My (Growing) List of AI and LLM terminology

Byron Salty
7 min readNov 18, 2023


via DALL-E by author

This article is intended to be a reference piece that will be helpful to other articles or simply as a place to come back to as a user delves further and further into the world of AI and specifically LLMs.

I’m also trying to use less jargon and introduce concepts in a simplified approach without much cross-referencing. This might result in less absolute accuracy for the purpose of more general understandability.

Below is a list of terms that people getting into this space should know and I plan to use as a living reference.

Industry Terms

Agent — There are a lot of uses of the term ‘agent’ but in this specific area of AI and LLMs, an Agent is a process that has access to an LLM but also access to run time and tools or APIs. You can think of it this way — an LLM can produce code for you but an Agent can write the code and execute it.

AGI or Artificial General Intelligence — It means AI that performs and has all the capabilities that a human has — deep general knowledge on a lot of things, the ability to dynamically improve via usage, abilities to learn and acquire new skills. This is the realm of science fiction and alarmist views on AI.

Bot — I use this term synonymously with an Agent, though I believe Bot is a more generalized version of the concept whereas an Agent has a specific meaning. You will hear this term often in names of things / frameworks.

Cognition — Awareness of the world / environment around an AI / Agent / Model.

Collaborative AI — A paradigm for building AI by uniting multiple AI models/engines in a way that they can work together for a single goal.

Context Window — The amount of input that can be fed into an LLM. The window length is measured in tokens — the fragments of text that LLMs use to break down words for more understandability. Read more.

Embedding — This is a powerful concept and enabling technology for AI powered applications. Embeddings are representations of text as numbers. These numbers have meaning though — a car and a truck will be mathematically closer than a car and a tree.

Ethical AI — The growing field related to both policy and technical governance around AI with the intention of reducing harm.

Fine tuning — The process of creating specialized model by starting with an existing, trained model and running a short training cycle with task specific input.

GenAI or Generative AI — The class of AI solutions around creating content of some sort. The current major areas are text and image generation.

GPU — This stands for Graphical Processing Unit. This is the hardware component that has made the creation of modern AI models possible. GPUs allow for millions of simultaneous computations but are often limited by the amount of data that can be stored in memory (VRAM).

Hallucination. The phenomenon in which AI seemingly makes up reality — either real world facts or facts from an interaction like details from a chat history.

Inference. This simply means “using” a model, as opposed to creating or training it.

LLM or Large Language Model. This is a specific type of AI model which has been trained to generate text. These models are called “large” because they consist of billions of parameters which allow them to understand very complex and nuanced elements of natural language. Examples: GPT, Bard, Claude, LLaMa

LLM Based App. This doesn’t have to mean a “chat” application. This simply means an application that uses an LLM to perform some part of it’s core functionality. There may not even be any visible language component.

LoRA or Low Rank Adaptation. A technique to capture the result of fine-tuning on a model in a memory and storage efficient way. “Low Rank” refers the smaller matrices stored separately from the model which can be used as needed to create a modified model for inference. This is a type of PEFT.

Metacognition — Awareness of “self” inside the world / environment around an AI / Agent / Model.

ML or Machine Learning. I hear some confusion about ML vs AI. ML is specifically the process of taking a set of inputs (training set) and producing a set of outputs. The quality or accuracy of those outputs improves with more training.

Model. A model is the output of training and the real brain of AI. Once a model is trained, it can be used (called inference) by asking it to produce outputs given some new input.

MoE or Mixture of Experts. A technique used to create large but computationally efficient models by effectively creating separate smaller models that work together to produce a single output. OpenAI’s GPT and Mistral AI.

Neural Network. The technical way in which a model is architected. Neural nets are intended to mimic the way human brains work and learn by strengthening or weakening connections, which neural nets do by adjusting weights.

One-Shot. (See Shot below) This means one example of what an appropriate answer should look like is included in the prompt given to the AI.

Orchestration. In the LLM space this refers the concept of using a process to combine an LLM with an executable process, as well as with tools/APIs that are available. An agent is what performs the orchestration.

PEFT or Parameter-Efficient Fine Tuning. This is the general term for techniques that involve fine tuning a model in an efficient way that does not require as much time or compute resources as training the model itself. Not only does fine-tuning imply less training cycles applied to an existing model, but the efficiency implies that the number of parameters that are effected are a subset of the full model which are now in the hundreds of billions.

PI or Position Interpolation. A technique to effectively extend the usable size of a context window. [Link]

Prompt Engineering. This term implies much more than simply improving results by improving the text sent into a GenAI model. The full scope of prompt engineering includes things like understanding the state and history of a user in order to feed the important information into the model. It also would include the document retrieval techniques popular in the RAG architecture.

RAG or Retrieval Augmented GenAI. This popular architecture allows for the realtime injection of knowledge into a model by finding information that may be helpful to the model as it generates content and including this information as input. This is different from a traditional model / fine-tuning approach where new information is added into a model itself via a training process.

RoPE or Rotary Positional Embedding. A type of embedding model that leads to better results around computing distances by looking at calculated distances from several vantage points.

QLoRA or Quantized LoRA. This is a LoRA (see above) which uses the additional technique of quantization which essentially means further reducing GPU memory needs by reducing the precision of the math involved in the training process.

Shot or One-Shot or Zero-Shot or N-Shot. A shot in this context means the number of examples of expected results given in as part of the prompt.

Step-back Prompting or STP. A prompt engineering technique in which you start an answer by first asking an LLM to consider fundamentals behind a question before trying to answer the question itself.

Token. How LLMs break down amount of text. While not strictly accurate, a decent way to think about tokens is as syllables. Tokens are used to measure input and output from LLMs and are often used to bill usage of LLM APIs.

Training. The process of creating or fine-tuning a model by using the model to perform a task based on training data, measuring the result based on expected outcomes, and adjusting the weights in the model to try to improve results.

Vector Database. A special kind of datastore that allows for storage of embeddings which are really just a list of numbers. This allows the retrieval of stored text which is deemed to be relevant to a search text based on similarity of their embeddings.

VRAM or Video RAM. The amount of memory available on board on a GPU. Often the most important limiting factor for training / using a model because the models must fit into memory.

Weights. The values in a model that numerically represent the strength of relationships and features. These values are what changes over time when a model is trained or fine-tuned.

Zero-Shot. (See Shot above) This means prompting for an answer with zero examples of what an appropriate response should look like.

Brand or Product Names

Bard. An LLM created by Google.

ChatGPT. A popular LLM-based app created by OpenAI and based on the GPT LLM.

ChromaDB. A popular vector database.

Claude. An LLM created by the company Anthropic. Claude2 is known for a large context window of 200K tokens.

GPT. An LLM created by OpenAI.

LangChain. Key technology for LLM-based apps that allows developers to string functionality together and more importantly creates Agents — AI implementations that can execute code / call APIs.

LangFuse. An LLM debugging tool.

OpenAI. The company behind GPT and ChatGPT

Feel free to suggest additional items or things that I missed.

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Byron Salty

CTO. Interested in Leadership, Techology, and People. Focusing on AI and creating cool stuff.