# algorithm

noun al·go·rithm \ ˈal-gə-ˌri-t͟həm \
|Updated on: 8 Jul 2018

## 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 especially by a computer
• a search algorithm

## Recent Examples of algorithm from the Web

• The company uses an algorithm to scan each design for insensitive or offensive elements or language.
• News Apple has tried to position its News app as an alternative to algorithm-driven, personal data-harvesting alternatives like Facebook and Google News.
• After graduating from Oxford in 2002, Fox began graduate work in international security at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and developed an algorithm to predict terrorist activity.
• The team took another step by having an AI algorithm use results of the earlier study to analyze transcripts of students interviewed for the new research.
• Their goal was to demonstrate the outcome of feeding hyper-specific data into an algorithm.
• Their sole quant, that deliciously smarmy guy (Will Rolan), has mastered an algorithm that’s the equivalent to Bobby Axelrod’s mind, only without all the irrationalities and strutting.
• From these data an algorithm determined the ideal soles for the customer’s shoes.
• And Kaplan and Garstka did observe that their algorithm did better than just automatically picking the high seeds.

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.

## 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.

## Origin and Etymology of 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

## Definition 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

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play

changing quickly and often

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