Those textboxes, datepickers, textareas, etc... or DB fields. Does anyone know the etymology of it? Why those are "fields"? Is it because a field is an open space area that has no trees growing on it thus representing a textbox with no data in it? I can get why a mouse controller is called this way - it looks like a mouse. But what about fields? In other languages a word with the same meaning is used, but I believe it's been borrowed from English.

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    There is a discussion about this at english.stackexchange.com/questions/147492/… That said, I expect the main reason for the terminology in computing is that a field in a data structure was seen as analogous to the field on a paper form to be filled out.
    – Michael
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 14:34
  • Fields are where stuff goes. Open fields of grass, corn fields, oil fields, force fields, data-entry fields, research fields, battle fields, etc.. If there's an area where something goes/is, it's a field of that something.
    – Nat
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 17:12
  • The folks at SE.RetroComputing may have some background on when "fields" was first used in the object-oriented sense of a field.
    – Nat
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 17:15
  • Thanks @Michael, wasn't able to find that link.
    – Mike Trent
    Commented Apr 10, 2021 at 15:07

1 Answer 1


If you have a physical, paper form, the regions you have to fill in are called "fields".

It's possible this comes from heraldry.

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    The first applications for computing equipement which used records were in business applications that mimicked ordinary business processes conducted on paper. The forms were called "records" and the things you filled in (as you say) were called "fields". And we're talking about a time before computers too: the equipment itself (typically based on punched cards) was called "unit record equipment" because they dealt with "records", one at a time ...
    – davidbak
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 15:12
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    The suggestion that this use of the word came from heraldry is amusing, but not likely (IMO).
    – davidbak
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 15:13
  • It's speculation, but there must have been a time before paper forms at which someone had to name the region to fill in on the paper form ...
    – pjc50
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 15:13
  • It would have been papyrus. Maybe they called it a fylde. Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 23:27

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