CPU Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

You’ve likely encountered the acronym CPU — but do you know what it stands for? We’ll tell you. Let’s explore what CPU means, its usage, and more.  

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What Does the Acronym CPU Mean?

On the report of dictionaries like the Britannica and Collins English Dictionary, the acronym CPU is primarily defined as a central processing unit (often referred to as a chip, microprocessor, or processor.)

Just as the brain is arguably the most important organ in our bodies, so is the CPU for our computers. The central processing unit is often looked at or referred to as the “brains” of our computer. 

Now that is not to say that it is the only processing unit in our computers, it is not, but one could argue it IS the most essential. The CPU runs our programs and performs calculations and all actions.

Where Is the CPU Located?

The CPU is found on all motherboards and is placed in a square-shaped socket specifically designed for this function. It is held in place by pins found on the underside of the CPU or by inserting its metallic connectors.

The CPU itself relies tiringly on a chipset (a group of microchips located on the motherboard) to control all the millions of instructions it’s given, as well as to better control data flow to all other parts of the computer.

A CPU must be kept cool at all times to prevent overheating; unfortunately, the modern-day CPU produces a substantial amount of heat, and as such, it must be kept cool with the appropriate fan systems as well as proper ventilation. Another way we reduce heat is through the use of thermal paste and heat sinks.

The origin (or etymology) of CPU, also c.p.u., came to be in the 1960s, and by 1970 CPU was set as an abbreviation for the central processing unit. 

On the other hand, according to the fine folks over at The Free Dictionary, the acronym for CPU can stand for quite a bit more than just the well-known central processing unit. While there are a wide variety of definitions for CPU, these are definitely a bit less well-known and out of the general public’s eye. As such, you should use these with discretion. 

What Are Other Meanings of CPU?

When using an alternate definition in the same context that you would originally use, central processing unit or CPU, make sure to provide your listener with proper context or, better even, use the full form of the word as not to confuse them.

  • CPU Columbia Pacific University
  • CPU Customer Pick-Up (shipping/transportation method)
  • CPU Computer Power User (magazine)
  • CPU Chemical Protection Unit
  • CPU Competition Promotion Unit
  • CPU Core Processing Unit
  • CPU California Pacific University
  • CPU Commonwealth Press Union (UK)
  • CPU Contract Postal Unit (US Post Office station)
  • CPU Crime Prevention Unit
  • CPU Carnet de Prélèvement Universel (French: Universal Book Collection)
  • CPU Clinical Pharmacokinetic Unit
  • CPU Collective Protection Unit
  • CPU Cash Pick Up
  • CPU Chest-Pain Observation Unit
  • CPU Constantine the Philosopher University (Slovakia)
  • CPU Call Pick Up (PABX phone systems)
  • CPU Chemical Protective Undergarments
  • CPU Central Policy Unit
  • CPU Contribution Per Unit
  • CPU Condensate Polishing Unit (water treatment)
  • CPU Critical Patch Update (Oracle)
  • CPU Conférence des Présidents d’Université (French)
  • CPU Claims Processing Unit (many organizations)
  • CPU Cost Per Unit
  • CPU Croatian Partizan Unit (gaming clan)
  • CPU Communications Processor Unit
  • CPU Computer Processing Unit
  • CPU California Polytechnic University (aka Cal Poly)
  • CPU Corporate Policy Unit (various locations)
  • CPU Corporate Procurement Unit
  • CPU Certified Practice in Usability (trademark of Human Factors International)
  • CPU Community for Pittsburgh Ultimate
  • CPU Caption Projection Unit
  • CPU Certified Postal Unit

What Is the CPU in Charge Of?

At the very basics, a CPU is responsible for handling the processing of mathematical and logical operations as well as ensuring that any set of instructions it has been given is executed accurately. 

Note that your CPU can execute a multitude of instructions every second; that being said, the CPU is only able to finalize one instruction at any given time. 

The central processing unit first must receive some form of input; this typically starts with some form of system software program or application (think web browser (e.g., chrome, firefox, opera, internet explorer). 

Or it could simply be from a type of input device (alternatively referred to as a piece of peripheral equipment, e.g., microphone, a keyboard, a monitor display screen, or a mouse).

The CPU or central processing unit is in charge of four key tasks, storing, executing, decoding, and fetching. Lastly, there is a form of output; this process is called the fetch-execute cycle (e.g., printing an action to the screen). This process happens thousands if not millions of times per second.

What Are the Building Blocks of a CPU?

The control unit, the ALU (arithmetic logic unit), and the storage or memory unit are three main building blocks or components of a CPU.

Below you will find a straightforward list of what each component is used for:

  • Storage or memory unit. Simply put, a component that holds all programs and data you currently use.
  • Control Unit. Responsible for ensuring all components work together smoothly and managing the flow of data.
  • ALU (arithmetic logic unit). Each and every task a computer does is completed here.

A Final Word

We can now safely say that the CPU or central processing unit is the KEY component of any computer system, such as tablets, smartphones, and more. 

The CPU itself contains the necessary electronic circuitry (or circuits) to execute and interpret program instructions and is essentially the brains of the computer. 

In short, the CPU works by telling each part of the system what it needs to do, all while acting as one of the world’s most powerful calculators.

While the CPU registers as a confusing piece of hardware for some individuals, there are experts out there who understand the many components of a computer, its basic arithmetic, signals, main memory, multi-core processors, output devices, and more. 

In other words, if your computer’s system crashes or develops a bug and you’re not exactly sure what to do, save yourself the headache of trying to learn the many parts of the CPU and seek help from a reputable professional! 

From the ram and graphics card to the CPU socket and control signals, a computer repair tech can quickly fix your computer to help it run efficiently and optimally. 


  1. CPU – definition of CPU | The Free Dictionary
  2. Central processing unit | Britannica
  3. Purpose of a Motherboard | Chron