The word treatment, as in handling, is used in several Latin languages (e.g. traitement in French, tratamiento in Spanish, trattamento in Italian, tratamento in Portuguese, etc.) in the context of data processing, as a synonym or sometimes even as the de facto term.

In English, however, it seems that treatment is still associated strongly (if not exclusively) to medical practice and related health applications; processing seems to be the appropriate choice here.

However, while an expression such as data treatment sounds clearly incorrect (at least to my ears), in other expressions, such as:

The (computer) program is treating this data as expected.

the distinction is less clear.

Could a native English speaker please confirm if this usage is indeed unusual/incorrect, or if treatment here is indeed a commonly accepted synonym of processing/handling?

  • I'm not a native speaker, but I think of data processing and data handling pretty much the same way. However, data treatment will make me think of the treatment of data, statistically. Sep 8, 2015 at 15:36
  • 2
    Data treatment is not a collocation in American English. Data processing is. The verb form (data are treated) is more common, but is not a collocation. The verb "treat" is used in many contexts and means to handle, to process, to take action upon, to behave towards... If you translated a Spanish text into English and used the term "data treatment" it would be a "false friend" scenario. Sep 8, 2015 at 15:40

2 Answers 2


Treat and its derivatives are used in many contexts beside the medical. In some contexts the use is unqualified, implying that some standard or usual treatment is applied: for instance, a 'water treatment plant' is understood to be a plant in which water is 'treated' to make it safe for drinking and other domestic uses, and 'treated lumber' is understood to be lumber subjected to a pressure 'treatment' to make it more resistant to rot and weathering and termites.

Most uses, however, are contrastive: they speak of a treatment as a particular method or manner of handling something which differs from other possible treatments.

  • You may treat a person well, or badly, or with indifference
  • Different writers may give very different treatments of a story or theme
  • An academic monograph may be said to treat its subject from a particular theoretical or methodological perspective
  • A rule or process may be said to treat an entity as a member of a particular category or an instance of a particular phenomenon

That is the case with your example: treat is qualified with the phrase "as expected", meaning that it yields the expected results, not in some other manner.

And this is how I would expect treat and treatment to be used in a programming context. It would not be used as a synonym of generic process

In the processing phase the program processes the data cannot be paraphrased as
In the *treatment phase the program *treats the data


Treating in this case is understandable, but sounds very informal to me. I understand what it means in context, but if used in writing or professional setting I would prefer processing/handling.

I have yet to hear the word 'treat' used with data, so the first definition that comes to mind would be treat as it is often used in relation to people, which means "to act or behave in a specified manner toward [person]", so it does not seem to have the tone you are probably looking for.

source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/treat

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .