:

Hmm, from The Jargon File: letter H, there is no definition of "host"!! ESR's site

Ok, maybe try a dictionary definition — from Merriam Webster (one part of five numbered definitions on one of eight pages which deal with "host"):

5 : a computer that controls communications in a network or that administers a database

Additional Definitions

Pasting in a few more definitions, possibly in preparation for some refactoring:

Random thoughts / phrases:

  • propensity to play language lawyer
  • working hypothesis (that all computers are hosts??, not quite, reconsider below)

from The Information Exchange: Jargon Buster:

host: Any computer on a network that is a repository for services available to other computers on the network. It is quite common to have one host machine provide several services, such as WWW and USENET.

from NetLingo:


A computer that functions as the beginning and end point of data transfers. It is most commonly thought of as the place where your Web site resides. An Internet host has a unique Internet address (IP address) and a unique domain name or host name. A host can also refer to a Web hosting company.

see also: server , Web hosting .

NetLingo Classification: Technical Term

from NetLingo "Dictionary" home page: What is the (is there a) proper term for a "dictionary" that includes both single words (traditional dictionary) and phrases. Could it be lexicon??

from [[][]]:

from [[][]]:

from Wikipedia entry: Jargon File: gives credit (properly, AFAICT) to lots of other people besides ESR for the Jargon File

from [[][]]:

Google search on [host computer jargon "Eric S. Raymond"]


  • () RandyKramer - 02 Oct 2002
  • <If you edit this page: add your name here; move this to the next line; and include your comment marker (initials), if you have created one, in parenthesis before your WikiName.>

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