I find myself talking about computers with a lot of non-tech people, who often use the word "glitch" to describe an undesirable outcome of a program or operating system(of course, never Linux!). I have never heard another programmer use the word "glitch" and hearing it makes me think the user has no idea what they are talking about. SO my question: Do you use the word glitch in everyday, technical conversation, if not, does its use imply to you ignorance and lack understanding?

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    Linux glitches. For example, the open source nvidia drivers do very little other than glitch. It's just that non-tech people are rarely Linux users. Oh - and I'm a programmer who uses the word "glitch" quite a bit. But maybe that's just a mental glitch.
    – user8709
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 3:44
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    non-tech people don't talk about linux at all - and they get bored when you do ;-) Commented May 19, 2011 at 4:18
  • @Steven - It's a tactical thing. When annoying visitors lose the will to live, they either stay away or... well, cease to be a problem. Although there can still be a cleanup problem, I suppose - best not to explain the difference between sed and awk, probably.
    – user8709
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 6:50

3 Answers 3


Glitch came into computing from the hardware side. In hardware, it has a pretty well defined meaning -- a short-term, unexpected change in the state of a signal. This can happen for a number of different reasons, including noise such as from a nearby radio transmitter or static discharge, or defective design such as not taking propagation delays into account. In early computers (especially home-brewed hardware and such) problems from real glitches weren't all that uncommon, but as designs have stabilized, real hardware glitches have become pretty rare -- to the point that encountering a real problem from one anymore is probably pretty unusual.

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    This is a good point. Glitches (and hazards) are well-defined in the electronic realm. +1 Commented May 19, 2011 at 5:00

A glitch is a short-lived fault in a system. It is often used to describe a transient fault that corrects itself, and is therefore difficult to troubleshoot. The term is particularly common in the computing and electronics industries, and in circuit bending, as well as among players of video games, although it is applied to all types of systems including human organizations and nature.

The term derives from the German glitschig, meaning 'slippery', possibly entering English through the Yiddish term glitsh. Source

But honestly, it's just another general term for the same thing. You can try to split hairs and define bugs, glitches, defects, etc. In the end, it is just something that is not producing the desired output.

  • Splitting (often arbitrarily invented) semantic hairs is a common obsession in some places, though. For example contractese, with those strictly defined meanings for "must", "should" and "will"?
    – user8709
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 4:56
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    @Steve314: The purpose of programming is to rigorously, unambiguously, formally communicate the behavior of complex systems to other humans not necessarily familiar with the system or the domain. In other words: splitting hairs is our job. Commented May 19, 2011 at 9:39
  • @Jörg - true, but not for what we're discussing here. Words like "glitch" and "bug" simply don't have precise formally-defined distinct meanings, except within particular niches. If it's useful to define some for a particular workplace, fine - but some people will then insist in every context that their particular meaning is the one true meaning and all other meanings are wrong. My contractese example is a bad one, though. Until a contract lawyer throws a temper tantrum over people using the word "must" in everyday speech without any penalty clause being specified, it's not the same thing.
    – user8709
    Commented May 21, 2011 at 18:41
  • @Steve314: Sorry for not being clear. I wasn't referring specifically to this situation. My comment was meant more as an explanation as to why such nitpicking and hairsplitting seems to be common in programming/technical forums even during casual conversations. IOW: the reason why it's a "common obsession" is because a) it's our job, and b) we're passionate about our jobs (otherwise we wouldn't be here discussing how to improve it, right?) and can't just switch it off at 5pm. Commented May 21, 2011 at 20:54
  • splitting hairs about splitting hairs? I think that we are using the wrong term here, it should be "being pedantic".
    – user251748
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 15:45

My know of many teenagers (16+) using it. At my work especially we don't speak of glitches, bugs or even problems. Since its widely accepted in our organization that if you say "bug" you assuming that there is a problem with out development and we claim liability for it. Instead we say "issues" which need to be assessed.

  • Euphemism Creep. Soon, 'issue' will be a four-letter-word.
    – user251748
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 15:46

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