Ping is a basic Internet program that lets you verify that a particular IP address exists and can accept requests. The verb ping means the act of using the ping utility or command. Ping is used diagnostically to ensure that a host computer you are trying to reach is actually operating. If, for example, a user can't ping a host, then the user will be unable to use the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to send files to that host. Ping can also be used with a host that is operating to see how long it takes to get a response back. Using ping, you can learn the number form of the IP address from the symbolic domain name (see "Tip" below).
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Loosely, ping means "to get the attention of" or "to check for the presence of" another party online. Ping operates by sending a packet to a designated address and waiting for a response. The computer acronym (for Packet Internet or Inter-Network Groper) was contrived to match the submariners' term for the sound of a returned sonar pulse.
Ping can also refer to the process of sending a message to all the members of a mailing list requesting an ACK (acknowledgement code). This is done before sending e-mail in order to confirm that all of the addresses are reachable.
Also see ping storm and ping strangeness.
Tip: To find out the dot address (such as 188.8.131.52) for a given domain name, Windows users can go to their MS DOS prompt screen and enter: ping xxx.yyy where xxx is the second-level domain name like "whatis" and yyy is the top-level domain name like "com").
(This information courtesy of Whatis.com.)