Origin of the word
The word embed is a combination of the Old English prefix ’em-‘ meaning ‘to put into’ and the root ‘bed’ meaning ‘a couch, resting place’. The word was first recorded in 1778 meaning ‘to lay in a bed’ and was at one time a geological term used to describe fossils found in rock.
Embedded is the past participle of the word embed, which refers to the placement of people or things. Today it is frequently used to describe journalists who travel with and document military units during combat: “The embedded reporter spent six weeks with the infantry unit, filing weekly stories from the front lines.” However, the term can also be used when talking about computer programs or software: “The images from older blog posts have been embedded into the new site design.” The word embedded implies a deep, fixed position that may be hard to change or remove. Take the case of van Gogh’s grasshopper, for example.
A museum conservator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, USA recently discovered a tiny grasshopper embedded in the thick layers of oil paint on Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 work Olive Trees. Nelson-Atkins Paintings Conservator Mary Schafer was examining the painting under magnification as part of a museum-wide research project when she spotted the insect in the lower foreground of the piece, covered in layers of paint and so well camouflaged that it could not be seen by the naked eye. According to experts, this embedded insect — while certainly interesting — is actually not that uncommon. Like many of his contemporaries, van Gogh worked on some of his masterpieces outdoors and the wind often carried bits of dust, grass, twigs and insects across the canvas, where many of these items became embedded in the paint, blending into the paintings themselves. It is not all that unusual to find insects or pieces of plant material in a work that was composed outdoors.
1. to fix something firmly in a surface or object
2. to make something a fixed and important part of something else
3. to make images, sound or computer software a part of other software
View the full definition at the Macmillan Dictionary.