“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?

116 Comments

  1. Anyway 131000 english web pages (according to google) contain the word “performant”. To your amusement, I can tell you that italian computer geeks use the word “performante” apparently derived from an english word that does not exist.

  2. It is indeed all over the Web, and some random surfing just now shows it does crop up in white papers, if not books on database tuning. (I know some of my colleagues use it professionally.)

    The BBC are currently running a series on the OED and it so happens we are on the letter “p” this week, which prompted to look into this word again – and write to the OED. Jeff, drop me an email and I’ll reply with the email I sent – only fair, since I have linked to this page…

    …by the way, I hate the word, since it encourages lazy sentence construction.

  3. I have a conservative streak when it comes to techno/business neologisms. I flinched at “proactive” for years before adopting it. I’m going to give in and start using “performant” and meaning it’s fast enough to use in a practical setting without having to wait a bothersome amount of time. I think the evidence shows that its use has become so widespread that it seems stuffy to avoid it.

  4. For those, whose opinion relies on sources like Google I would like to note that Google also provides sites with ‘high-performant’ or even ‘highly-performant’ phrases. If our reality is based on sources like that, maybe we should imply that there is a ‘low permformant’ phrase. But then, the meaning would be actually what, low-fast enough? My point is that the number of web sites citing a phrase proves only that we ‘adaptable’ without truly understanding the meaning. Please consider the following, if Google returns thousands of sites with offensive phrases, should we adopt it?

  5. Fortunately, as of today, Google hasn’t found “performantness” in use, but it’s just a matter of time. “Performant” is neologging into an ill-defined usage, and there are already plenty of adequate words around to tout performance (“fast” comes to mind). If anything, performant ought to mean “performs according to specification” since this concept is lacking many easy words. (“asspecced” ?)

  6. Amazing! I am a very well-educated and well-read senior IT professional, and I had never heard or seen the word “performant” until a potential client put it in a specification last week. I consider myself quite a word maven (read William Safire every week!). Where have I been? It reminds me of the time, about 15 years ago when, in a training class, I chastised a fellow student thus: “What do you mean data WAREHOUSE? That’s not a very meaningful term.” Btw, I am okay with performant as meaning “complying with the performance specification”. It’s kind of clever. But I’m afraid it will end up being randomly applied, and we’ll end up with a situation like we have with “out of pocket”.

  7. I just had this word sent to me in a document and couldn’t find it in the dictionary, or work out what was meant from context. It came from Belgium, though, so ‘efficient’ seems the most likely meaning from the comment above. I’ve replaced it in the document. There’s no point in using words that people can’t consistently and unambiguously understand.

  8. I’m a Romanian IT tech in USA, and I just googled for “performant”, that’s how I got to this page 😉

    “Performant” is a word in Romanian!. I was just getting ready to use it in a network layout descryption, saying something like “a performant tape drive”.

    In Romanian, (Latin based, cousin of French & Spanish) “performant” would be somehting that describes a machine’s quality of work.

    A performant consumer router would be a high end one. Performant doesn’t look at the price or brand, but at how it performs.

    geez. I won’t use it.

  9. I recently used ‘performant’ in a database design document and it was challenged at a QA meeting.

    Fair enough, it is a French word but if we can allow “ad infinitum” and similar then why should this be a problem?

    🙂

  10. Just found this site because Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 refers to ‘more performant code’ in the installation routine splash screens. Googled ‘performant’, and found this site.

  11. Interesting discussion.

    I do a fair amount of work in Germany and this seems to be a popular translation when speaking about acceptable performance from a software application.

    Since I’ve heard it so frequently, I’ve accepted the fact that it constitutes an actual word – at least when Germans are speaking English. I’m certainly not going to correct my clients.

    I must admit that I’ve not heard the phrase “brandied about” bandied about, SECTION52.

  12. Just read this in the book titled “Java Concurrency in Practice” by Brian Goetz – “… creating safe and performant concurrent classes.”
    In this context, the word “performant” seems to mean “correct and efficient”.

  13. Hello,
    I was just getting ready to use “performant” in my document and Microsoft Word underlined it. I decided to check with google and found this page. I must have used it already a couple of times.
    I have a french background and “Performant” is OK in French. French and English share so many words with this format e.g. participant and others – I guess this is an exception but don’t why.
    Anyways, I will ignore Microsoft Word’s warning and just use it – it seems people will know what I mean, that’s what matters in a technical doc.

  14. The good news is that the domain “performant.com” is still for sale. Be in first, Jeff 😉 The company “Performant” is a financial one, and their name therefore fits well with one of the uses of the word in French.

    A very good reason not to use the word is that it is not well defined in English. It’s new to me and I’m pretty well read technically. I suspect it’s one of those words that consultants like using when preparing reports that are intended to impress but not inform …

  15. I agree with Iancea, it’s “one of those words consultants like using”. Consultants have invented most of the meaningless BS phrases in business and this is another. Funnily enough, I discovered it in a note I’d received from Bearing Point, the once upon a time KPMG Consulting. I “Googled” it and reached this site. I would never use it and I’m suspicious of those that do.

