While digital refers to something that can be manipulated by the fingers (called "digits"), it also is a type of electronic signal that uses a binary code (a system using numbers, or "digits") to transmit information.

The Latin digitus means "finger or toe," so it makes sense that by adding the suffix -al, which means "being like," we get the adjective digital, "fingerlike." The idea of the word referring to numerals began around 1938, soon becoming vital in computers. It's easy to imagine the connection between fingers and numbers, as the first mathematical "calculators" were probably fingers and toes. Digital recording appeared in 1960 to challenge analog, soon becoming the broadcasting standard for clearer signals.

Definitions of digital

adj relating to or performed with the fingers

digital examination”

adj displaying numbers rather than scale positions

digital clock”
digital readout”

adj of a circuit or device that represents magnitudes in digits

digital computer”
analog, analogue, linear
of a circuit or device having an output that is proportional to the input

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.