Definition of byte in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /bīt/


1A group of binary digits or bits (usually eight) operated on as a unit. Compare with bit4.
Example sentences
  • I now know there are eight bits in a byte, and 1024 megabytes in a gigabyte.
  • The store is misaligned across two cache lines such that the upper eight bytes span a cache line boundary.
  • Eight bits make up a byte; a byte typically represents a letter, punctuation mark or digit on your screen.
1.1A byte considered as a unit of memory size.
Example sentences
  • A tiny worm, just 376 bytes in size, almost brought the Internet to its knees this weekend as it spewed out huge packets of random data.
  • This means you could write up to 36 bytes to that memory block without overwriting other blocks.
  • These figures are based upon an average check image size of 40,000 bytes and standard list prices for equipment.


1960s: an arbitrary formation based on bit4 and bite.

  • bite from Old English:

    There are words related to bite in many other European languages. Their ancestor also gave us bit (Old English) and bitter, and it probably meant ‘to split, to cleave’. To bite the bullet now means ‘to face up to something unpleasant’. Its origin is said to be in battlefield surgery—that wounded soldiers would be given a bullet to bite on to prevent them from crying out when the pain became unbearable. However, there is no evidence that this ever happened, and surgeons always carried leather straps with them for this purpose. Another phrase involving biting something unusual is to bite the dust, ‘to be killed or come to an end’. Nowadays people are likely to associate it with Westerns and gunfights, but it is used by the Scottish novelist Tobias Smollett in 1750, and similar expressions such as to bite the ground and bite the sand are found even earlier. Man bites dog is a much-used jokey newspaper headline, which harks back to the quote: ‘When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.’ This was said by the American journalist John B. Bogart (1848–1921).

    The bit in computing, a unit of information expressed as either a 0 or 1, is a contraction of binary digit. Bit and bite were combined to give byte, a group of eight bits.

Words that rhyme with byte

affright, alight, alright, aright, bedight, bight, bite, blight, bright, cite, dight, Dwight, excite, fight, flight, fright, goodnight, height, ignite, impolite, indict, indite, invite, kite, knight, light, lite, might, mite, night, nite, outfight, outright, plight, polite, quite, right, rite, sight, site, skintight, skite, sleight, slight, smite, Snow-white, spite, sprite, tight, tonight, trite, twite, underwrite, unite, uptight, white, wight, wright, write

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: byte

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.

More words in this category

byte centi- chain EHP ft-lb