Software Development Terms in Ordinary English

Posted On: September 12, 2020

This glossary of Software Development Terms in Ordinary English is a work in progress. As I post this in September 2020, I have a list of over 130 words and phrases used by techies in daily conversations at work (with only about 1/3 defined). As I know there are plenty of people like me out there who interact with techies, but may not always get the technical language, I have decided to put together this dictionary of terms that are used in the industry so we can learn their language! This glossary may also help techies to talk about technical concepts to non-technics in more of a conversational English, or a non-industry English to help build context with their clients, stakeholders and others they interface with everyday.


This glossary not only includes technical or industry jargon many use in the software industry, but also includes vocabulary (buzzwords, corporate speak, etc.) used in professional, office settings that may or may be recognized outside of the software or IT realm as well. 


The purpose of this glossary is to try to define the technical terms in English that can be understood by anyone. If you have ideas to help me fill in the blanks for the words not yet defined or to update the definitions of words already defined, contact us through our contact page to share your insights. If your business website/blog has definitions we can use here, we are happy to quote your resource and link back (we also hope for a link back to this post or another post on this blog). 


Let’s get started!


Meanings of Terms Software Developers Use 

A Dictionary For the Rest of Us!

Adherence: Compliance with process, audit [financial] requirements, agreement with user requirements

A way to manage a project by breaking it up into several phases, with the intent of iterative, quick delivery

Agile Manifesto: 
It is a document identifying key values and principles that software developers should use in their work.

Short form of “as soon as possible.”

Cultural Tip: May be used in place of “at the earliest convenience” (Indian English). However, use with caution, as some may find this to be “not so polite.” 

Acronym expansion: As soon as possible

(short for available) free at the moment

Average handling time:
Average duration of the entire customer call including call initiative, all hold times, transfers to ending the call.

May be used in a meeting to inform the rest of the attendees someone is absent. (MIA is another similar term.) These terms derive from military culture, but are often used in corporate speak as well.

Pronunciation Tip: When saying “AWOL” it is pronounced as a word, which sounds like “a wall.” MIA is pronounced as separate letters – eM – eye – ay. 

Acronym expansion: Absent without leave


Backlog: tasks not yet done by the team for the duration of a project, during a sprint, during a release (it’s like a to-do list of things that need to be done – features, bugs, etc.)
May also be known as a PBI or a Product Backlog

time and/or energy to help out or get involved (synonym: cycles)
Sample question: Do you have the bandwidth?


Charges to client for the time spent on project work

Billable staff

Billed hours: 
Project work hours that are billed to client

Bio break
: A euphemism for stating one has to go to the toilet or use the restroom.

Cultural Tip: In the US the word “toilet” refers only to the toilet itself and not the room the toilet is in. So, in the US, people may use the word bathroom (even if there is no bathtub in the room), restroom, ladies room, men’s room, etc.).

Stages of a project where the workflow exceeds normal capacity. According to, bottlenecks frequently occurring during software testing and quality check processes.

: Short form of “be right back.” Frequently used in chat conversations. However, note in more formal business chats, short forms should be avoided.

BSOD: The Blue Screen of Death

Bug /Bug fix: A temporary or permanent solution to correct a problem in the software application

Burn down/burn down chart: A graphical representation of amount of work remaining to be completed in a development sprint

Buy in: Get someone to agree to something

See this blog:  Getting “Buy In” When Delivering Constructive Criticism 

C: A programming language

C++: C Plus Plus, a programming language, some may refer to it as CPP, though the industry standard is C Plus Plus
C#: C Sharp is a programming language, some refer to it as C hash (though industry standard is C Sharp)
Expansion of short form
: customer satisfaction
Cascade: pass it down, share with others

Sample use: Could you cascade this information to the team? Please feel free to cascade this as deemed fit. (Nidhin Joseph)

CSS: Cascading Style Sheet

Cloud: It refers to servers and applications that are accessed over the Internet on a shared model or pay as you go model.

Cloud enabled: It usually refers to applications built traditionally (hosted on dedicated servers) and then migrated to the cloud.

Cloud native:
A digital product that is created and maintained in the cloud. No servers are needed for cloud native apps or software. 

