algorithm

noun
al·​go·​rithm | \ ˈal-gə-ˌri-t͟həm How to pronounce algorithm (audio) \

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 step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end There are several search engines, with Google, Yahoo and Bing being the biggest players. Each search engine has its own proprietary computation (called an "algorithm") that ranks websites for each keyword or combination of keywords. — Julie Brinton … sometimes you solve a problem by coming up with an algorithm of some kind. But sometimes you solve a problem in a very ad hoc sort of way. — William H. Huggins

Other Words from algorithm

algorithmic \ ˌal-​gə-​ˈrit͟h-​mik How to pronounce algorithm (audio) \ adjective
algorithmically \ ˌal-​gə-​ˈrit͟h-​mi-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce algorithm (audio) \ adverb

What Does algorithm Mean?

The current term of choice for a problem-solving 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 computer-mediated 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 computer-powered 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 9th-century Persian mathematician, abu-Jaʽfar Mohammed ibn-Mūsa al-Khuwārizmi, who did important work in the fields of algebra and numeric systems.

Examples of algorithm in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Terra Luna stable coin on the other hand, and the circular algorithm, will be in eternal damnation. Jemma Green, Forbes, 4 Aug. 2022 The TikTok algorithm rewards frequency, and many creators earned money through TikTok’s creator fund, a program that pays creators for views accumulated on the app. Taylor Lorenz, Washington Post, 3 Aug. 2022 As well as the recommendation algorithm, users have complained about the platform’s heavy emphasis on video and Reels in an attempt to rival TikTok, and its gradual rollout of full-screen view. Alice Hearing, Fortune, 29 July 2022 An even larger supercomputer could execute the algorithm in dozens of seconds, says physicist Pan Zhang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Sophia Chen, Wired, 11 July 2022 The TikTok algorithm that surfaces one ridiculous and entertaining video after another keeps users glued to their screens and addicted to the wildly popular Facebook rival. Andy Meek, BGR, 10 July 2022 The most obvious logic here is that clothing that resists the algorithm, that doesn’t scan bombastically on social media, is the most rarefied stuff of all. Rachel Tashjian, Harper's BAZAAR, 6 July 2022 The algorithm was writing an academic paper about itself. Almira Osmanovic Thunström, Scientific American, 30 June 2022 Many people who petition do so over government mishandling of a tragic accident or neglect in the case — all of which goes into the algorithm. New York Times, 25 June 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'algorithm.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of algorithm

1926, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for algorithm

alteration of Middle English algorisme, from Old French & Medieval Latin; Old French, from Medieval Latin algorismus, from Arabic al-khuwārizmi, from al-Khwārizmī flourished a.d. 825 Islamic mathematician

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The first known use of algorithm was in 1926

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algorist

algorithm

algorithmics

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Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Algorithm.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/algorithm. Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on algorithm

Nglish: Translation of algorithm for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of algorithm for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about algorithm

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