Suppose I were to make two classes:

class Databank { ... }
class Dababase { ... }

Based upon the chosen terminology, could one infer how one class would behave different compared to the other?

And what are the origins of these two terms? Are there any historically significant examples of a "Databank"?


In a programming context, the term “databank” is an obsolete synonym for “database”. There is no substantial difference in meaning, but “databank” is unlikely to be used outside of 60s-era documents.

Outside of English programming jargon, things might be different. For example, in German the word “Datenbank” is typically used. The term “data bank” is also used for some collections of data in a scientific context, e.g. the Protein Data Bank used by biologists.

  • 2
    Interesting! To support the argument: In a databank ;-) of computing articles, I found over 9000 academic papers referring to “database system”, but only 7 to “databank system” (mostly from early 70s). For “databank” alone there are 275 articles, including many recent ones; but a sample check confirmed than in most cases these articles related to biological topics such as protein databanks or similar scientific subjects.
    – Christophe
    Aug 14 '21 at 9:52
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    @Christophe I get the impression that the reason why they might use "Databank" is that storing something like protein data, is something of permeanence. You "bank" that "Protein" information because that will be useful in perpetituity. You would not bank your StackExchange settings.
    – Anon
    Aug 14 '21 at 10:07
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    @Anon yes, that could be an interpretation. Another one is that such databanks are often managed by organizations and have strict rules for the deposit and withdrawals of the data assets (example: rcsb.org even uses the terminology “deposit”)
    – Christophe
    Aug 14 '21 at 10:15

A brief search shows that an original sense of the word "data bank", was to refer to an organisation that operated a data-processing and storage facility, by analogy to the high street bank that operates a money-processing and storage facility.

I would speculate that this was quickly slurred to refer to internal functions which provided the same facility to a single organisation (an organisation which was not itself a "data bank"), and also becoming associated with the computer hardware itself.

The term "data bank" nowadays is obsolete, except as @amon mentioned, where it is used in the sense of referring to an organisation whose main purpose is maintaining a data archive of perceived civic or scientific importance - similar to a library, but perhaps emphasising that what is stored is primarily structured data rather than books, articles, and other narrative in natural language.

A "database" by contrast does not mean an organisation, a function, or equipment. It is a volume of fully-structured data typically stored on a computer, and perhaps conflated with the software which manages that volume.

The reason "data bank" has fallen into disuse is because nowadays it is just synonymous with being in business. Everyone has a computer and an IT function (whose roles are often through of primarily as engineering and maintenance of hardware and software, not just curation of data).

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