NFT, Web3, DeFi and Metaverse – Your Guide to the Tech Buzzwords of 2021

2021 was the year that spawned new words in our vocabulary to reflect the evolving tech scene.

Here are some of the words that have emerged this year and their meanings.

NFT (non-fungible token)

NFT or non-fungible token was named Collins Dictionary word of the year in 2021.

NFTs are certificates that show you own a digital item, which can be original versions of videos, tweets, or memes. They can be anything digital, but a lot of the excitement is around digital art.

They confirm ownership of an item by recording details in a digital ledger known as a blockchain, which is public and stored on computers across the internet, effectively making it impossible to lose or destroy. Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain.


After Facebook changed its parent company’s name to Meta, exposing its ambitions in the virtual world, word was on everyone’s lips.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the metaverse is “a virtual reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.”

This means that people can move between digital virtual environments using headsets or computer screens. The metaverse was around long before Facebook changed its name and was particularly popular in games.

The term was coined in the dystopian novel “Snow Crash” three decades ago.

IRL (in real life)

Virtual reality gave birth to the abbreviation IRL (In Real Life). It refers to something real and to an experience outside of the virtual world.


One of the big themes of the tech industry is decentralization, which means transferring power from governments and big companies to users.


Short for decentralized finance, DeFi is a financial system that prevents banks or centralized intermediaries from executing transactions.

Instead, DeFi uses smart contracts which are programs stored on a blockchain that perform actions automatically once the agreed conditions are met.


DAO stands for decentralized autonomous organization.

It usually refers to a community or internet entity that is member-owned and has no central management. Instead, the rules of the communities are encoded on a blockchain and enforced by smart contracts.

A DAO made headlines recently after crypto-finance group ConstitutionDAO unsuccessfully attempted to purchase a rare copy of the U.S. Constitution at an auction hosted by Sotheby’s.


Web3 is the name given to what some are calling the next phase of the internet, which runs on blockchain technology and is decentralized.

The goal is to bypass tech giants like Google and Meta, as platforms and search engines on Web3 would not be owned or operated by central controllers.

Instead of exchanging our data to download content online, users can become participants and shareholders by earning tokens on the blockchain system, which will allow you to have a say in how the network works.

But this egalitarian view on the internet may already be wrong, as the people currently investing tens of billions of dollars in Web3 services are tech companies, software developers, venture capitalists, and hedge funds.


Short for alternative coin, Altcoin covers all cryptocurrencies except Bitcoin.

These include the second crypto Ethereum and Dogecoin, the crypto created as a meme.


Hypersonic is an adjective that relates to anything that can travel faster than five times the speed of sound.

It was reported in 2021 after China fired two hypersonic weapons around the earth in July and August, the Financial Times reported.

The newspaper said the US military was “stunned” by the Chinese military advance. Meanwhile, American scientists were “struggling to understand” the capability of the hypersonic weapon, “which the United States does not currently have.”

China has denied testing hypersonic missiles and said the tests involved a reusable space vehicle.

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