algorithm

noun
al·​go·​rithm | \ ˈal-gə-ˌri-t͟həm \

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 \ adjective
algorithmically \ -​mi-​k(ə-​)lē \ 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

There are also lots of people working on more present-day AI ethics problems: algorithmic bias, robustness of modern machine-learning algorithms to small changes, and transparency and interpretability of neural nets, to name just a few. Kelsey Piper, Vox, "The case for taking AI seriously as a threat to humanity," 21 Dec. 2018 The algorithm for Google Images has been overhauled, as well, with a greater emphasis on web page authority and the freshness of content, according to the blog post. Christopher Carbone, Fox News, "Google uses AI to improve Google Images, video search and AMP Stories," 25 Sep. 2018 Social media is a firehouse of information and leave readers and outlets alike at the whim of algorithms. Emily Dreyfuss, WIRED, "Judd Legum Wants to Fix News With a Newsletter," 12 July 2018 The interior of Greenland is the most time-consuming trip of all, since the algorithm assumes a lengthy overland journey on foot. Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler, "Glasgow, Montana Is America's Most Isolated Town," 9 July 2018 Leading thinkers in China argue that putting government in charge of technology has one big advantage: the state can distribute the fruits of AI, which would otherwise go to the owners of algorithms. The Economist, "The ultimate walled gardenChina has the world’s most centralised internet system," 28 June 2018 An new type of algorithm created by the company read up on the woman -- 175,639 data points -- and rendered its assessment of her death risk: 19.9 percent. Mark Bergen, chicagotribune.com, "Google is training machines to predict when a patient will die," 25 June 2018 An new type of algorithm created by the company read up on the woman -- 175,639 data points -- and rendered its assessment of her death risk: 19.9 percent. Mark Bergen, ajc, "Google is training machines to predict when a patient will die," 23 June 2018 An new type of algorithm created by the company read up on the woman — 175,639 data points — and rendered its assessment of her death risk: 19.9%. Mark Bergen, latimes.com, "Google is training machines to predict when a patient will die," 18 June 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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Dictionary Entries near algorithm

algophagous

algorism

algorist

algorithm

algorithmics

algous

algraphy

Statistics for algorithm

Last Updated

21 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for algorithm

The first known use of algorithm was in 1926

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More Definitions for algorithm

algorithm

noun

English Language Learners Definition of algorithm

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on 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

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