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Glossary of Common Words in Computer Programming

problem solving:
The process of formulating a problem, finding a solution, and expressing the solution.

high-level language:
A programming language like Python that is designed to be easy for humans to read and write.

low-level language:
A programming language that is designed to be easy for a computer to execute; also called “machine language” or “assembly language.”

portability:
A property of a program that can run on more than one kind of computer.

interpret:
To execute a program in a high-level language by translating it one line at a time.

compile:
To translate a program written in a high-level language into a low-level language all at once, in preparation for later execution.

source code:
A program in a high-level language before being compiled.

object code:
The output of the compiler after it translates the program.

executable:
Another name for object code that is ready to be executed.

prompt:
Characters displayed by the interpreter to indicate that it is ready to take input from the user.

script:
A program stored in a file (usually one that will be interpreted).

interactive mode:
A way of using the Python interpreter by typing commands and expressions at the prompt.

script mode:
A way of using the Python interpreter to read and execute statements in a script.

program:
A set of instructions that specifies a computation.

algorithm:
A general process for solving a category of problems.

bug:
An error in a program.

debugging:
The process of finding and removing any of the three kinds of programming errors.

syntax:
The structure of a program.

syntax error:
An error in a program that makes it impossible to parse (and therefore impossible to interpret).

exception:
An error that is detected while the program is running.

semantics:
The meaning of a program.

semantic error:
An error in a program that makes it do something other than what the programmer intended.

natural language:
Any one of the languages that people speak that evolved naturally.

formal language:
Any one of the languages that people have designed for specific purposes, such as representing mathematical ideas or computer programs; all programming languages are formal languages.

token:
One of the basic elements of the syntactic structure of a program, analogous to a word in a natural language.

parse:
To examine a program and analyze the syntactic structure.

print statement:
An instruction that causes the Python interpreter to display a value on the screen.

value:
One of the basic units of data, like a number or string, that a program manipulates.

type:
A category of values. The types we have seen so far are integers (type int), floating-point numbers (type float), and strings (type str).

integer:
A type that represents whole numbers.

floating-point:
A type that represents numbers with fractional parts.

string:
A type that represents sequences of characters.

variable:
A name that refers to a value.

statement:
A section of code that represents a command or action. So far, the statements we have seen are assignments and print statements.

assignment:
A statement that assigns a value to a variable.

state diagram:
A graphical representation of a set of variables and the values they refer to.

keyword:
A reserved word that is used by the compiler to parse a program; you cannot use keywords like if, def, and while as variable names.

operator:
A special symbol that represents a simple computation like addition, multiplication, or string concatenation.

operand:
One of the values on which an operator operates.

floor division:
The operation that divides two numbers and chops off the fraction part.

expression:
A combination of variables, operators, and values that represents a single result value.

evaluate:
To simplify an expression by performing the operations in order to yield a single value.

rules of precedence:
The set of rules governing the order in which expressions involving multiple operators and operands are evaluated.

concatenate:
To join two operands end-to-end.

comment:
Information in a program that is meant for other programmers (or anyone reading the source code) and has no effect on the execution of the program.

function:
A named sequence of statements that performs some useful operation. Functions may or may not take arguments and may or may not produce a result.

function definition:
A statement that creates a new function, specifying its name, parameters, and the statements it executes.

function object:
A value created by a function definition. The name of the function is a variable that refers to a function object.

header:
The first line of a function definition.

body:
The sequence of statements inside a function definition.

parameter:
A name used inside a function to refer to the value passed as an argument.

function call:
A statement that executes a function. It consists of the function name followed by an argument list.

argument:
A value provided to a function when the function is called. This value is assigned to the corresponding parameter in the function.

local variable:
A variable defined inside a function. A local variable can only be used inside its function.

return value:
The result of a function. If a function call is used as an expression, the return value is the value of the expression.

fruitful function:
A function that returns a value.

void function:
A function that doesn’t return a value.

module:
A file that contains a collection of related functions and other definitions.

import statement:
A statement that reads a module file and creates a module object.

module object:
A value created by an import statement that provides access to the values defined in a module.

