cryp·​tog·​ra·​phy | \ krip-ˈtä-grə-fē How to pronounce cryptography (audio) \

Definition of cryptography

1 : secret writing
2 : the enciphering and deciphering of messages in secret code or cipher also : the computerized encoding and decoding of information

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Did You Know?

For a word having to do with secrets, "cryptography" has a surprisingly transparent etymology. The word traces back to the Greek roots kryptos, meaning "hidden," and graphein, meaning "to write." "Kryptos" - which in turn traces to the Greek verb kryptein, meaning "to hide" - is a root shared by several English words, including "crypt," "cryptic," and "encrypt." "Krypton," the name of a colorless gaseous element used especially in some fluorescent lamps and photography flashes, also comes from "kryptos." The name was chosen because the gas is rare and hard to find.

Examples of cryptography in a Sentence

Companies often use cryptography to protect private information.
Recent Examples on the Web Hundreds of billions of dollars of e-commerce relies on potentially vulnerable schemes called public key cryptography. Adrian Cho, Science | AAAS, "Cryptographers scramble to protect the internet from hackers with quantum computers," 21 Aug. 2019 In the middle of the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino convention hall in Las Vegas, amid workshops on cryptography and digital defense, a hospital will soon be humming with activity—or at least a pretty good facsimile of one. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "A Model Hospital Where the Devices Get Hacked—on Purpose," 6 Aug. 2019 An ardent anarcho-libertarian, Bell was one of the more extreme cypherpunks, a group of internet privacy and cryptography advocates that coalesced around a mailing list in the early Nineties. Brian Merchant, Harper's magazine, "Click Here to Kill," 31 Dec. 2019 This could include mandating advanced forms of cryptography, building in insurance policies if data is misused, or setting rules for how updates can be made in the future. CNN, "Terrorists are using crypto to pay for attacks. It's time to stop them," 27 Dec. 2019 To send secure messages online or encrypt the files on a computer, most modern systems employ asymmetric, or public-key, cryptography. Sophie Bushwick, Scientific American, "New Encryption System Protects Data from Quantum Computers," 8 Oct. 2019 Anish Mohammed is a researcher and consultant who has been working in the security and cryptography area for the past two decades. CNN, "Terrorists are using crypto to pay for attacks. It's time to stop them," 27 Dec. 2019 So these are the types of problems that people are trying to build cryptography on. Sophie Bushwick, Scientific American, "New Encryption System Protects Data from Quantum Computers," 8 Oct. 2019 Scientists in France have cracked the most complex cryptography algorithm attempted to date. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Scientists Crack Longest, Most Complex Encryption Key Ever," 6 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cryptography.' 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 cryptography

1646, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cryptography

borrowed from New Latin cryptographia, from crypto- crypto- + -graphia -graphy

Note: New Latin cryptographia was perhaps first used by the Limburg-born philologist Erycius Puteanus (Eric de Put, Eric van den Putte, 1574-1646) in "Cryptographia epistolica, sive de clandestina scriptione," an addendum to his Epistolarum reliquiae centuria V (Leuven/Louvain, 1612). An apparently more widely circulated work using the word was Cryptomenytices et cryptographiae libri IX (Lüneburg, 1624) by Gustavus Selenus, pseudonym of Augustus the Younger, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1579-1666).

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Time Traveler for cryptography

Time Traveler

The first known use of cryptography was in 1646

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Last Updated

28 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cryptography.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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How to pronounce cryptography (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cryptography

: the process of writing or reading secret messages or codes

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More from Merriam-Webster on cryptography

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cryptography

Nglish: Translation of cryptography for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about cryptography

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