Definition of algorithm
: a procedure for solving a mathematical problem (as of finding the greatest common divisor ) in a finite number of steps that frequently involves repetition of an operation; broadly : a stepbystep procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end especially by a computer a search algorithm
What Does algorithm Mean?
The current term of choice for a problemsolving procedure, algorithm, is commonly used nowadays for the set of rules a machine (and especially a computer) follows to achieve a particular goal. It does not always apply to computermediated activity, however. The term may as accurately be used of the steps followed in making a pizza or solving a Rubik’s Cube as for computerpowered data analysis.
Algorithm is often paired with words specifying the activity for which a set of rules have been designed. A search algorithm, for example, is a procedure that determines what kind of information is retrieved from a large mass of data. An encryption algorithm is a set of rules by which information or messages are encoded so that unauthorized persons cannot read them.
Though first attested in the early 20th century (and, until recently, used strictly as a term of mathematics and computing), algorithm has a surprisingly deep history. It was formed from algorism “the system of Arabic numerals,” a word that goes back to Middle English and ultimately stems from the name of a 9thcentury Persian mathematician, abuJaʽfar Mohammed ibnMūsa alKhuwārizmi, who did important work in the fields of algebra and numeric systems.
Origin and Etymology of algorithm
alteration of Middle English algorisme, from Old French & Medieval Latin; Old French, from Medieval Latin algorismus, from Arabic alkhuwārizmi, from alKhwārizmī fl a.d. 825 Islamic mathematician
First Known Use: 1926
Other Mathematics and Statistics Terms
ALGORITHM Defined for English Language Learners
algorithm
playDefinition of algorithm for English Language Learners

: a set of steps that are followed in order to solve a mathematical problem or to complete a computer process
Learn More about algorithm

Spanish Central: Translation of algorithm Nglish: Translation of algorithm for Spanish speakers Britannica English: Translation of algorithm for Arabic speakers Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about algorithm
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up algorithm? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
Writing? Check your grammar now!