  16. Performant is a wonderful word irrespective of any spell checker/word nerd’s opinion.

    exempli grati:

    Jerk manager: Jim wtf is is up with the webservice this morning.
    Jim: I told you sprocs were more performant than dynamic sql…jerk.

    Clueless Analyst: Jim, the client wants to modify the requirements to accomodate their legacy vb6 com objects. What are com objects?
    Jim: I rewrote all of those objects in more performant .NET assemblies…At the begining of this project…in march…it’s December…out of my cube.

    Loud ass sales douche: Jimbo! have you checked out that hot ass salsa joint in the warehouse district.
    Jim: what do you wan…
    Loud ass sales douche: ..Chicks are like yeahhh, dudes are all Uhh, you know?
    Jim: …
    Loud ass sales douche:…and Milf’s man, Mi-il-lfsss…anywayz New York is moving 30,000 more units this week due to my sweeeetness so I need last years figures to compute my comish ya know?
    Jim: who are yo…
    Loud ass sales douche:…yeah so can you put them in an excel spreadsheet for a brotha?
    Jim: Querying against the the live database would be more performant than searching through 500,000 sales records in a spreadsheet…you know, using the web app I built for sales last summer…douc…
    Loud ass sales douche:…sweet, hey gotta jet do the thing for the thing buddy. Holla!

  17. I found this site the same google way as others when I found the “word” I have been using for some time is apparently not yet a word. As long as it conveys something that we do not already have a word for, it can become a word. To me it means “meets the requirements but without-loss-of and/or with-good performance; compliant with consideration to performance. It doesn’t have to be the fastest.

    Performant SQL. A performant implementation.

  18. I think it’s really a word meant to elevate oneself above the IT hoi polloi. Before common adoption, it probably was useful in magazine articles, software seminars, job interviews and coffee-machine conversations; in short, anywhere it might be useful in impressing the listener.

  19. Glad I found this. We have a consultant that uses it all the time and it has always irked me. The use of buzz words and phrases – especially ones that aren’t real – is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

    And I’m a consultant, too.

  20. I agree with this usage:

    Just read this in the book titled “Java Concurrency in Practice” by Brian Goetz – “… creating safe and performant concurrent classes.”
    In this context, the word “performant” seems to mean “correct and efficient”.

    The definition I would like to see for performant is:

    that the referant meets explicit or implicit performance requirments. When used for comparision e.g. “more performant” it implies that the totality of performance metrics and tradeoffs for one referant is valued greater then the other’s.

    “more performant”

  21. I just googled performant and ended up here. I don’t see why “performant” annoys you so much. You took participant but cannot stand performant? Too bad for you – I’m gonna use performant. Btw, I am not French (nor a consultant :P)

  22. I also googled ‘performant’ and ended up here. I’ve been doing engineering work for over twenty years and never used the word. My 2 cents: If a word is not defined, it is NOT a word. The use of a word is to convey a meaning and if the word is undefined, the meaning is undefined or ambiguous at best. So best practice – OK for casual use, AVOID it in formal use.

  23. The beauty of the English language is that it is a living language. Dictionaries catalogue use, not define it (unlike French). Performant normally makes sense in context and so I see no reason not to use it those situations. Let’s face it – most of the stuff Americans call “American English” was an innovation!

  24. I don’t buy the “makes sense in context” business.

    I ended up at this page because I came across the following:

    “ScrewTurn Wiki is a performant and simple Wiki engine, written in C# and based on the ASP.NET 2.0 platform.”

    The “ant” suffix converts a verb to an adjective. Defy -> defiant. Comply -> compliant. I my mind’s context, the sentence “wiki is a performant … engine” translates to “the wiki engine performs”. Then I must assume the author’s intent is “performs well”. I’m still left wondering “performs what well”?

    I need a metric. That metric varies depending on the requirements specification. What is the implied metric for a “performant wiki engine”?

    While were at it, why not the following?

    “This software is the shiznitz with egregious bling. It’s da bomb.”

  25. Microsoft is using the word Performant too. I’m very suprised to see that word on Visual Studio 2005 (180 days trial version edition)’s installation interface. I was not sure if it is a word or not so I googled it and got here.

  26. “Performant” will be in Microsoft products because you can’t find a Microsoft PM who doesn’t use it in every third sentence. It will be as useless to try killing it as teaching a dev that “setup” is not a verb.

  27. Performant is a word, sorry. Granted, it comes from latin roots, through French, but then what? Isn’t it so for about 40% of the English dictionary?

    It is the same case of Ignorance->Ignorant, is not Ignorant a well accepted English word as well?

    Get real, recognise the evidence.

  28. Obviously in english, words are what we make them. The problem with this silly thing is its failure to clarify a description or add content. So performant means ‘is working’ or possibly ‘works right’ or ‘works ok’. Wow! Were we so desperate for more ways to say ‘isn’t broken (mostly)’?

