Summary: I am using nominal in the sense of a place holder. Is that correct usage?

Read on for examples and details.

I am a programmer and in my quest to write more readable programs, I am always on the lookout for improving the human side of programming, by making the programs easier to understand for the next person who has to work on them.

With that in mind, here is what I need help with.

We might refer to a specific page on a website "nominally/placeholder" as www.example.com/my/first/page, while on the hard-disk this page could reside anywhere (say, /server/www/example/my-first-page) which I call the absolute-path. The file on the disk could move anywhere, yet the "placeholder" will remain constant. As a person visiting the site, you don't need to worry about the absolute path, but as a programmer you need to be aware of both, hence my question.

The usage of absolute path is well accepted in the programming community, however I wanted to request help with a better word for the placeholder side. Thanks all in anticipation!

  • 2
    I think those can be called "aliases", as in "we refer to that file by its alias." Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 18:49

1 Answer 1


This is a little opinion-based, but this is what I would use when I document my systems.

You must surely know both the terms URL and file path (or directory or folder, for that matter). Both URLs (or locator, or commonly known as address or location) and file paths can be either relative or absolute.

A web address may include both the host address (or host name), and the URL path, which could complicate the matter and could be confusing in documentation.

I think a good way to deal with this is to make sure whether you're talking about "web" thingy or "file" (or "document") thingy at all time. For example, http://www.example.com/my/first/page is a web address, www.example.com is the host name, and /my/first/page is your absolute web path.

Let's assume that you map a document on your computer, say /server/www/example/my-first-page, to that web address. my-first-page is a web document. It's also a file. It's under the directory /server/www/example/. Its absolute file path is /server/www/example/my-first-page.

Hope this helps!

  • Thanks for the help. Yes, I am familiar with URL/URI/locator. After reading your answer, and @VictorBazarov comment I am leaning towards "web alias". Let us see if we get more help from the community, if not that is what I would go with.
    – Prashant
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 19:53
  • "web alias" could be okay too. Just make sure whether your "alias" refers to the file or the web address when you alias something. Alias is commonly used to map a file to a web address, as done in, for example, Apache HTTP Server: httpd.apache.org/docs/2.2/urlmapping.html. -- Also keep in mind that "web alias" is an established term, for mapping one domain name to another. Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 20:03
  • I absolutely agree that "relative" file path is both correct and commonly used. In my experience "alias" is used in user-facing situations, where they have access to an alias for the file and that's all they need to worry about, and "relative" would be used on the programmer's end, because the file path is "relative" to whatever their point of reference is.
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 6:02

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