Coding Language: It is a set of commands/instructions used by programmers or developers to instruct computers to carry out tasks – Examples include : Java, Python, C#, C++ etc.

Concall: Short way to write or say “conference call.”


Core competency: refers to capabilities, skills, resources and knowledge of a company which is not easily replicated by any other organizations.

Crack team: a team of experts who ‘spearheaded’ a transition through to ‘pilot’

Synonym: core team. (Nidhin Joseph)

Creative Interface
: It is the creative user interface design which is the graphical layout of an application.

: a job scheduled to run at a specified time

Cross-functional team: 
It is a group of people working together from different functional areas or departments of the same company or organization to achieve a business objective.

A date or time to finish some tasks/ projects/ presentation.

To troubleshoot a problem and remove errors from a solution or a software application.

: A PowerPoint (PPT) slide deck

Deep dive:
A thorough and exhaustive study of a subject, often done in a short period of time


: As elements of the software are completed and are functional, the developers demonstrate the functionalities of what has been completed so far (also may be called ‘sprint demo’)

See our program “Wow US Clients at the Demo” 

A piece of software relies/ depends on another entity (software, technology platform, hardware) to function.

This happens when the new parts of a software are made available to the client and/or the end user. Often the code is shifted from the development environment to the user environment. This could be for updates, enhancements or for completed projects.

When a function or task in software should be avoided because it has been superseded by a newer functionality. The current function may continue to work in future software updates but at lower performance or with warnings advising users to switch to an alternate/newer function.

– the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increases an organization’s ability to deliver applications (faster time to market) and services at high velocity: evolving and improving products at a faster pace than organizations using traditional software development and infrastructure management processes. (The development and production environments would be identical.)

Development Environment:
the developer’s workstation (which may or may not be the final target environment – which could be a mobile device, embedded system, data center, etc.). Some call this the ‘sandbox.’

Digital Design: 
It is visual communication that presents information about products or services through animations, interactive graphics which people can view and interact with on computer, mobile or tablet, etc.

Drill down
: get into the details of something, get to the point

Due diligence: 
Thorough investigation/analysis to solve a bug in software or identify a feasible solution to a requested feature.

Short form of End of Day or End of Business Day (EOB).

Communication/Cultural Tip: When using this word, it’s not always clear to the receiver what time this refers to, as we may end our working days at different times. This is even more important when working across time zones. It may be helpful to add an actual time with a time zone identifier (EOD, by or before 5pm EST).

End users/users: end users are the actual people using the app or website. The end users will be referred to by different terms based on the business: college (students), store (customers), consulting (clients), hotels (guests), etc.






Fire Drill: Anything that happens unplanned, where you need to immediately provide a solution, even if you aren’t working on it right now. 

Fire fighting


Full Stack Development  

Functional specification:
“A functional specification is a formal document used to describe a product’s intended capabilities, appearance, and interactions with users in detail for software developers. The functional specification is a kind of guideline and continuing reference point as the developers write the programming code.” From TechTarget Network


Go live

Hard copy/soft copy

Heads up


See “road blocks”


Identifying Feature


Issue resolution:
outcome of the problem and/or the process of how a problem needs to be resolve

Acronym or short form: IR 
How to use it in a question: What was the issue resolution for that enquiry from the customer? 

How to use it in a sentence: We did use the IR before the closing the call.




Logged in hours

Login time


Low hanging fruit
: something completed or obtained with little to no effort

Cultural note: This idiom is used outside the offices in ordinary conversations as well.




Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA)


See more: Terminology of Outsourcing & Outsourcing FAQ


On premises – hosted onsite vs the cloud


 out of office


Ping: A full description of the meaning of “ping” and “ping me” is here.





Product Owner

Production Environment:
This is the actual live version of the app or website that the end users (customers, clients, students, general public) can access. It is in the production environment where features ‘go live.’

Production Issue: When client or actual user use the system and find a problem


Proof of concept (POC)/Prototype

QA: Quality control/testing


Quick Fix


Recovery work

Red flag
: A warning about something

meet again later
How to use it in a sentence: We are running out of time today, let’s regroup tomorrow at the same time.

