I'm not a native English speaker, currently I'm reading some articles about Scrum.

I was wondering if the English terms used in Scrum seem strange to you? For example,
backlog instead of todo;
artifact instead of element;
retrospective instead of review;
even the name of Scrum, it make no sense to me as a process name.

Can anyone give some hint to me? For example, I don't see the relationship between a scrum in football and iteration process.

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    For example, I don't see the relationship between a scrum in football and iteration process. – Felix Jul 5 '14 at 11:12
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    backlog is not todo, because you won't necessarily do everything that is inside. scope may change, requirements may change etc. – Lovis Jul 5 '14 at 19:47
  • They are precise technical terms -- like many words in technology, they have a meaning that is explicitly defined, and thus different from what is used in normal language (as that is always vague). So it's better to use slightly unusual words to highlight this. – RemcoGerlich Mar 31 '16 at 10:47
  • I always assumed it was sort of a marketing approach. If you are trying to convince people that this way of working is in fact, radically new, then you can't just use terminology they are accustomed too. Our instinctual reaction to those terms the first time we hear them is "ohhh these are totally foreign to me" which reinforces the idea that Scrum is very different from the methodologies that came before it. – Graham Mar 31 '16 at 12:18

Wiktionary has the the following etymology to offer about the origin and meaning of Scrum terminology:

  • Scrum - (rugby) An ordered formation of forwards in which each side aims to gain control of the ball; a scrum.

  • backlog - An accumulation or buildup, especially of unfilled orders or unfinished work

  • artifact - Something viewed as a product of human conception or agency rather than an inherent element. *)

  • product owner - One who owns (something).

  • product - Anything that is produced; a result.

  • sprint - A short race at top speed

  • burn down chart - To burn completely, so that nothing remains.

  • burn down chart - A systematic non-narrative presentation of data.

  • velocity - The rate of occurrence.

All said, the words are specific and very precisely express the intended meaning in general, and in plain English.

*) I like this one even better ;-) "artifact - An object made or shaped by some agent or intelligence, not necessarily of direct human origin." (emphasis by me)

  • so for native English speakers, they are not strange at all? – Felix Jul 5 '14 at 11:07
  • I leave that open for a native English speaker to answer, but I would think knowing the general meaning of a word in your own language invokes a mental image and you are generally able to apply this to the field in question, software development in this case. So if I tell you "we have 50 items in our backlog", and you know the word "backlog" in a general sense, you get a sense of the amount of work still needed (at least you can tell it's more than if the backlog was zero). – miraculixx Jul 5 '14 at 11:16
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    As a native English speaker from the United States: artifact and burn down are not every day words. Velocity - many people would use "speed" but it may not be as precise. Scrum is a sports specific word and I don't really know how common it was before it was used in programming. – SeraM Jul 5 '14 at 13:35
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    High school physics wants me to mention that velocity is not just speed, it is speed in a specific direction – razethestray Jul 5 '14 at 17:02
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    @phaedra In the context of video games, "artifact" is common; its use is along the lines of "not made by the player", which is a perfect parallel for miraculixx's second definition – Izkata Jul 5 '14 at 22:48

See this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXmC_fku15Y for why scrum is a useful metaphor for a closely knit team in the Agile methodology. The use of scrum in this context was first brought to the attention of an English reading audience by the two Japanese authors (Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka) in "The new product development game", Harvard Business Review , 1986. That the authors chose a rugby scrum as a metaphor, is not surprising as Rugby Union is a major sport in Japan, and not unknown in America (and in the rest of Anglosphre the rugby has a very large following).


The name "Scrum" symbolises a team working together to move a ball up the field of play. It's a team of equals working together on a single, focused goal.

It could be said that the phrasing used in Scrum is deliberately different. It acts as a constant reminder that what we do, and how we do it, has changed.


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