What Is a Slot?


A slot is a narrow opening, as in a hole for a coin in a machine or a channel through which information flows. The word also refers to a time or place for an activity, such as an appointment or a visit to a museum: Visitors can book a time slot a week or more in advance. The term is also used for a position in an organization or group, as in the job of chief copy editor: She slotted into that role easily. The word is probably derived from the verb to slot, meaning to fit something snugly into another thing. For example, the car seat belt slots easily into its slot.

In slot game theory, a player inserts cash or, in the case of “ticket-in, ticket-out” machines, a paper ticket with a barcode into a designated slot on a machine to activate it. The reels then spin and, if the symbols match up in a winning combination, the player earns credits according to the pay table. The amount of the payout varies with each game. Most modern real-money slot games are based on five-reel setups, and the number of pay lines can vary from one to several.

The importance of the slot is often emphasized in football, where it is an important position for defensive backs who are responsible for covering short routes. For example, a slot cornerback would cover a receiver like Tyreek Hill or Brandin Cooks, who can run quick out and slant routes that stretch the defense vertically. However, a slot cornerback could not be as effective covering a deep route by a wide receiver like Julio Jones or Arian Foster.

In computer science, a slot is a specific area of memory allocated to an application program or process. The number of available slots depends on the system’s capacity, which is specified by the operating system. If the system has multiple processors, each processor may have its own set of allocated slots. In multiprocessor systems, the slots are often shared among applications.

In computer programming, a slot is a place in the instruction pipeline where an operation will be executed. In very long instruction word (VLIW) computers, the concept of a slot is equivalent to an execute pipeline. The word is also used in the name of a data structure in some computer programming languages. See also pipe.