15 Basic Excel Terms & Definitions (That You Should Know)

Have you ever opened up an Excel spreadsheet and felt like you were reading a foreign language? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Excel can seem intimidating at first, but with a little bit of knowledge, you can quickly become a pro at organizing and analyzing data.

To get you started on your Excel journey, we’ve compiled a list of 15 basic terms and definitions that you should know. From “cells” and “columns” to “formulas” and “functions,” this article will give you the fundamental vocabulary you need to understand and work with Excel.

So whether you’re a beginner or just looking to brush up on your skills, this article has something for you. So, let’s get started and demystify the world of Excel!

15 Basic Excel Terms

1. Cell

A cell is a single box in an Excel spreadsheet where you can enter data or a formula. Each cell has a unique address, made up of its column letter and row number (e.g., A1, B2, C3). You can format cells to change their appearance, such as their font, background color, or text alignment.

2. Column

A column is a vertical set of cells in an Excel spreadsheet. Each column is identified by a letter (A, B, C, etc.). You can insert or delete columns as needed, and you can resize them by dragging the edges of the column headers. Columns are an essential part of an Excel spreadsheet and are used to organize and structure data.

3. Row

A row is a horizontal set of cells in an Excel spreadsheet. Each row is identified by a number (1, 2, 3, etc.). Like columns, you can insert or delete rows and resize them as needed. Rows are used to organize and structure data in an Excel spreadsheet, and they are often used to represent a single record or item.

4. Worksheet

A worksheet is a single spreadsheet in an Excel file. An Excel file can contain multiple worksheets, which are usually organized by tabs at the bottom of the screen. Each worksheet can have its own data and formatting, and you can move or copy data between worksheets as needed. Worksheets are a powerful tool for organizing and analyzing data, and they are used by businesses, organizations, and individuals around the world.

5. Range

A range is a group of cells in an Excel spreadsheet. You can select a range by clicking and dragging your mouse over a group of cells, or by typing the cell addresses separated by a colon (e.g., A1:B5). You can apply formatting or perform calculations on a range of cells all at once, which can save time and ensure consistency. Ranges are a useful way to work with large amounts of data in Excel and can be used to organize and analyze data in various ways.

6. Formula

A formula is a set of instructions that tells Excel how to calculate a value. Formulas always begin with an equal sign (=) and can use cell references, functions, and operators to perform calculations. For example, the formula “=A1+B1” would add the values in cells A1 and B1 together. Formulas are a powerful tool in Excel and are used to perform calculations and analyze data.

7. Function

A function is a built-in formula in Excel that performs a specific calculation. Some common functions include SUM, which adds a range of cells together, AVERAGE, which calculates the average of a range of cells, and MAX, which finds the highest value in a range of cells. Functions can save you time and reduce errors by providing reliable and consistent calculations. Functions are an essential part of Excel and are used to perform a wide range of calculations and analyses.

8. Filter

A filter is a tool that allows you to view only specific rows or columns in an Excel spreadsheet, based on certain criteria. For example, you can filter a list of products to show only those that are in stock or have a certain price range. Filters can help you find and analyze specific data more quickly and are an important tool for working with large amounts of data in Excel.

9. Pivot table

A pivot table is a tool that allows you to quickly summarize and analyze large amounts of data. You can use pivot tables to create custom reports and charts, and to drill down into specific data points. Pivot tables are especially useful for comparing data across different categories or time periods. Pivot tables are a powerful tool in Excel and are used by businesses, organizations, and individuals to analyze and understand data in new and meaningful ways.

10. Chart

A chart is a graphical representation of data in an Excel spreadsheet. You can create various types of charts, such as bar charts, pie charts, and line graphs, to visualize and compare data in different ways. Charts can help you understand trends and patterns in your data more easily and are an important tool for communicating and presenting data.

11. Macro

A macro is a series of instructions that you can record and run to automate repetitive tasks in Excel. For example, you can use a macro to format a large group of cells in a specific way, or to copy data from one worksheet to another.

Macros can save you a lot of time and can be very useful for automating tasks that you perform frequently, such as data entry or formatting. You can create a macro by recording your actions in Excel, or by writing your own code in the Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) programming language.

12. VBA

VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) is a programming language that you can use to create custom functions and automate tasks in Excel. With VBA, you can write code to perform almost any action in Excel, from formatting cells to running complex calculations. VBA can be especially useful for tasks that are difficult or impossible to accomplish with built-in Excel functions or macros. VBA is a powerful tool for customizing and extending the capabilities of Excel.

13. Conditional formatting

Conditional formatting is a feature in Excel that allows you to apply formatting to cells based on certain conditions. For example, you can use conditional formatting to highlight cells that contain values above or below a certain threshold, or to display a warning message if a cell contains an invalid value. Conditional formatting can help you identify important data or potential errors more easily and is a useful tool for highlighting important information in an Excel spreadsheet.

14. Sparklines

Sparklines are small, in-cell charts that allow you to visualize data trends in a single cell. Sparklines are a great way to show data trends without taking up a lot of space, and they can be especially useful for comparing data across a large number of rows or columns. Sparklines are a convenient and visually appealing way to show data trends in Excel..

15. Data validation

Data validation is a feature in Excel that allows you to set rules for what data can be entered in a cell or range. For example, you can use data validation to ensure that a cell only contains a number within a certain range, or to prevent duplicate values from being entered. Data validation can help you ensure that data is entered consistently and accurately, and it can also help you prevent errors from occurring. Data validation is an important tool for ensuring the integrity and reliability of data in an Excel spreadsheet.


Excel is an incredibly useful tool for working with data, and understanding the basic terms and concepts is crucial for getting the most out of it.

In this article, we covered 15 important Excel terms that you should know, including cell, column, row, worksheet, range, formula, function, filter, pivot table, chart, macro, VBA, conditional formatting, sparklines, and data validation.

These terms form the foundation of Excel and are used in many different types of tasks and analyses. By understanding them, you’ll be able to work with Excel more efficiently and effectively, and you’ll be able to tackle a wide range of tasks with confidence.