Example with a context:

There have been hundreds of programming languages since the start of computing. But at any given time there are perhaps a dozen or so that are popular and by popular I simply mean that language is used in a lot of current software, it's used by large numbers of people, and there is an active community and a significant job market for that language. Now as the years go by, different languages wax and wane in popularity. New languages do come along. Some are a big hit but most of them aren't. So this list changes, but it changes slowly.

Here's the audio version of the script. And if you take a close listen, you will hear that he does say a big hit, even though on the webpage, there's no a. I think that's just an editorial mistake. But my question is about the meaning of this expression. How do you understand it? Is it like hits in pop music where songs that are currently popular are called hits? So, in effect, this says that some of the new programming languages that come into existence become very popular in the IT industry and stay there for decades because everybody just loves them, but some don't become as popular and after a while just simply vanish from the computer technology stage forever. Am I on the right track with this?

Thank you guys for your answers in advance.

  • 2
    contra to the current answers, I'd say the typo is in not making it plural 'big hits'; but the rest I agree with. Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 18:37
  • A search for define "a big hit" returns the definition for hit which includes "Anything very successful and popular". I don't understand why you're confused.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 19:00
  • @ColleenV So, could I say something like this: "Starbucks is a really big hit with a young demographic"? Is this a common way to say it like that? See, this is not a very common phrase, I can tell you that from my experience because I don't hear this expression used very often. But I do know that "hits" is used in the music industry to refer to currently popular pop songs. That's why this is somewhat confusing to me. Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 0:10
  • So, if I search for "a big hit" I get lots and lots of results using the phrase in very similar contexts. I still don't understand why you're having trouble. It is a very common phrase.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 0:55
  • 1
    Don't we all need a bit of extra help or time to understand some things that may seem obvious to others? The question could be much simpler: Can a computer language be a hit or big hit, in the same way a song can? (Answer: Yes.) It's not necessarily so simple to research (for everyone) that it shouldn't be asked. Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 7:02

2 Answers 2


If something is a big hit (the original sentence has a typo), it means it did very well or became very popular. Usually it means it became very popular right away (rather than something that slowly becomes popular over time).

In this case, it means that some new programming languages become very popular, but most of them don't.

Think of it like hitting a home run in baseball. Producing something that is a big hit doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's great.


Big hit = very popular, used by a lot of people. See e.g. "hit song", "hit movie", etc. (And it should be "a big hit" in the original text.)

  • 1
    Or it could be, "some are big hits".
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 2:03
  • 1
    @J.R: True. Either way works.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 5:16

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