button

Definitions

General English

General Science

  • noun a square shape displayed on a screen that will carry out a particular action if selected with a pointer or keyboard

Computing

  • noun a switch on a mouse or joystick that carries out an action

Electronics

  • A knob, disk, or the like, which is pressed to activate or operate a circuit, device, component, machine, and so on. For instance, a button may be pressed to activate an electric circuit. A button may also be virtual, as seen when a computer mouse presses such a button on-screen by clicking the mouse. Also called pushbutton.
  • A small piece of metal alloyed to a semiconductor wafer to form a junction. Also called dot (3).
  • In a carbon microphone, a container that holds carbon granules. Also called carbon button, or microphone button.
  • On a computer mouse, a surface which is pressed, or clicked, to select objects, perform functions, or the like. Also called mouse button.

Information & Library Science

  • noun a picture on a computer screen which can be used with a mouse to perform specific functions

Slang

  • noun a section of the peyote cactus resembling a button, ingested for its hallucinogenic effect

Travel

  • noun a small object stitched to clothes for attaching one part of clothing to another
  • noun a small round object which you press to make a machine work

Origin & History of “button”

Button comes via Old French bouton from vulgar Latin *botōne, a word connected with the verb *hottāre ‘thrust’ (from which ultimately English gets butt ‘hit with the head’). The underlying notion contained in button is thus of something which pushes up, thrusts itself outwards, rather like a bud growing on a plant; the fact that the resulting round knob is used for fastening is, from the point of view of the word’s semantic history, secondary. (Inconclusive attempts have in fact been made to link bud with Old French boter, a descendant of Vulgar Latin *bottāre, and from the 15th century the word button has been applied in English to ‘buds’.).
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