When I googled I found a lot statements about this. Like..

  • Ethernet is not an application protocol. But I'd still give it the description "protocol".

    A network protocol defines rules and conventions for communication between network devices.

  • Ethernet is an entire communication stack

  • Ethernet is a family of computer networking technologies for LANs and MANs

  • Ethernet is just the Physical layer and the Data Link layer. By itself Ethernet does nothing; it’s just the “pipe.”

  • Wholehearted agreement that Ethernet is NOT a protocol. Ethernet is not much different than say RS-485. I use the analogy that Ethernet is the express service for sending packages while serial is dial-up modem or truck transport. The Sea Container or pallet (the packet) is oblivious to how it is being carried.

I'm confused by reading these all. Can just help me?

Can we say Ethernet as a protocol?

  • I think the context of some of the above statements would be important in being able to understand/explain them. I am tempted to close this as primarily opinion based as I have witnessed better minds than mine argue both sides of this and some content similar to statements on the above list. Can you say it? Sure. If you do will you sometimes come across people who will want to argue the point? Probably. As others have noted, it comes down to semantics (how do you define "protocol", does a standard that defines protocols make the standard a protocol, etc).
    – YLearn
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 22:17
  • Did any answer help you? If so, you should accept the answer so that the question doesn't keep popping up forever, looking for an answer. Alternatively, you can post and accept your own answer.
    – Ron Maupin
    Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 22:44
  • Ethernet==FALSE Protocol=ELIF Protocol==TRUE THEN ‘protocol ❌=ethernet’
    – Life
    Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 14:07

3 Answers 3


Well, it (obviously) depends on how you define a protocol. If we take Wikipedia's definition:

In telecommunications, a communication protocol is a system of rules that allow two or more entities of a communication system to communicate between them to transmit information via any kind of variation of a physical quantity. These are the rules or standard that defines the syntax, semantics and synchronization of communication and possible error recovery methods. Protocols may be implemented by hardware, software, or a combination of both.

then I think it's safe to say Ethernet meets those criteria.

Since this boils down to a semantic issue, and nothing generates more debate than a philosophical argument, let the flaming begin ;-)

  • No flames. Even before the advent of the PC and networks to support it, I have always been taught that protocols are sets of rules for communication, e.g., diplomatic protocols.
    – Ron Maupin
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 14:29

It depends on how you use the word.

If you want to engineer to it, there is an Ethernet Protocol to follow (802.3 or Ethernet II). You can use the Ethernet Protocol on top of other protocols (PPPoE is an example).

Most of the time when I use the word Ethernet, I am not talking about a protocol, I am talking about a whole system or an general concept.

Miriam-Webster says:


: a computer network architecture consisting of various specified local-area network protocols, devices, and connection methods



It's a standard. The IEEE 802® LAN/MAN Standards Committee develops LAN and metropolitan area network (MAN) standards.


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