This article is from the Frequently Asked Questions for Linux, the Free/Open Source UNIX-like operating system kernel that runs on many modern computer systems. Maintained by David C. Merrill with numerous contributions by others. (v1.0).
A: A core file is created when a program terminates unexpectedly, due to a bug, or a violation of the operating system's or hardware's protection mechanisms. The operating system kills the program and creates a core file that programmers can use to figure out what went wrong. It contains a detailed description of the state that the program was in when it died.
If would like to determine what program a core file came from, use the file command, like this:
$ file core
That will tell you the name of the program that produced the core dump. You may want to write the maintainer(s) of the program, telling them that their program dumped core.