Emacs Lisp has a compiler that translates functions written in Lisp into a special representation called byte-code that can be executed more efficiently. The compiler replaces Lisp function definitions with byte-code. When a byte-code function is called, its definition is evaluated by the byte-code interpreter.
Because the byte-compiled code is evaluated by the byte-code interpreter, instead of being executed directly by the machine's hardware (as true compiled code is), byte-code is completely transportable from machine to machine without recompilation. It is not, however, as fast as true compiled code.
In general, any version of Emacs can run byte-compiled code produced by recent earlier versions of Emacs, but the reverse is not true.
If you do not want a Lisp file to be compiled, ever, put a file-local
variable binding for
no-byte-compile into it, like this:
;; -*-no-byte-compile: t; -*-