As the word suggests, the word hardware usually refers to tools used to build something — “wares” that are “hard.” It also is used to refer to the computer equipment that stores and uses “software,” the programs used in computing.

The word hardware dates back to the early 16th Century, where it was used to indicate such items as tools and weapons. Nowadays, that meaning holds, with hardware stores traditionally specializing mainly in materials and tools for building and repairs. The military use of the word has also remained, referring to major weapons such as tanks and missiles. However, since 1947, the word hardware has also taken on an ironically softer meaning — that of the components of a computer system.

Definitions of hardware
  1. noun
    instrumentalities (tools or implements) made of metal
    synonyms: ironware
    see moresee less
    type of:
    instrumentality, instrumentation
    an artifact (or system of artifacts) that is instrumental in accomplishing some end
  2. noun
    major items of military weaponry (as tanks or missile)
    see moresee less
    type of:
    arms, implements of war, munition, weaponry, weapons system
    weapons considered collectively
  3. noun
    (computer science) the mechanical, magnetic, electronic, and electrical components making up a computer system
    synonyms: computer hardware
    see moresee less
    computer software, package, software, software package, software program, software system
    (computer science) written programs or procedures or rules and associated documentation pertaining to the operation of a computer system and that are stored in read/write memory
    show 11 types...
    hide 11 types...
    C.P.U., CPU, central processing unit, central processor, mainframe, processor
    (computer science) the part of a computer (a microprocessor chip) that does most of the data processing
    computer memory, computer storage, memory, memory board, storage, store
    an electronic memory device
    computer hardware that arranges jobs to be done by the computer in an appropriate order
    computer hardware that sorts data or programs into a predetermined sequence
    hardware that provides better performance than an earlier version did
    non-volatile storage, nonvolatile storage
    computer storage that is not lost when the power is turned off
    ROM, fixed storage, read-only memory, read-only storage
    (computer science) memory whose contents can be accessed and read but cannot be changed
    real storage
    the main memory in a virtual memory system
    (computer science) a high-speed internal memory used for temporary storage of preliminary information
    virtual memory, virtual storage
    (computer science) memory created by using the hard disk to simulate additional random-access memory; the addressable storage space available to the user of a computer system in which virtual addresses are mapped into real addresses
    volatile storage
    computer storage that is erased when the power is turned off
    type of:
    component, constituent, element
    an artifact that is one of the individual parts of which a composite entity is made up; especially a part that can be separated from or attached to a system
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week