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COBOL Programming Terminology

Important COBOL Programming Terminology:


Abnormal termination of program.

ANSI (American National Standards Institute):

An organization consisting of producers, consumers, and general interest groups, that establishes the procedures by which accredited organizations create and maintain voluntary industry standards in the United States.

Arithmetic Expression:

An identifier of a numeric ele entary item, a numeric literal, such identifiers and literals separated by arithmetic operators, two arithmetic expressions separated by an arithmetic operator, or an arithmetic expression enclosed in parentheses.

Arithmetic Operation:

The process caused by the execution of an arithmetic statement, or the evaluation of an arithmetic expression, that results in a mathematically correct solution to the arguments presented.

Binary Search:

A dichotomizing search in which, at each step of the search, the set of data elements is divided by two; some appropriate action is taken in the case of an odd number.

Called Program:

A program that is the object of a CALL statement.

Calling Program:

A program that executes a CALL to another program.

Common Program:

A program which, despite being directly contained within another program, may be called from any program directly or indirectly contained in that other program.


A program that translates a program written in a higher level language into a machine language object program.


A status of a program at run time for which a truth value can be determined. Where the term 'condition' (condition-1, condition-2,...) appears in these language specifications in or in reference to 'condition' (condition-1, condition-2,...) of a general format, it is a conditional expression consisting of either a simple condition optionally parenthesized, or a combined condition consisting of the syntactically correct combination of simple conditions, logical operators, and parentheses, for which a true value can be determined.


A file or library member containing a sequence of code that is included in the source program at compile time using the COPY statement. The file can be created by the user, supplied by COBOL, or supplied by another product.


A character or a sequence of contiguous characters that identify the end of a string of characters and separate that string of characters from the following string of characters. A delimiter is not part of the string of characters that it delimits.


A collection of logical records.


A temporary data item whose value is determined at the time the function is referenced during the execution of a statement.

Intrinsic function:

A pre-defined function, such as a commonly used arithmetic function, called by a built-in function reference.

Main Program:

In a hierarchy of programs and subroutines, the first program to receive control when the programs are run.

Nested Program:

A program that is directly contained within another program

Object Code:

Output from a compiler or assembler that is itself executable machine code or is suitable for processing to produce executable machine code.


A set of statements in a COBOL program that causes the computer to perform an operation or series of related operations. In Language Environment, refers to a procedure, function, or subroutine.

Scope Terminator:

A COBOL reserved word that marks the end of certain Procedure Division statements. It may be either explicit (END-ADD, for example) or implicit (separator period).


A sequence of one or more statements, the last of which is terminated by a separator period.


A character or two contiguous characters used to delimit character-strings.


  • The relationship among characters or groups of characters, independent of their meanings or the manner of their interpretation and use.

  • The structure of expressions in a language.

  • The rules governing the structure of a language.

  • The relationship among symbols.

  • The rules for the construction of a statement.


A data item whose value may be changed by execution of the object program. A variable used in an arithmetic expression must be a numeric elementary item.

Video Tutorial: COBOL Programming Terminology

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