Easy Excel Dictionary

A quick reference for translating Excel terms into plain English.


Absolute: A cell reference that will not change when copied to other cells. Has a “$” in front of the letter or number. For example, $A$1 is an absolute cell reference.


Cell: A box in a spreadsheet. Every cell has a name which is determined by its column and row.

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Column: All of the cells under a letter from top to bottom. A vertical set of cells.

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Formatting: The way something looks.


Filter: To show specific data only and hide everything else.


Function: A preset formula in Excel.


Range: A set of cells defined by the upper-left and lower-right cells.

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Relative: A cell reference that will change when copied to other cells. Does not have a “$” before the letter or number. For example, A1 is a relative cell reference.


Ribbon: The band at the top of your spreadsheet, with a bunch of little pictures on it.

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Row: All of the cells next to a number from left to right. A horizontal set of cells.

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Select: To choose an area by highlighting it.


Shortcut Key: A set of keystrokes that does something, and saves you time since it’s faster than using the mouse.


Sort: To arrange your data in a certain order, such as from smallest to largest, or oldest to newest.


String: A group of characters or text inside a cell.


Tab: (1) The small flap on the bottom of a worksheet, that helps you move from one sheet to another. (2) Also can mean to press the Tab key when used as a verb.

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Text: Anything inside a cell. Usually consists of letter or words, but can also include numbers and symbols.


Value: The number or text inside a cell. If the cell is a formula, the value is the result of the formula.


Workbook: The entire Excel file, consisting of one or more worksheets.


Worksheet: A page of a workbook.