Emacs Jargons (Glossary)

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

If you are new to emacs, here's some emacs jargons, terminology explained:

Editing Jargons

current cursor position (beginning of file is 1)
A cursor position, that begin text selection. [see Emacs: Jump to Previous Position]
Text selection
cut text. Or, force quit processes and other.
kill ring
a history of copied text. [see Emacs: Copy Paste, kill-ring]
transient mark mode
A preference setting, to have text selection highlighted
A preference setting, to have standard copy cut paste undo keys
a vertical rectangle area of text. [see Emacs: Edit Column Text, Rectangle]
reformat lines so each line is no longer than 70 chars. (aka. hard-wrap lines.) [see
  • Emacs: Reformat to Long Lines (unfill-paragraph) 🚀
  • ]
    Universal Argument, prefix arg, digit argument
    Emacs: Universal Argument (prefix arg)

    Buffer and File

    A opened file, or unsaved new file, or a working area where emacs displays text. Similar to browser's “tab”.
    visiting file
    Basically a opened file. when a buffer's content is a file, it's said the buffer is visiting the file.


    major mode
    a specialized setting for a buffer for a particular task, such as programing languages, managing files, view image, etc. Each has a dedicated “major mode”. [see Emacs: What is Major Mode]
    minor mode
    a specialized setting, usually for all buffers. Think of this as a preference setting. [see Emacs: What is Minor Mode]
    a variable that stores a list of functions, to be called when some event happens. [see Emacs: What is Hook]

    Keyboard Keys

    meta key
    a key that exist on lisp keyboards. by default, it's the Alt key on Microsoft Windows or Linux. ⌥ option key on the Mac. [see Emacs: What is Meta Key]
    hyper key
    a key that exist on lisp keyboards. [see Emacs: How to Bind Super Hyper Keys]
    super key
    a key that exist on lisp keyboards. [see Emacs: How to Bind Super Hyper Keys]

    Graphical User Interface Elements

    A pane/frame, as in a pane in a split window
    a special buffer that pops up at bottom to displays prompts and user input.
    echo area
    the bottom line of the screen that displays messages temporarily. The messages are stored in [see Emacs: Messages Buffer]
    mode line
    the bar at the bottom of a emacs window, indicating file name and major mode it's in.
    text style. e.g. font, size, coloring, underline, etc.
    font lock
    syntax coloring.
    Fringe area
    little vertical strip area on left and right sides of a window.

    sometimes used to display line number or line return symbol to indicate line continuation.

    emacs 29 fringe 2023-09-01
    emacs 29 fringe 2023-09-01