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An application programming interface (API) is the specification for which software is meant to be used by other software.

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Lots of the other answers explain that an SDK is tooling, but none of them directly comes out and says that an API is a specification. The API for compoonent X is all the information that you need … in order to write some other component that will interact with X. An SDK for component X may contain library routines that make it easier for you to write that component, but the libraries are not the API: They are merely an embodiment of the API. …
answered Aug 29 '16 by Solomon Slow