Bit vs. Nat — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Maham Liaqat — Updated on April 19, 2024
A bit is the basic unit of information in computing, representing a binary choice between 0 and 1, whereas a nat is a unit of information based on natural logarithms, used less commonly in information theory.

Key Differences

A bit, short for binary digit, is the fundamental unit of information in digital communications and computing, indicating a choice between two mutually exclusive states, typically 0 and 1. On the other hand, a nat, derived from "natural logarithmic unit," measures information using the base of natural logarithms, e (approximately 2.718).
Bits are extensively used in all areas of digital technology, from data storage to transmission. Each bit holds a single binary value. Whereas nats are primarily used in theoretical contexts, particularly in information theory, to measure entropy or information content in a way that simplifies certain mathematical formulas.
In practical applications, such as computing and telecommunications, bits are the standard, with data speeds and storage sizes measured in bits and bytes. On the other hand, nats are not commonly used outside of academic and scientific research, where their logarithmic properties can be advantageous in calculations.
While bits are integral to understanding and designing digital systems, from software algorithms to hardware design, nats serve a more specialized role, offering insights in fields like statistical mechanics and quantum computing, where logarithmic relationships are particularly relevant.

Comparison Chart

Definition

Binary unit of information.
Natural logarithmic unit of information.

Base

2
E (approx. 2.718)

Common Usage

Digital technology, computing.
Information theory, scientific research.

Measurement Relation

1 bit = 0.693 nats.
1 nat = 1.4427 bits.

Application Field

Computing, telecommunications.

Compare with Definitions

Bit

Basic unit of digital data.
Each bit can either be a 0 or a 1.

Nat

Used in theoretical information science.
Nats simplify certain calculations in information theory.

Bit

Signal unit in telecommunications.
Data transmission rates are often measured in bits per second.

Nat

Measure of information entropy.
The entropy of a signal can be calculated in nats.

Bit

Decision point in algorithms.
Each bit in the algorithm represents a yes or no decision.

Nat

Relevant in statistical mechanics.
Nats are used to describe distributions in statistical mechanics.

Bit

Smallest element of storage.
A single bit stores one binary value.

Nat

Applies in quantum computing.
Quantum information theories sometimes use nats to measure quantum entropy.

Bit

Component of bytes.
Eight bits make up one byte.

Nat

Unit of information based on natural logarithms.
A nat measures entropy using logarithm base e.

Bit

The bit is the most basic unit of information in computing and digital communications. The name is a contraction of binary digit.

Nat

A person who advocates political independence for a particular country
Winning the seat in central Scotland would give the Nats a massive psychological boost

Bit

A small piece, part, or quantity of something
He read bits of his work to me
Give the duck a bit of bread

Nat

A spirit in Burmese mythology, whose cult is followed alongside Buddhism.

Bit

A set of actions or ideas associated with a specific group or activity
Miranda could go off and do her theatrical bit

Nat

A logarithmic unit of information or entropy, based on natural logarithms.

Bit

A girl or young woman
He went and married some young bit half his age

(obsolete) Not.

Bit

A person's genitals
You could see everything! All her bits!

Not.

Bit

A unit of 12 1/2 cents (used only in even multiples).

Not at; nor at.

Bit

A mouthpiece, typically made of metal, which is attached to a bridle and used to control a horse.

Bit

A tool or piece for boring or drilling
A drill bit

Bit

A unit of information expressed as either a 0 or 1 in binary notation.

Bit

Put a bit into the mouth of (a horse).

Bit

A small portion, degree, or amount
A bit of lint.
A bit of luck.

Bit

A brief amount of time; a moment
Wait a bit.

Bit

A short scene or episode in a theatrical performance.

A bit part.

Bit

An entertainment routine given regularly by a performer; an act.

Bit

A particular kind of action, situation, or behavior
Got tired of the macho bit.

Bit

A matter being considered

Bit

(Informal) An amount equal to one eighth of a dollar
Two bits.

Bit

Chiefly British A small coin
A threepenny bit.

Bit

The sharp part of a tool, such as the cutting edge of a knife or axe.

Bit

A pointed and threaded tool for drilling and boring that is secured in a brace, bitstock, or drill press.

Bit

The part of a key that enters the lock and engages the bolt and tumblers.

Bit

The tip of the mouthpiece on a pipe or a cigarette or cigar holder.

Bit

The metal mouthpiece of a bridle, serving to control, curb, and direct an animal.

Bit

Something that controls, guides, or curbs.

Bit

A binary digit, having either the value 0 or 1, used to store or represent data.

Bit

To place a bit in the mouth of (a horse, for example).

Bit

To check or control with or as if with a bit.

Bit

To make or grind a bit on (a key).

Bit

Past tense and a past participle of bite.

Bit

A piece of metal placed in a horse's mouth and connected to the reins to direct the animal.
A horse hates having a bit put in its mouth.

Bit

A rotary cutting tool fitted to a drill, used to bore holes.

Bit

A coin of a specified value.
A threepenny bit

Bit

A ten-cent piece, dime.

Bit

A unit of currency or coin in the Americas worth a fraction of a Spanish dollar; now specifically, an eighth of a US dollar.
A quarter is two bits.

Bit

In the southern and southwestern states, a small silver coin (such as the real) formerly current; commonly, one worth about 12½ cents; also, the sum of 12½ cents.