    Bryan summed it up well. Just another way to pad out a sentence with nice noises.

    Once again, illiterate weanies have dragged another content-free word into english, a language already overburdened with ways to say nothing or lie outright.

  29. I have just attended TechEd here in New Zealand. The word Performant cropped up at least three times in at least two sessions by different speakers. The two speakers that I remember were both American Microsoft employees talking about their new database product.

    Now while I understood what they were talking about, and why they may want to use that word in a given context, it still irked me. It is NOT a word pertaining to a measure of performance. Use of this word should halt forthwith!

    My tuppence worth, anyhow. 🙂

  30. Got to be careful when you invent new words – each revised edition of an English dictionary has got to weigh in at less than 3kg. So, each new word you push on at this end, another one has to drop off the other end, to be forgotten, forever.

    I would rather keep ‘perspicacity’ and let ‘performant’ miss the next edition, to be honest.

  31. Like RandomSearcher (11/21/06) and Li (5/10/07), my first encounter with “performant” stemmed from the Microsoft marketing that appeared while installing Visual Studio 2005. I too was driven to research this “word” in Google as I was convinced it is as much a word as, for instance: “irregardless” (which unfortunately can now be found in the English dictionary). Thus I stumbled across this blog.

    I find it ironic that Microsoft uses this term so prolifically in their product marketing yet Microsoft Word, their own word processing software, rejects its use (per Anselm’s post from 12/6/06). In general I like Microsoft products. However, by “evangelizing” the world to the use of “performant” it appears that once again Microsoft prematurely released a tool that isn’t as “performant” as all their hype would suggest.

    I’m not sure if I agree with Bryan concerning the use of “shiznitz” to describe software’s performance but it couldn’t be any less universally understood than “performant”. Perhaps Microsoft would consider changing their marketing to say: “Our latest version of [product] is the bee’s knees.” That phrase has had sufficient time to catch on and after all, retro is “in” right?

    😉

  32. I have just used performant (for the first time) in a informal mail. While checking the exact meaning of the buzz-word, i found this hilarious conversation.

    I have used performant in a adjective way. A performant application is an application with performance which is OK.

  33. I am French (from Montreal) and I often write software specifications documents. I use “performant” (since it is a french word) thinking it is also an english word. I am always wandering why the heck my word processing application always keep this word underlined. Well… now I know.

    Thanks,

    JL

  34. Got here by web search after a work colleague used perfomant and I went “uh?”

    I’m now waiting for “performantize” – to make something performant. Google doesn’t reveal any uses but I’m sure it has already been used! Maybe if something can be made performant then it is “performatizable.” Or how about perfomantizability or performantization.

    Oh, how I love wankspeak.

  35. Wow, I was also driven here because Microsoft Word underlined it. I am a ten year software vetern, and I have known the word as long as I can remember. Well, I thought so, until today. Thinking back, I first heard the word from a compiler developer about two years ago.

    In that context, it seemed mean “optimized for performance”. The meaning of performance is very context dependent and somewhat subjective. Encarta’s example of performance is a “high-performance car”. Everyone understands the implied performance characteristics: accelerates quickly, high top speed, and handles well. A high-performance car must be very efficient to achieve those objectives; however, a Prius (I own one) is also very efficient, but not at all performant.

    Dictionaries are always slow to catch up with our evolving language. Some people like to ride the wave; others are irked by their audacity. C’est la vie. (Also acceptable English).

  36. New words come about out of necessity all the time. This is an example.

    We don’t have a good, short English word which is a variant of “performance.”

    And what determines if a word is really a word? A dictionary? Nope, it’s common usage that defines words. Dictionaries are simply a reflection and codification of usage.

  37. I just wanted to add my two cents concerning the word performant. Although not a member of the common vernacular, it certainly deserves a place in the language as it conveys a subtly different meaning than many of the terms being bandied about here. Specifically to me it implies not only adequate performance with respect to some objective but also the semblance of correct operation. I would encourage everyone to embrace this “word” when appropriate as it has both depth and brevity.

  38. Folks, folks .. this is a really funny conversation.

    It just shows

    a) that all language is / words are invented at some point, like it or not

    b) there are always people who hate change and new stuff, and others who like / invent it

    c) that at some point someone comes and writes down a strict definition, possibly changing the original, widespread but possibly fuzzy meaning …. and by the power of this normative definition nails down the word that was evolving freely up to that point 🙂

    And, by, the way, I’m using ‘performant’in the sense of ‘powerful’, ‘fast’, or ‘well performing’.

  39. The funny thing is that, working in a french environment, I thought “performant” sounded a bit odd indeed, but understood it to stand for “well performing” or actually a lot better then “well”.

    having browsed through all the comments above, it surprises me that nobody came up with another english word for it and that has the same meaning. Because that’s what I am looking for…

  40. My team leader has just used ‘Performant’ in a report to describe the performance of an internal database. It was queried whether this was a word but based on this blog it was decided to be used. The report is released to a number of people. It will be interesting to see if anyone queries it!

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