Meaning and Origin of the Phrase “State-of-the-Art”

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Has anyone ever told you that your television or speaker system is state of the art? Or have you ever felt like appreciating a machine or a place equipped with all the latest technologies but just could not find the right, or rather more formal, words? Don’t worry! I’ve got you covered.

Today, we will learn about a somewhat formal expression, state of the art, which helps you show admiration for a particular thing while looking very sophisticated and scholarly. So, let’s get right to it!

What is the Meaning of State-of-the-Art?

The term has two forms, and hence, two slightly different meanings.


The most recent or advanced development of a product or project, incorporating the latest innovation, technology, or features. As a noun, the phrase is written as “state of the art,” without the hyphens.


Relating or belonging to the most recent stage of technological development; composed of the newest equipment or techniques. As an adjective, the phrase is written as “state-of-the-art,” with the hyphens.

Etymology and History

‘State-of-the-art’ has been used since the early 19th century as a marketing and advertising term. It does not only make one appear as an erudite speaker but is also legally accepted by tort liability and patent law.

In advertising and marketing, it is often used to indicate that a product is made with the most advanced, highest-quality components and technology. The phrase ‘state-of-the-art’ may be used for something as common as a mobile phone or even a gym, or anything as rare as a spaceship. However, it is imperative that the product or place is composed of the latest developments and advancements; only then is this term applicable.

The Origin of ‘State of the Art’

According to researchers, the concept for ‘state of the art’ came into being at the beginning of the 20th century. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the phrase dates back to 1910, when Henry Harrison Suplee, an engineering graduate, used ‘state of the art’ in an engineering manual. Back then, it referred to the current level or condition to which some technical art had reached.

In the 20th century, it changed to its modern form, expressing how advanced a particular product is. Now no one exactly knows how this change occurred. However, many believe it was simply (drumrolls) a mistake, while others suggest ‘state of the art’ underwent a process known as folk etymology or popular etymology, which allows words to fit the speakers’ misconceptions leaving behind the real meaning.

By the 1960s, it was set; state of the art means the newest and most advanced technology in a product or activity.

Alternative Terms to State-of-the-art

To understand state of the art better, take a look at some synonyms:

  • Up to date: The nearby hospital has some of the most up-to-date scanning machines.
  • Modern: Our school was made using modern construction techniques.
  • Cutting-edge: The computers in our classroom make use of cutting-edge technology.
  • Latest: My friend always has the latest mobile phone.

Usage Examples of State-of-the-art

The laptop’s panel has been made using all the newest technology and is considered state of the art.

The city center is 20 years old and will need capital investment and improvements to remain state of the art.

The new hotel by the beach has a state-of-the-art gymnasium.

Onaizah Abdul Wahid
Onaizah Abdul Wahid

One comment

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