So, if I haven't made it clear yet--I'm totally new to programming, and some words and terminologies scare me right off. I figured anyone else that's new to programming might have the same thoughts, so I'm here to provide (what I hope to be) a layman's glossary or reference guide for intimidating programming words (as I learn them!). For now I'm calling it a "Quick Reference Guide"...if I come up with a better name I'll totally change it for your entertainment purposes.
First up on the list: API
API stands for Application Programming Interface. The API is basically the ability to poke an application. In real terms it is an interface to communicate with the application, and make it do things you want it to.
Take Maya for example (Maya is an application). Maya has a two main interfaces (The GUI, aka buttons you click on to make things in Maya and the Script Editor). Now the Maya API responds only to Python and C++. That means that Maya has acquired a package of contents (which are the commands you use in each language) for you to tell it what to do. And then you as the programmer use that API (aka the commands) to write scripts to make awesome tools for the rest of the pipeline to use! Make sense? Hope so. Here's a little comic to help out what's going on.