Metafile is a generic term for a file format containing multiple types of data streams, along with descriptive metadata. A metafile may also be called a "container" or "wrapper" file. Archive files, library files, graphic files, and multimedia files are all common types of metafile.

The term "metafile" is most often applied to graphics file formats containing both vector and raster image data. These files contain a set of instructions that tell the graphics renderer how to draw a vector shape and text, and how to use an embedded bitmap image. Windows operating systems use the Enhanced Metafile (EMF) format as its standard graphics metafile format, while macOS uses PDF.

Other categories of metafile are often referred to using more specific terms instead. Archive files (like ZIP and RAR) compress any kind of data into a single file. Library files (like DLL) contain a combination of program code, data, and graphic resources. Multimedia container files (like AVI, MP4, and MKV) are a type of metafile that contain video, audio, and closed caption text data streams.

Updated November 28, 2022 by Brian P.

Definitions by

The definition of Metafile on this page is an original definition. If you would like to reference this page or cite this definition, you can use the green citation links above.

The goal of is to explain computer terminology in a way that is easy to understand. We strive for simplicity and accuracy with every definition we publish. If you have feedback about the Metafile definition or would like to suggest a new technical term, please contact us.

Want to learn more tech terms? Subscribe to the daily or weekly newsletter and get featured terms and quizzes delivered to your inbox.

Sign up for the free TechTerms Newsletter

How often would you like to receive an email?

You can unsubscribe or change your frequency setting at any time using the links available in each email.

Questions? Please contact us.