Origin of the word
Archive first appeared in English as a noun around the year 1600 and was derived from the French word ‘archif’. Earlier origins can be traced to the Latin ‘archīum’ or ‘archīvum’, which itself draws on the ancient Greek ‘arkheion’, or ‘public records’. ‘Arkheion’ is based on the word ‘arkhē’, meaning ‘office or government’, implying the importance of record keeping in the rule over or government of the people.
The practice of keeping official documents is an ancient one and there have been archaeological discoveries dating back to the second and third millennia BC in locations as diverse as modern Egypt, Syria, Turkey and Greece. The legal and administrative importance of information generated by governments meant that great value was given to its storage and preservation.
The use of archive as a verb dates from the late 19th century.
As a verb, archive relates to the placing or storage of documents. An archive provides evidence of activity by individuals and institutions. Therefore, the collection of the evidence in a single place provides easy access to the information by relevant parties for administrative or governing purposes.
As computer technology grew in significance in the second half of the 20th century, to archive something also came to mean the compression of computer files into a single file for storage purposes. Compressed files in a single file take up less space on a disk and can also be sent faster over an internet connection. Once a compressed file is downloaded it can be expanded again to its original size and the information contained within can be accessed. The sheer volume of data generated by modern computer systems makes archiving a very useful tool, either on an individual or organizational basis.
1. To collect and store computer files in an archive.
2. To collect and store historical documents and records.
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.
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