dot notation:
The syntax for calling a function in another module by specifying the module name followed by a dot (period) and the function name.

composition:
Using an expression as part of a larger expression, or a statement as part of a larger statement.

flow of execution:
The order in which statements are executed during a program run.

stack diagram:
A graphical representation of a stack of functions, their variables, and the values they refer to.

frame:
A box in a stack diagram that represents a function call. It contains the local variables and parameters of the function.

traceback:
A list of the functions that are executing, printed when an exception occurs.

instance:
A member of a set. The TurtleWorld in this chapter is a member of the set of TurtleWorlds.

loop:
A part of a program that can execute repeatedly.

encapsulation:
The process of transforming a sequence of statements into a function definition.

generalization:
The process of replacing something unnecessarily specific (like a number) with something appropriately general (like a variable or parameter).

keyword argument:
An argument that includes the name of the parameter as a “keyword.”

interface:
A description of how to use a function, including the name and descriptions of the arguments and return value.

refactoring:
The process of modifying a working program to improve function interfaces and other qualities of the code.

development plan:
A process for writing programs.

docstring:
A string that appears in a function definition to document the function’s interface.

precondition:
A requirement that should be satisfied by the caller before a function starts.

postcondition:
A requirement that should be satisfied by the function before it ends.

modulus operator:
An operator, denoted with a percent sign (%), that works on integers and yields the remainder when one number is divided by another.

boolean expression:
An expression whose value is either True or False.

relational operator:
One of the operators that compares its operands: ==, !=, >, <, >=, and <=.

logical operator:
One of the operators that combines boolean expressions: and, or, and not.

conditional statement:
A statement that controls the flow of execution depending on some condition.

condition:
The boolean expression in a conditional statement that determines which branch is executed.

compound statement:
A statement that consists of a header and a body. The header ends with a colon (:). The body is indented relative to the header.

branch:
One of the alternative sequences of statements in a conditional statement.

chained conditional:
A conditional statement with a series of alternative branches.

nested conditional:
A conditional statement that appears in one of the branches of another conditional statement.

recursion:
The process of calling the function that is currently executing.

base case:
A conditional branch in a recursive function that does not make a recursive call.

infinite recursion:
A recursion that doesn’t have a base case, or never reaches it. Eventually, an infinite recursion causes a runtime error.

temporary variable:
A variable used to store an intermediate value in a complex calculation.

dead code:
Part of a program that can never be executed, often because it appears after a returnstatement.

None:
A special value returned by functions that have no return statement or a return statement without an argument.

incremental development:
A program development plan intended to avoid debugging by adding and testing only a small amount of code at a time.

scaffolding:
Code that is used during program development but is not part of the final version.

guardian:
A programming pattern that uses a conditional statement to check for and handle circumstances that might cause an error.

multiple assignment:
Making more than one assignment to the same variable during the execution of a program.

update:
An assignment where the new value of the variable depends on the old.

initialization:
An assignment that gives an initial value to a variable that will be updated.

increment:
An update that increases the value of a variable (often by one).

decrement:
An update that decreases the value of a variable.

iteration:
Repeated execution of a set of statements using either a recursive function call or a loop.

infinite loop:
A loop in which the terminating condition is never satisfied.

object:
Something a variable can refer to. For now, you can use “object” and “value” interchangeably.

sequence:
An ordered set; that is, a set of values where each value is identified by an integer index.

item:
One of the values in a sequence.

index:
An integer value used to select an item in a sequence, such as a character in a string.

slice:
A part of a string specified by a range of indices.

empty string:
A string with no characters and length 0, represented by two quotation marks.

immutable:
The property of a sequence whose items cannot be assigned.

traverse:
To iterate through the items in a sequence, performing a similar operation on each.

search:
A pattern of traversal that stops when it finds what it is looking for.

counter:
A variable used to count something, usually initialized to zero and then incremented.

method:
A function that is associated with an object and called using dot notation.

invocation:
A statement that calls a method.

file object:
A value that represents an open file.

problem recognition:
A way of solving a problem by expressing it as an instance of a previously-solved problem.

special case:
A test case that is atypical or non-obvious (and less likely to be handled correctly).

Tags : Programming
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