cryp·​tog·​ra·​phy krip-ˈtä-grə-fē How to pronounce cryptography (audio)
: secret writing
: the enciphering and deciphering of messages in secret code or cipher
also : the computerized encoding and decoding of information

Did you know?

For a word having to do with secrets, cryptography has a surprisingly transparent origin. The word comes from Greek kryptós, meaning "hidden" or "secret," and graphein, meaning "to write." Besides the familiar related words of the same origin, such as cryptic, there is krypton, the name of a colorless gaseous element used especially in some fluorescent lamps and photography flashes. 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 In the field of cryptography, Marlinspike is considered the driving force behind bringing end-to-end encryption—the technology underlying Signal—to the real world. Kai Ye, WIRED, 23 July 2023 In 1994, Peter Shor developed a quantum algorithm for factoring large numbers — a task whose apparent difficulty for classical computers underlies much of modern cryptography. Ben Brubaker, Quanta Magazine, 20 July 2023 Google took a hybrid approach that combines a traditional public-key cryptography algorithm with Dilithium for authentication. IEEE Spectrum, 29 Aug. 2023 Furthermore, the United States and its allies will become dependent on China for a host of new technologies—such as quantum computing and cryptography, advanced computing, advanced telecommunications, and bioengineering—that are critical for both economic development and national security. Michael A. Brown, Foreign Affairs, 28 Aug. 2023 Breaking Current Encryption Schemes One specific way that the rise of quantum computing could soon impact everyday living for the general public is in the area of cryptography. Expert Panel®, Forbes, 18 Apr. 2023 Signal started out a renegade, a pirate utopia encircled by cryptography, but the mainstream has become—alarmingly quickly—much closer to the vision Signal sought. Kai Ye, WIRED, 23 July 2023 Shor’s discovery of a fast quantum algorithm for factoring large numbers, which threatens to undermine state-of-the-art cryptography, underscored the need for problems that are known to be hard for quantum algorithms as well. Ben Brubaker, Quanta Magazine, 20 July 2023 Vodafone wants to protect its customers against cyber attack In a July 5 blog post, Emma Smith, Vodafone’s cyber security director, said that while quantum computing can help in solving some of the world’s ultra-complex problems, it could be used by bad actors to crack today’s cryptography. Faustine Ngila, Quartz, 6 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cryptography.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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).

First Known Use

1646, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of cryptography was in 1646


Dictionary Entries Near cryptography

Cite this Entry

“Cryptography.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


cryp·​tog·​ra·​phy krip-ˈtäg-rə-fē How to pronounce cryptography (audio)
: the coding and decoding of secret messages

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