Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

What Does Cyber Mean?


What Does Cyber Mean?

The word "cyber" denotes a relationship with information technology (IT), i.e., computers. (It can relate to all aspects of computing, including storing data, protecting data, accessing data, processing data, transmitting data, and linking data.)

The word "cyber" carries the following connotations:
  • A relationship with modern computing (i.e., the digital age).
  • (For example, early computers and home PCs from the 80s and 90s do not attract the term "cyber.")
  • A relationship with the cutting edge of modern technology.
  • (For example, IT security sounds more routine than cyber security, which implies a guard against the latest attack types.)

What Type of Word is Cyber?

"Cyber" is most often used as the first half of a compound noun (e.g., cyberspace), but it is also commonly used as a standalone, attributive adjective (e.g, cyber space). (NB: In the one-word version, "cyber" is not a prefix. It is the first half of a compound noun formed [adjective] + [noun].)

Note: Like many compound nouns (especially modern ones), those featuring the word "cyber" can be written as one word (cyberspace), as two words (cyber space) or as a hyphenated word (cyber-space). There is no clear guidance on this, but usage will eventually dictate which versions are acceptable. For now, try the one-word version and if your spellchecker dislikes it, go for the two-word or hyphenated version.

The three most common terms featuring "cyber" are:
  • Cyber Attack. A cyber attack is a standoff attack to disrupt, disable, destroy, or control a computing environment or to access controlled information.
  • ("Cyber attack" (as two words) is approximately twice as popular as "cyberattack." [click here for evidence])

  • Cybercrime. Cybercrime is any crime which is carried out using information technology or which targets information technology.
  • ("Cybercrime" (as one word) is marginally more popular than "cyber crime." [click here for evidence])

  • Cyberspace. Cyberspace is the environment where data storage and communications using computer networks occur.
  • ("Cyberspace" (as one word) is considerably more popular than "cyber space." The difference is so marked, the two-word version can now be considered a spelling error. [click here for evidence])

The Origin of "Cyber"

The word "cyber" came to prominence with the term "cybernetics" (the scientific study of controlling and communicating with systems using technology), which was coined in 1948 by the American mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894-1964).

The word "cyber" originates from the Ancient Greek verb kybereo meaning to guide, to steer, or to control.


American mathematician Norbert Wiener coined "cybernetics" in 1948.