Bit

A small amount of something.
There were bits of paper all over the floor.
Does your leg still hurt? —Just a bit now.
I've done my bit; I expect you to do yours.

Bit

(informal) Specifically, a small amount of time.
I'll be there in a bit; I need to take care of something first.
He was here just a bit ago, but it looks like he's stepped out.

Bit

Fractions of a second.
The 400 metres race was won in 47 seconds and bits.

Bit

A portion of something.
I'd like a big bit of cake, please.

Bit

Somewhat; something, but not very great; also used like jot and whit to express the smallest degree. See also a bit.
Am I bored? Not a bit of it!

Bit

(slang) A prison sentence, especially a short one.

Bit

An excerpt of material making up part of a show, comedy routine, etc.
His bit about video games was not nearly as entertaining as the other segments of his show.

Bit

The part of a key which enters the lock and acts upon the bolt and tumblers.

Bit

The cutting iron of a plane.

Bit

The bevelled front edge of an axehead along which the cutting edge runs.

Bit

(BDSM) A gag of a style similar to a bridle.

(MLE) A gun.

Bit

A binary digit, generally represented as a 1 or 0.

Bit

(computing) The smallest unit of storage in a digital computer, consisting of a binary digit.

Bit

Any datum that may take on one of exactly two values.
Status bits on IRC
Permission bits in a file system

Bit

(information theory) A unit of measure for information entropy.

Bit

A microbitcoin, or a millionth of a bitcoin (0.000001 BTC).

Bit

(transitive) To put a bridle upon; to put the bit in the mouth of (a horse).

Bit

Inflection of bite, bitten
I have been bit by your dog!

Bit

Having been bitten.
Even though he's bit, of course the zombies would still chase him.

Bit

The part of a bridle, usually of iron, which is inserted in the mouth of a horse, and having appendages to which the reins are fastened.
The foamy bridle with the bit of gold.

Bit

Fig.: Anything which curbs or restrains.

Bit

In the British West Indies, a fourpenny piece, or groat.

Bit

A part of anything, such as may be bitten off or taken into the mouth; a morsel; a bite. Hence: A small piece of anything; a little; a mite.

Bit

Somewhat; something, but not very great.
My young companion was a bit of a poet.

Bit

A tool for boring, of various forms and sizes, usually turned by means of a brace or bitstock. See Bitstock.

Bit

The part of a key which enters the lock and acts upon the bolt and tumblers.

Bit

The cutting iron of a plane.

Bit

In the Southern and Southwestern States, a small silver coin (as the real) formerly current; commonly, one worth about 12 1/2 cents; also, the sum of 12 1/2 cents.

Bit

To put a bridle upon; to put the bit in the mouth of.

Bit

The smallest unit of information, equivalent to a choice between two alternatives, as yes or no; on or off.

Bit

The physical representation of a bit of information in a computer memory or a data storage medium. Within a computer circuit a bit may be represented by the state of a current or an electrical charge; in a magnetic storage medium it may be represented by the direction of magnetization; on a punched card or on paper tape it may be represented by the presence or absence of a hole at a particular point on the card or tape.

Bit

A small quantity;
A spot of tea
A bit of paper

Bit

A small fragment of something broken off from the whole;
A bit of rock caught him in the eye

Bit

An indefinitely short time;
Wait just a moment
It only takes a minute
In just a bit

Bit

An instance of some kind;
It was a nice piece of work
He had a bit of good luck

Bit

Piece of metal held in horse's mouth by reins and used to control the horse while riding;
The horse was not accustomed to a bit

Bit

A unit of measurement of information (from Binary + digIT); the amount of information in a system having two equiprobable states;
There are 8 bits in a byte

Bit

A small amount of solid food; a mouthful;

Bit

A small fragment;
Overheard snatches of their conversation

Bit

A short theatrical performance that is part of a longer program;
He did his act three times every evening
She had a catchy little routine
It was one of the best numbers he ever did

Bit

The cutting part of a drill; usually pointed and threaded and is replaceable in a brace or bitstock or drill press;
He looked around for the right size bit

Common Curiosities

Why are bits more common than nats in practical applications?

Bits are more practical for everyday digital and computing applications, while nats are more suited to theoretical and scientific research.

Can you convert between bits and nats?

Yes, conversion is possible using the relationship 1 nat=log(e) bits.

What makes nats useful in scientific research?

Nats simplify calculations in fields that benefit from natural logarithmic relationships, like statistical mechanics.

Are nats used in computing hardware or software?

Nats are generally not used in standard computing hardware or software; they are more relevant in theoretical studies.

How does the concept of a bit apply to data storage?

In data storage, bits represent the smallest unit of data, with storage capacities typically quoted in bytes (eight bits each).

How are bits and nats related in measurements?

Bits and nats are related through their logarithmic bases; 1 bit is approximately 0.693 nats.

What is a bit and where is it used?

A bit is the basic unit of information in digital technology, used in computing and telecommunications to represent binary data.

What does a nat represent in information theory?

A nat represents a unit of information or entropy measured using the natural logarithm base e.

What does the prevalence of bits indicate about digital technology?

The prevalence of bits indicates their fundamental role in the operation and design of digital systems, from storage to data transmission.

Is there a scenario where nats would be preferable to bits?

In theoretical analyses where natural logarithms simplify the mathematical expressions, nats would be preferable.

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger
Previous Comparison
Learn vs. Learning
Next Comparison
Clause vs. Section

Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.