What Does Orthogonal Mean?

Orthogonal, in a computing context, describes a situation where a programming language or data object can be used without considering its after-effects toward other program functions.


In vector geometry, orthogonal indicates two vectors that are perpendicular to each other. The extended general usage of orthogonal is where two things vary from each other independently.

Techopedia Explains Orthogonal

If a programming language can be used without having to worry about how it will affect another programming language, it is said to be orthogonal. For example, Pascal is considered orthogonal while C++ is considered non-orthogonal. In addition, features of a programming language that are compatible with earlier versions of itself have an orthogonal relationship with the program.

When analyzing data storage, the length of time data is kept in a storage system is called its persistence. Orthogonal persistence describes a situation where a developer can treat data similarly without regarding the length of time the data has been kept in storage.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…