Meaning of “file” in the English Dictionary

"file" in English

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uk /faɪl/ us /faɪl/

file noun (CONTAINER)

A2 [ C or U ] any of several different types of container used to store papers, letters, and other documents in an ordered way, especially in an office:

a box/envelope file
You'll find it in the files under "C".
We keep your records on file for five years.

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file noun (WRITTEN RECORD)

[ C ] written records that are kept about a particular person or subject:

The police have opened a file on local burglaries.

file noun (COMPUTER)

A2 [ C ] information stored on a computer as one unit with one name:

What's the file name?
I'm going to copy/save this file.

file noun (LINE)

[ C or U ] a long line of people or animals, one behind another:

They were horrified to see files of ants marching through the kitchen.
They walked in (single) file (= one behind another).


uk /faɪl/ us /faɪl/


[ T ] to store information in a careful and particular way:

We file these reports (= put them in a file) under country of origin.

[ T ] specialized law to officially record something, especially in a law court:

The police filed charges against the two suspects.

[ T ] News reporters file a story by sending it to their office, usually by phone, email, or other electronic method:

Our foreign correspondent filed this report earlier today.

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Phrasal verb(s)

(Definition of “file” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"file" in American English

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us /fɑɪl/

file noun (COLLECTION)

[ C/U ] a folded piece of stiff paper used to store papers, letters, or other documents in an ordered way, esp. in an office, or a box or container in which documents are stored:

[ C ] You’ll find it in the files under C.
[ U ] We keep your records on file for five years.

[ C/U ] A file in a computer is a collection of information stored as one unit with one name:

[ C ] I’m going to copy/save this file.

file noun (LINE)

[ C/U ] a line of people or animals, one behind another:

[ U ] They walked (in) single file.

file noun (TOOL)

[ C ] a usually flat tool with rough surfaces for rubbing objects to make them smooth or to change their shape


us /fɑɪl/

file verb (STORE)

[ T ] to store papers, letters, or other documents in an ordered or particular way:

We file the reports by zip code.

[ T ] To file something can mean to make an official record of it, or to begin a legal process:

to file an insurance claim
to file criminal charges

file verb (WALK IN LINE)

[ I always + adv/prep ] to walk in a line, one behind another:

The bride’s family filed in.

file verb (USE TOOL)

[ I/T ] to use a tool with rough surfaces in order to make an object smooth or to change its shape:

[ T ] She carefully filed her nails before applying nail polish.

(Definition of “file” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"file" in Business English

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filenoun [ C ]

uk /faɪl/ us

IT a collection of information that is stored on a computer as one unit under one name:

text/computer/image file Click on the command and a box pops up showing how big the text file is and how long it should take to save to your hard drive.
save/create/copy a file It's best to save the file to a common directory.
open/read/view a file You will need Adobe Acrobat installed in order to open the file.
write to/edit a file It is necessary to designate a group of people who are allowed to edit the file.
close/delete a file If you reboot your computer with the startup disk in the drive, you'll get to a prompt from which you can delete the file.

a written record kept on a person, subject, or organization:

Employees who get an award for good work have a notice of it put in their employee file.
The FBI does not keep a file on every citizen of the United States.
refer to/read a file The company won't know the full details until they have read his file.

a container used to store papers and other documents together, especially in an office:

Many organizations are doing good work around policy, but too often it sits forgotten in a file somewhere.
on file

kept as part of a written record on paper or on a computer:

I received an acknowledgment from the HR department that my name was on file.
You should keep it on file for future reference.

fileverb [ T ]

uk /faɪl/ us

to store information or documents carefully so that they are easy to find, either in a place such as a folder or desk, or on a computer:

The effective e-manager will make it clear where on the system to file documents.
file sth under sth An organization with initials in the name, eg W H Smith, will be filed under the initial, in this case W.
file sth away It's tempting to file away all the paperwork relating to your pension and forget about it.

LAW to officially record something such as a complaint:

file a lawsuit/a suit/charges He is planning to file a lawsuit against the current chairman for an alleged violation of a clause in his contract.

ACCOUNTING to officially send something such as your accounts:

Any gain or loss should be reported when you file your tax return.
It was found that the company had failed to file accounts at Companies House.

(Definition of “file” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)