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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.