“Performant” is not a word

Well actually it is, but it’s not what you think, even though it should be.

At one point I thought I invented the word ‘performant’ as a term to mean “performs acceptably” or “it’s really fast!!” kinda like ‘compliant’. But then I noticed other people I didn’t know were using it too.

The only problem is that it’s not a word. One dictionary defines it as “a performer” like in a play. That’s clearly not what we mean, but it makes sense. There’s even a company with Performant in their name, though they don’t seem to have anything to do with high performance.

So what’s a renegade linguist to do? Just keep on using performant. Eventually the dictionaries will catch on. Hey, if Doh can make it, surely performant should have a place.

In related news, Wired has finally decided to stop capitalizing ‘internet’. Did you hear that, AP?


  1. There are many specialized words in many different sciences that are not recognized English words. There are also many words/spellings that are US or AU English that are not UK English. Let’s just use the word for what it means in computer science, which is a solution that performs its process or task in an optimized manner.

  2. Jargon is common enough and fair to use with the correct audience. My complaints worth this term are:

    We already have the established terms “high performance”, “efficient” and “functional”, all which are more descriptive and understood.

    The most common use I see of “performant” is in the marketing of development scripts and tools, rather than as a meaningful descriptive term. It had a high Weasle Quotient as a result.

    • Jayme,

      “high performance” is not a noun (cannot be used after: “It is -“), so let’s leave that one out. “functional” (you guessed it) is functional; whereas “performant” is non-functional – completely opposite technical meanings. “efficient” is an exact measure whereby “performant” activities/tasks/etc. can be compared. Just as “effective” is an exact measure whereby “functional” activities/tasks/etc. can be compared. – I don’t think we can live without any of these words!

      – Elwyn

  3. Note that “performant” exists in French too and also means “efficient”, whether related to IT or not.
    Unsure which stems from which.
    Anyway, I heard the French word used in its non-IT sense, by non-IT people.

  4. A word is a word if a significant number of people understand it. Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive; they tell us what people mean when they use a word, but they are often slow to catch on to some usages. Bear in mind that English started out as little more than a patois, looked down upon by the ruling class who spoke French and wrote Latin, and they probably wouldn’t have regarded any English words as “proper” words.

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