Is ‘”snapshotting” a correct word?

For example, as part of the information message of some computer script:

Snapshotting the file…

Can we write snapshotting instead of taking the snapshot? Is it still correct?

I’ve found an example usage of that word on Wikipedia, in the following context:

… is not a snapshotting scheme but a system-level incremental backup service …


Time Machine is not a file system and it does not make use of a snapshotting feature. It is only included here as a reference.

Source: Snapshot (computer storage)


Yes, snapshotting is a recognized word!

The OED says that snapshotting derives from the verb to snapshot, which in turn derives from the noun a snapshot. [paywalled link]

They provide this citation:

ˈsnapshotting adj.

  • 1978   Nature   7 Dec. 647/2
    Mr Sankhala also remarks that the snap-shotting tourist is so preoccupied with shutter speeds, lens apertures and focussing that he fails to see anything around him.

That entry is from the Second Edition of 1989, and has not yet been updated for the Third Edition.

Snapshotting a process or file in the context of computing is probably newer than that citation.

On inflectional morphology applied to verb+particle compounds

I’ve asserted that if snapshot is a verb, then it should come as no surprise to learn that it has an ‑ing inflection by way of snapshotting. However, the asker has suggested in comments that not all verbs have ‑ing inflections. They have offered timeout as one example of a verb that lacking ‑ing form.

The first statement is true only in a special, technical way involving defective verbs. The second statement is based on a misunderstanding.

That’s because the ‑ing inflection is one of the few perfectly regular features of English verbs. The only verbs to lack nonfinite inflections like present participles (same form as gerunds) and past participles also lack infinitive forms: specifically, the modals.

We therefore say that modal verbs are “defective” in English because they lack certain inflections. So for example the modal verb should has no nonfinite forms like *shoulding or *shoulded, nor can it be used as either a bare- or to-infinitive. You cannot make someone *should anything.

But timeout is not a modal, and it is not defective. It works exactly as snapshot does.

But unlike snapshots, timeouts is only ever a noun and never a verb — just as logins, screwups, and hangouts are. Just as the plural of the noun passerby is the noun passersby where we think of those pieces individually when we want to inflect them, you must first break up compounds that were originally made up of a verb plus a particle smashed together when you want to inflect them as verbs.

  • NOT: *timeouting a process, BUT RATHER: timing out a process, timing a process out

    NOT: *timeouted a process, BUT RATHER: timed out a process, timed a process out
  • NOT: loginning a user, BUT RATHER logging in a user, logging a user in

    NOT: a *loginned user, BUT RATHER a logged in user
  • NOT: *screwupping the grammar, BUT RATHER: screwing up the grammar, screwing the grammar up

    NOT: *a screwupped grammar, BUT RATHER: a screwed up grammar
  • NOT: *hangouting casually, BUT RATHER: hanging out casually, casually hanging out

    NOT: we *hangouted yesterday, BUT RATHER: we hung out yesterday

Just as tomorrow was once written to-morrow, nowadays was once written now-a-days, and passersby once written passers-by, often when first coined these compounds begin life as open ones separated by blanks or as conjoined ones written with hyphens, but these all seem to get worn down with time.

  • a few time-outs > a few timeouts
  • some snap shots > some snap-shots > some snapshots
  • snap-shotting > snapshotting

Snapshotting or Snapshooting?

On the subject of snapshotting,
there is also a long-attested noun snap-shooting, meaning the process of taking snap-shots — or snap shots or snapshots 🙂

Via the citations given in the OED,[paywalled link] we can see the historical progression from writing this word as an open compound to writing it as a hyphenated one to writing it with neither hyphens nor spaces:

  • 1872   Gentleman’s Mag.   Dec. 664
    Snap shooting, as it is termed, is very effective sometimes by experienced gunners.
  • 1883   Cent. Mag.   Aug. 493
    Snap-shooting is generally understood to consist in putting the gun to the shoulder and firing the instant it is in position.
  • 1979   G. Macdonald Camera   iv. 57
    Snapshooting was..a..haphazard affair… Most snaps were still portraits of family and friends.

Source : Link , Question Author : kenorb , Answer Author : tchrist

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