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[fi-ley, fee-ley] /fɪˈleɪ, ˈfi leɪ/

noun, New Orleans Cookery.
a powder made from the ground leaves of the sassafras tree, used as a thickener and to impart a pungent taste to soups, gumbos, and other dishes.
a folder, box, etc, used to keep documents or other items in order
the documents, etc, kept in this way
documents or information about a specific subject, person, etc: we have a file on every known thief
an orderly line or row
a line of people in marching formation, one behind another Compare rank1 (sense 6)
any of the eight vertical rows of squares on a chessboard
(computing) a named collection of information, in the form of text, programs, graphics, etc, held on a permanent storage device such as a magnetic disk
(obsolete) a list or catalogue
(Canadian) a group of problems or responsibilities, esp in government, associated with a particular topic: the environment file
on file, recorded or catalogued for reference, as in a file
to place (a document, letter, etc) in a file
(transitive) to put on record, esp to place (a legal document) on public or official record; register
(transitive) to bring (a suit, esp a divorce suit) in a court of law
(transitive) to submit (copy) to a newspaper or news agency
(intransitive) to march or walk in a file or files: the ants filed down the hill
a hand tool consisting essentially of a steel blade with small cutting teeth on some or all of its faces. It is used for shaping or smoothing metal, wood, etc
(rare, Brit, slang) a cunning or deceitful person
(transitive) to shape or smooth (a surface) with a file
(transitive) (obsolete) to pollute or defile

“to place (papers) in consecutive order for future reference,” mid-15c., from Middle French filer “string documents on a wire for preservation or reference,” from fil “thread, string” (12c.), from Latin filum “a thread, string,” from PIE *gwhis-lom (cf. Armenian jil “sinew, string, line,” Lithuanian gysla “vein, sinew,” Old Church Slavonic zila “vein”), from root *gwhi- “thread, tendon.” The notion is of documents hung up on a line.

File (filacium) is a threed or wyer, whereon writs, or other exhibits in courts, are fastened for the better keeping of them. [Cowel, “The Interpreter,” 1607]

Methods have become more sophisticated, but the word has stuck. Related: Filed; filing.


1520s, “string or wire on which documents are strung,” from French file “row,” from Middle French filer (see file (v.)). The meaning “arranged collection of papers” is from 1620s; computer sense is from 1954. The military sense “line or row of men” (1590s) is from the French verb in the sense of “spin out (thread); march in file.”

metal tool, Old English feol (Mercian fil), from Proto-Germanic *finkhlo (cf. Old Saxon and Old High German fila, Middle Dutch vile, Dutch vijl, German Feile), probably from PIE *peig- “to cut, mark by incision” (see paint (v.)). The verb in this sense is from early 13c., from Old English filian. Related: Filed; filing.
A collection of related data or program records stored as a unit with a single name. Files are the basic units that a computer works with in storing and retrieving data.


Related Terms

circular file

[first sense perhaps fr the tool; perhaps related to French filou, ”pickpocket”]


Read Also:

  • Filer

    [fahyl] /faɪl/ noun 1. a folder, cabinet, or other container in which papers, letters, etc., are arranged in convenient order for storage or reference. 2. a collection of papers, records, etc., arranged in convenient order: to make a file for a new account. 3. Computers. a collection of related data or program records stored on […]

  • File request

    1. The FidoNet equivalent of FTP, in which one BBS system automatically dials another and snarfs one or more files. Often abbreviated “FReq”; files are often announced as being “available for FReq” in the same way that files are announced as being “available for/by anonymous FTP” on the Internet. 2. The act of getting a […]

  • File separator

    character (FS) ASCII character 28. (1996-06-28)

  • File-server

    noun 1. a computer that makes files available to workstations on a network. noun 1. (computing) the central unit of a local area network that controls its operation and provides access to separately stored data files

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