Printable Version
Pronunciation: dawng-gêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A piece of hardware that must be plugged into a computer port in order for a copyrighted piece of software to operate on the computer. Its purpose is to protect the software from unauthorized use. 2. An adapter that fits into a computer port to provide a function or connection the computer is not fitted for.

Notes: Dangling dongleDongles in the original sense are still used for high-end (high-priced) engineering software where the temptation to "borrow" the program is the greatest. However, no doubt because of the sound similarity of this word and dangle, the meaning has already shifted to something that dangles from your laptop or desk computer. None of our tech guys have heard this new word used as a verb, so the only variant we know of at this point is the plural, dongles.

In Play: Putting this word in play sounds rather dangerous but here goes nothing: "Mick Stupp is off line today because he lost his dongle; he needs it for his Internet connection." Where can we go with this word from here? I don't think we will ever greet friends with, "How are your dongles dangling," so this word will probably never be used outside Nerdish like this: "I do love you, Amanda, but you make me feel more like a dongle than a major card on your motherboard." (Did you just moan or was that Shakespeare turning over in his grave?)

Word History: oday?s Good Word has a very short history. It was first the name of a chip for the Apple ][+ computer, introduced in 1979, a chip that was required to prevent unauthorized use of Apple's first accounting program (thank you Pierre Laberge). It is easy to see that this word might have been an intentional variant pronunciation of dangle. However, as the definitions above make clear, the original dongle didn?t dangle. In all probability, the word was made up, then gained wider currency as dongles did begin to dangle and the word made more sense to the general population. (We won?t leave you dangling any longer: Patricia Castellanos was the person kind enough to suggest today?s Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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