n. (context computing English) Any of a family of instruction set architectures based on the (w: Intel 8086) microprocessor.
x86 is a family of backward compatible instruction set architectures based on the Intel 8086 CPU and its Intel 8088 variant. The 8086 was introduced in 1978 as a fully 16-bit extension of Intel's 8-bit based 8080 microprocessor, with memory segmentation as a solution for addressing more memory than can be covered by a plain 16-bit address. The term "x86" came into being because the names of several successors to Intel's 8086 processor end in "86", including the 80186, 80286, 80386 and 80486 processors.
Many additions and extensions have been added to the x86 instruction set over the years, almost consistently with full backward compatibility. The architecture has been implemented in processors from Intel, Cyrix, AMD, VIA and many other companies; there are also open implementations, such as the Zet SoC platform.
The term is not synonymous with IBM PC compatibility as this implies a multitude of other computer hardware; embedded systems as well as general-purpose computers used x86 chips before the PC-compatible market started, some of them before the IBM PC itself.