The Grammarphobia Blog

A nonsecurity blanket

Q: I found a reference in a tech publication to “an older, nonsecure version of an application.” I’ve seen “nonsecure” used quite a lot lately, especially about computer software. Is there such a word? Shouldn’t it be “insecure”?

A: The word “nonsecure” hasn’t made it into The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). Even my spell-checker doesn’t recognize it, and wants to make it “nosecone”! But Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) does include “nonsecure,” without any definition or comment, in a long list of words with “non” prefixes.

My bet is that American Heritage and other dictionaries will soon follow M-W‘s suit, and that all the dictionaries will include definitions. The term “nonsecure” has become extremely common in the world of information technology to describe data or software that’s not secure.

“Nonsecure” seems a more likely choice for this usage than “insecure,” which has psychological overtones. Though I have seen “insecure” used to describe unsafe data or software, “nonsecure” is used much, much more often.

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