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

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Other Words from algorithm

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

Instead, hard drives were loaded into trucks and planes and hand delivered to the data centers, where they were processed on a supercomputer using an algorithm developed by Katie Bouman. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Behind the Scenes of the First Black Hole Photo," 12 Apr. 2019 Now that the idea of using an algorithm to find a cab is normal, one of the tech challenges of the moment is how to most efficiently route all of those drivers to all of those customers. Takashi Mochizuki, WSJ, "How Gaming Technology May Help Taxi Drivers in Japan," 1 Apr. 2019 The feed can also use this algorithm to show videos and events. Dieter Bohn, The Verge, "Google Search is adding a news feed to its homepage on mobile," 24 Sep. 2018 As Sollitto explains, Yelp doesn’t display every review left for a business in chronological order; the company uses an algorithm to sort reviews according to a number of signals, including whether they may be biased or fraudulent. Louise Matsakis, WIRED, "The Red Hen and the Weaponization of Yelp," 26 June 2018 TripAdvisor determined this year's winners using an algorithm that analyzed reviews and ratings submitted by travelers over a 12-month period on TripAdvisor Flights. Maggie Maloney, Town & Country, "These Are the Top 10 Airlines in the World," 9 Apr. 2018 The test uses an algorithm to produce a report matching each patient with the antidepressants that are most likely to work well, moderately well and not well. Catherine Ho, San Francisco Chronicle, "In a first, Veterans Affairs centers use genetic testing to treat depression," 17 Mar. 2018 The researchers implement this using an evolutionary algorithm that takes the modes that were most dominant in the previous image and adds in a random sampling of other modes to quickly converge to an image. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Imaging at 1,000fps with a single pixel," 15 Feb. 2018 The algorithm repeats this step for each of the other output neurons. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "How computers got shockingly good at recognizing images," 18 Dec. 2018

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.

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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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13 May 2019

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The first known use of algorithm was in 1926

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English Language Learners Definition of algorithm

technical : a set of steps that are followed in order to solve a mathematical problem or to complete a computer process

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Britannica English: Translation of algorithm for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about algorithm

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something valued as if it were money

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