Docker Terminologies: A Beginner's Guide

Docker is a popular platform for building, shipping, and running distributed applications. However, for those new to Docker, the terminology and concepts involved can be overwhelming. In this post, we'll explore some of the key Docker terminology and concepts that you need to know to get started with Docker.

Containers and Images

At the heart of Docker are containers and images. A container is a lightweight and portable executable package that includes everything needed to run an application, including code, runtime, system tools, libraries, and settings. Containers are isolated from each other and from the host system, which makes them highly scalable and efficient. An image is a static snapshot of a container that includes all the dependencies and configurations required to run the application. You can create, manage, and distribute images using the Docker command-line interface or other tools.

Docker Compose

Docker Compose is a tool for defining and running multi-container Docker applications. With Docker Compose, you can define the services, networks, and volumes required for your application using a YAML file, and then start and stop your application with a single command. Docker Compose also allows you to scale your application by specifying the number of containers for each service.

Docker Networking

Docker networking allows you to create and manage networks for your containers. By default, Docker creates a bridge network for each host, which allows containers to communicate with each other and with the host system. You can also create custom networks for your application, which allow you to isolate and secure your containers. Docker networking also provides DNS resolution for containers, which means that you can refer to containers by name rather than IP address.

Docker Orchestration with Swarm

Docker Swarm is a native clustering and orchestration tool for Docker. With Docker Swarm, you can deploy and manage a cluster of Docker hosts, called nodes, that work together to run your application. Swarm provides high availability and scalability for your application, by automatically scaling the number of containers and services based on the demand. Swarm also includes load balancing, rolling updates, and secret management features to make it easy to deploy and manage containerized applications at scale.

Dockerfile Caching and Multi-Stage Builds

A Dockerfile is a text file that contains instructions for building a Docker image. Dockerfile caching allows Docker to reuse previously built layers of an image, which makes the build process faster and more efficient. Docker also supports multi-stage builds, which allows you to use multiple stages in your Dockerfile to create an image that includes only the necessary files and dependencies for your application. This reduces the size of the image and makes it easier to deploy and manage.

Docker Plugins

Docker plugins allow you to extend the functionality of Docker by adding new features and capabilities. Docker plugins can be used to integrate with other tools and services, such as storage systems, monitoring tools, and authentication services. Docker plugins can be installed and managed using the Docker command-line interface or other tools.

Secrets and Authentication

Docker provides several features for securing your containers and applications. Docker secrets allow you to store and manage sensitive data, such as passwords and private keys, securely. Docker registry authentication allows you to control access to your Docker images and repositories by requiring authentication before pulling or pushing images. Docker also supports TLS encryption for communication between Docker hosts and clients, which adds an extra layer of security.

Docker Volumes

Docker volumes are a way to store and manage data used by Docker containers. Volumes can be used to persist data beyond the lifetime of a container, to share data between containers, or to store data that should be kept separate from the container file system. Volumes can be created and managed using the Docker command-line interface or other tools.

Docker Registries

A Docker registry is a central place to store and distribute Docker images. Docker Hub is the default public registry for Docker images, but you can also create your own private registry or use a third-party registry. Docker registries provide version control for images, allowing you to roll back to previous versions if needed. You can also set access controls on Docker registries to restrict who can pull or push images.

Docker Swarm Mode

Docker Swarm mode is a feature that allows you to turn a group of Docker hosts into a single virtual host. With Swarm mode, you can manage a cluster of Docker hosts as a single entity, making it easier to deploy and manage containerized applications at scale. Swarm mode provides features such as service discovery, load balancing, and rolling updates.

Docker Stack

A Docker stack is a way to deploy a group of related services as a single unit. With Docker stack, you can define your application services, networks, and volumes using a Compose file, and then deploy and manage them with a single command. Docker stack provides high availability and scaling for your application, making it easier to manage containerized applications at scale.

Docker Healthchecks

Docker healthchecks are a way to monitor the health of Docker containers and services. With healthchecks, you can specify a command or script to run periodically to check the status of the container or service. Docker healthchecks can be used to automate container recovery, to ensure that containers are running correctly, and to alert administrators if there are any issues.

Docker Logging

Docker logging allows you to capture and store logs generated by Docker containers and services. Docker provides several logging drivers that can be used to send logs to different destinations, such as the console, a file, or a remote log server. Docker logging can be configured using the Docker command-line interface or other tools.

Dockerfile Directives

Dockerfile directives are instructions that are used in Dockerfile to specify various aspects of the image, such as the base image, the exposed ports, environment variables, and more. Some of the commonly used Dockerfile directives include FROM, RUN, COPY, EXPOSE, ENV, and CMD. Dockerfile directives can be used to customize the image for your application.


Docker has a rich set of terminology and concepts that are essential for building, shipping, and running containerized applications. In this post, we explored some of the key Docker terminology and concepts, including Docker volumes, Docker registries, Docker Swarm mode, Docker stack, Docker healthchecks, Docker logging, and Dockerfile directives. Understanding these Docker terminologies will help you to use Docker more effectively and efficiently.