An executable is a file containing instructions for a computer to run or “execute” some action. In other words, executable is simply another word for “program”.

Ultimately, all computer programs are nothing more than a series of simple instructions, stored in a file, and the computer’s CPU executes those instructions one after the other.

executable (Wikipedia)
A hex dump of an executable real mode loader

In computing, executable code, an executable file, or an executable program, sometimes simply referred to as an executable or binary, causes a computer "to perform indicated tasks according to encoded instructions", as opposed to a data file that must be interpreted (parsed) by a program to be meaningful.

The exact interpretation depends upon the use. "Instructions" is traditionally taken to mean machine code instructions for a physical CPU. In some contexts, a file containing scripting instructions (such as bytecode) may also be considered executable.

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