New Meaning for Ingest

By Maeve Maddox

A reader has alerted me to a new use of the verb ingest:

Feed is a suite of tools to assist in preparing content for ingest into HathiTrust.

I found additional examples of this incomprehensible use of ingest in what are clearly technical contexts:

High Speed Smart Data Ingest into Hadoop

Fedora digital objects can be encoded in several XML formats for ingest and export.

I was ingesting with the cli interface by creating a file that is cli commands

Since the 17th century, ingest has been used in English with the meaning “to take in food.”

Substances other than food are also said to be ingested. In reference to human beings, ingest is a clinical term for “to eat” or “to swallow.” In figurative usage, it can be simply to “to take in” or “to absorb.” For example, birds are said to be “ingested” by jet engines. A student “ingests” information.”

Here are some examples that illustrate the usual meaning of the verb and its different forms:

Children ingest considerable amounts of soil

Foreign body ingestion is not uncommon in clinical practice, and it may occasionally lead to penetration injuries.

The Nature of the Ingested Protein Has No Effect on Lean Body Mass During Energy Restriction in Overweight Rats

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) gives important instructions about what to do if a child has ingested poison.

‘Miami Zombie’ Didn’t Ingest Bath Salts Confirms Autopsy

In the context of computer science, ingest seems to have acquired a meaning similar to input.

I found this definition of the term “data ingestion” at TechTarget:

Data ingestion is the process of obtaining, importing, and processing data for later use or storage in a database. This process often involves altering individual files by editing their content and/or formatting them to fit into a larger document.

I often have the feeling that some of the changes in usage like this unfamiliar meaning for ingest are driven by non-native English speakers who translate words from their own languages into English words that don’t necessarily have the same meaning in English. For example, the German verb einnehmen can be translated as “to partake of a meal,” but it also means “to get, receive, collect,” meanings that certainly go along with the definition of “data ingestion.”

Apart from computer jargon, ingest still means “to swallow, to consume, to take by mouth.”

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10 Responses to “New Meaning for Ingest”

  • Dale A. Wood

    Maeve, I agree completely that those misuses of the word “ingrest” are abominable and unacceptable.
    I would rephrase your long sentence (above) to make it shorter and more direct (blunter):

    I am convinced that some of the missteps in usage like this odd meaning for ingest are the responsibility of nonnative speakers of English who translate words from their own languages into English words that do not have the same meanings in English.

    Also, there are plenty of words in English that a “false cognates” with words in German or French. This means that the words look identical or very close, but there meanings are quite different.
    I got a lot of enjoyment out of reading a whole book called GERMAN FALSE COGNATES, which was all about words in German that do not mean the same thing in English. Prominent exampes Gift, Mist, Strippe, and Strand. Gift = poison, Mist = manure, and also Strippe is a slang word for telephone. In German, this is regularly called Fernsprecher or Telephone. “Strand” does not have to poetical meaning of “beach” as it does in English. “A romantic stroll on the strand” has to be expressed differently in German.
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    I’m sorry about misspelling “ingest”.

  • Eric Nilsson

    Perhaps we should take the new meaning of ingest injest.

  • Sherry

    ‘Ingestion’ is not the same thing as, or a bastardisation of, ‘input’ in “computer jargon”.

    Ingestion is properly termed because it involves the (often automated) gathering (‘absorbing’) of existing data from source(s), while Input involves the actual entering of data.

    Say you want your visitors to complete a website survey. They ‘input’ their answers. Your software ‘ingests’ the replies and metadata, and organizes it according to the perimeters you established. It then ‘outputs’ the results to you in the format you chose.

    Or consider how Photoshop ingests pictures from your camera. You input any necessary commands; the program ingests the pictures from the camera, and organizes them as your input instructed (naming convention, organization, etc.).

  • Nick Trusiewicz

    Apparently, these people are not familiar with the word “import.”

  • Rich Wheeler

    As Nick Trusiewicz points out, ‘import’ would be more correct in several of the examples. In other cases, the writers use ‘ingest’ in the wrong sentence structure.

    “Feed is a suite of tools to assist in preparing content *for ingest into HathiTrust*”

    should read

    …for HathiTrust to ingest.

    “High Speed Smart Data *Ingest into Hadoop*”

    should read

    …Ingest *by* Hadoop.

    “I was ingesting with the cli interface by creating a file that is cli commands”

    I hope the data did not give the writer indigestion.

    Writers frequently make similar mistakes by failing to write in active voice. The above examples all confuse the actor, the action, and the target of the action.

    If all techies wrote code the way they encode English, we’d still be using paper, pencil, and slide rule.

  • Pat

    “Your software ‘ingests’ the replies and metadata, and organizes it according to the perimeters you established”

    Did the writer of this comment mean “parameters”?

    It seems that absorbing (or ingesting) geekisms into what used to be English (Geeklish?) is going to take a little time.

    Pat

  • venqax

    High Speed Smart Data Ingest into Hadoop
    Fedora digital objects can be encoded in several XML formats for ingest and export.

    The latter sentence, at least, needs to use a noun, “for ingestion and export” regardless of what the “author” wants ingest to mean. The former perhaps too, depending on what is meant.

    All in all, it’s irritating when geeks of whatever kind pirate perfectly good words from the language to apply unnecessary and confusing meanings to them just because they are too lazy a/o uneducated to invent their own vocabulary.

    If all techies wrote code the way they encode English, we’d still be using paper, pencil, and slide rule.

    Excellent point. In fact, if they were as sloppy about code-writing as they are about pretty much everything else, etc.

  • Teresa

    The meaning of old words often expands to cover new language needs, and this is a good thing as long as the speaker and listener understand each other. What is “jargon” today can become common speech in the future — depending on need. As technology becomes more complex, more language will be changed or created to describe it. The word ‘ingest’ will eventually encompass the wider meaning of “to take in” rather than its current limited usage.

    Where “techies” go wrong is assuming that everyone else has the same education, skills, and experience to understand what they are talking about. That’s why there is such a need for good technical writers to interpret what techs are saying and develop meaningful instructions for lay people. Unfortunately, the internet skips this step and non-techies can read direct tech-speak in its new and dynamic form, then complain when they can’t fully understand it. 😉

  • Sherry

    Did the writer of this comment mean “parameters”?

    Yes. No excuse for not being more careful.

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