The Grammarphobia Blog

An update on updating

Q: I rarely get to hear you on the Leonard Lopate Show, but I’m hoping you’ll answer this. I’ve worked in information technology since 1981, so I’m used to techie terms, but I recently encountered a new (and annoying) one: “updation,” as in “document updation.” Please comment on its legitimacy or lack thereof.

A: “Updation” is a new one on me too. After a brief consultation with Dr. Google (2.4 million hits), I’d say the term seems to be most popular with tech heads, especially South Asians.

I can’t find the word in any of the references I usually consult, but the online Dictionary of Indian English gives this example to illustrate its use: “Write a program for creation, deletion and updation of database records.”

Wiktionary, a collaborative online dictionary, has three published references for “updation.” The first, from a 1998 book on parallel algorithms, says: “The above updation can be done through each vertex k.” (You may know what this means, but it beats me!)

As for the legitimacy of “updation” (or lack thereof), my feeling is that we already have two good words that cover all the bases: the noun “update” and the verbal noun “updating.” Examples: “Here’s an update” and “This needs updating.” Why would we need a third?

All the previous forms of “update” – whether noun or verb or adjective – are 20th-century coinages. But perhaps techies don’t find them sufficiently up-to-date!

And by the way, I have a WNYC page on with links to my old appearances on the Leonard Lopate Show. My husband, Stewart, and I try to update the page a few hours after my appearance each month.

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