This word could be used in a question form if the client wants to extend the meeting, but you have another meeting to get to: “This is an important matter that we are addressing. Unfortunately, as it’s near the top of the hour, I have a meeting with my manager now. Shall I meet with her now, discuss this with her, and we can regroup later?” 
Release: A series of sprints 
Retrospective: the last ceremony in a series of sprint ceremonies where the team ‘regroup’ to review the project; what went well and things to improve for the upcoming projects 

Revert/Roll Back

Roadblock: something that is causing us to get stuck when solving a problem, an impediment (“blockers” is also a common shorter form of this word I have heard)

Cultural note: This is an actual word used in conversation out of work, which means a physical roadblock in the road- such as the picture below. 
Synonyms: I have heard “speed bump,” “bump in the road,” “hiccup.” 
Cultural Note #2: When working with US clients, it’s not a good idea to always only talk about roadblocks without discussing any possible solutions that have been tried (and why they may not be the right solution), or possible solutions that have not been tried yet, or open the conversation up to the clients to see if they have ideas. In coaching we practice how to articulate this in a quick and succinct way during stand-up meetings
A literal roadblock! We can't go any further - ROAD CLOSED!



Roadmap: a plan about how a project will be undertaken 


Roll out: software development process of introducing a new feature to a set of users  
Rota: schedule for a group of people (Origin: British English, may not be used in the USA)
Sandbox: Developer’s platform for trying out code changes and experimenting with new things, attempting to confirm changes that have not yet been validated

Scrum Master 

Self-organizing team

Service Level Agreement

Short form: SLA




Sprint: (also known as development sprint)
Used in a question: Will there be any spill over after this sprint?

Spill over:
Spill over are the stories which did not meet the criteria of the current sprint.

Sentence example: It looks like we will have some spill over after this sprint.

Stories/User Stories


Scrum Ceremonies
: the series of “meetings” that constitute a sprint- Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum (aka daily stand up), Sprint Review (aka iteration review), Sprint Retrospective (Also known as “scrum events.”)

I’ve also seen them termed as sprint ceremonies or agile ceremonies. The word ‘events’ can be used in place of ‘ceremonies’ (scrum events, agile events, sprint events).

: This acronym seems much more common than the expansion, below. It refers to the methodology or process chosen by a team or company in executing a software development project. The most common types are agile and waterfall, which can sometimes be combined, though there are conflicting viewpoints about this. A few other SLDC approaches are: DevOps, iterative model, V shaped model, big bang model, spiral model
Long form: Software Development Life Cycle


Shippable product

Stand up meeting/daily stand up meeting


Long form:Statement of Purpose

the shortest amount of time to achieve tasks in a backlog (a way of time and task management in the agile methodology)

Staging/Staging Environment:
A staging environment is a clone of your deliverable/shippable in a semi-private environment. It’s a clone of the real thing, but not ‘live.’ So, for example, for a website, it could be “staged” on a URL that is not available to the public. Staging helps the team and stakeholders interact with the product in a simulated environment to identify the usability, bugs, interactivity and other functionalities of the site before it is made public. In this stage, unlike the development stage (where the code is on a local machine), the code will be on a server or in the cloud (if it is cloud native).


Suite: (as in software “suite”) Read about the differences in the words suite/sweet (definition and pronunciation) 

– And if you are getting rid of an application you are “sunsetting it”.


Sunset means "it's time to say good bye"

Technical Debt:
the process of prioritizing speedy delivery over perfect code. Technical debt may be more relevant to agile development than waterfall development.  Also known as: tech debt or code debt

Test cases

Test reports

Time sheet

Time to market



Long form: user interface


: increasing size/scope of operations or improving the quality of a service or product

Use Case:


User Experience

User interface



Work around


Author of this post, Jennifer Kumar, coaches dev teams to be effective leaders across cultures. One aspect of building rapport with your client could be to use software development terms in ordinary English, especially with clicents who are not familiar with technology. We hope this dictionary is helpful. Get in touch with her to help upskill your team to work more impactfully with US Americans to build, scale and grow your business.


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