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 The next two years were devoted to developing technical standards for quantum cryptography, including Quantum Key Distribution and Quantum Random Number Generators, for submission to the International Telecommunications Union. Arthur Herman, Forbes, "What’s Next For Quantum In 2021," 24 Feb. 2021 Finding patterns in complex, irrational numbers is crucial to fields like cryptography and encryption. Popular Mechanics, "This Inmate Used Solitary Confinement to Learn Math. Now He's Solving the World's Hardest Equations," 21 Feb. 2021 On top of all the other challenges, the system also needs to be easy to use for government officials who most likely wouldn't have any specific knowledge of cryptography. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, "This Encrypted Gun Registry Might Bridge a Partisan Divide," 29 Jan. 2021 Bitcoin uses elliptic curve cryptography for digital signatures. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Want to really understand how bitcoin works? Here’s a gentle primer," 26 Dec. 2020 Steve Fabian, via Facebook Mathematics draws districts; cryptography verifies votes. Wired Readers, Wired, "Six-Word Sci-Fi: Stories Written By You," 1 Dec. 2020 Cryptocurrency relies on cryptography, or code solving, to determine and maintain ownership. Jerry Dunleavy, Washington Examiner, "Trump spy chief seeks SEC scrutiny of Chinese dominance in cryptocurrency," 24 Nov. 2020 And so Zoom went on a spending spree, bringing on high-profile consultants from the world of cryptography and buying up Keybase, a company that specializes in end-to-end encryption. Brian Barrett, Wired, "Zoom Finally Has End-to-End Encryption. Here's How to Use It," 2 Nov. 2020 In all cases, cryptography, the coding enabling information to be kept secret, was flawed or missing. Pat Beall, USA TODAY, "Will your ballot be safe? Computer experts sound warnings on America's voting machines," 2 Nov. 2020

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

7 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cryptography.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for cryptography



English Language Learners Definition of cryptography

: the process of writing or reading secret messages or codes

More from Merriam-Webster on cryptography

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

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