General English

  • noun moving pictures shown at a cinema or on TV
  • noun a roll of material which you put into a camera to take photographs or to record moving pictures
  • noun a thin layer of something
  • verb to take pictures of something or someone with a camera


  • A thin, or very thin layer or coating. A film may be thinner than one femtometer. Examples include acetate films, anode films, epitaxial films, and thin films.

Information & Library Science

  • noun a strip of light-sensitive material used in a camera to take photographs
  • noun a story or event recorded on film to be shown in the cinema or on television

Media Studies

  • noun a series images recorded by a camera and projected onto a screen as a sequence of moving pictures, usually with an accompanying soundtrack
  • noun films collectively, considered as an art form
  • noun a thin strip of cellulose coated with a light-sensitive emulsion, fed through a camera to take still or moving pictures
  • verb to record images on film
  • verb to record a story or event on film
  • verb to make or be involved in making a film
  • verb to be a suitable subject for being filmed


  • noun a very thin layer of a substance covering a surface


  • verb to expose a photographic film to light by means of a camera, and so produce images; to photograph bromides to make a film for printing

Origin & History of “film”

The notion underlying film is of a thin ‘skin’. The word comes ultimately from a prehistoric Germanic *fellam, which was related to Latin pellis ‘skin’ (source of English pelt ‘skin’). From this was derived *filminjam, which produced Old English filmen, a word used for various sorts of anatomical membrane or thin skin, including the peritoneum and the foreskin of the penis. It was generalized from the late 16th century to any thin membrane, and was applied by early 19th-century photographers to a thin layer of gel spread on photographic plates (‘The film of isinglass … peels off and will be found to bear a minute copy of the original’, William Thornthwaite, Guide to Photography 1845). As photographic technique moved on to cellulose coated with photosensitive emulsion, it took the term film with it.