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Here are the precise definitions, hope it helps
replace: A data load option that clears existing values from
all accounts for periods specified in the data load file, and
loads values from the data load file. If an account is not
specified in the load file, its values for the specified periods
merge : A data load option that clears values only from the
accounts specified in the data load file and replaces them
with values in the data load file.
Sandeep Reddy Enti
It is also important to note that FDM does not load anything. The target system client is what actually executes/controls the load.
For an exact answer to what Replace/Merge/Accumulate are (and the other options at the 'Load Dialog Box') I would encourage you to review your target system (HFM, Essbase, Enterprise, HSF) documentation for the detailed answer, as they change do vary by target system.
It depends on what your target system is. The definition offered in the other post is accurate for some systems but not for others.
For loading to HFM, when loading in replace, all members of the subcube (account, ICP, C1-4) are cleared for each entity that exists in the data load file that FDM produces. What this means is that if you previously loaded to an entity then changed the maps and that entity is no longer part of the fdm data export, the data for that entity will not be cleared from HFM. In merge mode, only the data records that are contained in the fdm data file are updated and none of the other intersections are cleared.