Definition of access in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈakˌses/


1A means of approaching or entering a place: the staircase gives access to the top floor wheelchair access the bypass will greatly improve road access the building has a side access
More example sentences
  • Two side entrances provide access to the back garden - one has double timber doors which lead to a carport.
  • A covered side entrance provides access to the large walled rear garden, which also has an outside toilet.
  • There is plumbing for a washing machine, and a side door provides access to the garden.
entrance, entry, way in, means of entry;
approach, means of approach
1.1The right or opportunity to use or benefit from something: do you have access to a computer? awards to help people gain access to training
More example sentences
  • It is not a policy issue as to whether people should have access to water or not, people are naturally entitled to have access.
  • Ensure that next year's influx of students have access to properly funded clubs and resources.
  • It's right and proper that teachers have access to the full process of judicial review, which by its thorough nature, will take time.
(the) use of, permission to use/visit
1.2The right or opportunity to approach or see someone: we were denied access to our grandson
More example sentences
  • This group aims to support fathers who suffer after marital disputes, for example by being denied access to their children by the mother.
  • At the same time union representatives were denied access to members and were not faxed requested safety reports.
  • Ms. Stewart did not have her speech limited nor were students denied access to her as you suggest.
admission, admittance, entry, entrée, ingress, right of entry
1.3The action or process of obtaining or retrieving information stored in a computer’s memory: this prevents unauthorized access or inadvertent deletion of the file
More example sentences
  • Memory data accesses are hundreds of times faster than disk.
  • This execution involves performing arithmetic and logical calculations, initiating memory accesses, and controlling the flow of program execution.
  • Virtual Interface Architecture is a new method or establishing application-to-application remote memory accesses over a network.
1.4 [as modifier] Denoting noncommercial broadcasting produced by local independent groups, rather than by professionals: public-access television
More example sentences
  • The evolution of access broadcasting has produced a different kind of anxiety.
  • The forum will be aired on local public access television prior to Election Day.
2 [in singular] An attack or outburst of an emotion: I was suddenly overcome with an access of rage
More example sentences
  • And in the afternoon, we saw a man who had strangled his girlfriend in her parents' house, also in an access of jealousy.
  • Either a solution has presented itself or I've had an access of strength and energy which has been enough to get me through.


[with object]
1Approach or enter (a place): single rooms have private baths accessed via the balcony
More example sentences
  • The private car park is accessed via remote controlled gates.
  • The site is accessed via the Dunmore Road and is around two miles from the city centre.
  • A signed diversion route will also be in place for drivers wanting to access the village via the A64.
enter, approach, gain entry to, gain access to
2 Computing Obtain, examine, or retrieve (data or a file).
Example sentences
  • The lack of protection means that e-mails and sensitive computer files can be accessed by hackers using little more than a laptop and an antenna.
  • For example, today you can access Microsoft file servers with a Samba client.
  • When the user accesses the file, online archiving retrieves that data twice as fast as it was compressed.
retrieve, gain access to, obtain;


The verb access is standard and common in computing and related terminology ( employees can access the office network). But its use outside computing contexts, although well established in the language, is sometimes criticized as being ‘jargon’ ( we lacked adequate supply to access the markets we needed to reach). Other words or phrases such as ‘enter’ or ‘gain access to’ are suggested as ready substitutes. For another example of a controversial formation of a verb from a noun, see impact (usage).


Middle English (in the sense 'sudden attack of illness'): from Latin accessus, from the verb accedere 'to approach' (see accede). Sense 1 is first recorded in the early 17th century.

  • cede from early 16th century:

    Cede is from French céder or Latin cedere ‘to yield, give way, go’. Cedere is a rich source of English words including abscess (mid 16th century) ‘going away’ (of the infection when it bursts); access [Middle English] ‘go to’; ancestor (Middle English) someone who went ante ‘before’; antecedent (Late Middle English) from the same base as ancestor; cease (Middle English); concede (Late Middle English) to give way completely; decease (Middle English) ‘go away’; exceed (Late Middle English) to go beyond a boundary; intercede (late 16th century) go between; predecessor (Late Middle English) one who went away before; proceed (Late Middle English) to go forward; recede (Late Middle English) ‘go back’; and succeed (Late Middle English) ‘come close after’.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ac·cess

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.