As you dive into the world of cryptocurrencies, it may feel like you have to learn an entirely new language to truly understand what’s going on. Just as with any specialized field, cryptocurrencies come with their own terminology and jargon. Here’s a handy reference guide to some of the most common terms you may come across.
ACH - ACH payments are electronic payments made from one bank to another through the Automated Clearing House network. Many people already use ACH payments and may not know it, such as with direct deposit or paying bills online with checking accounts. ACH payments are a popular option for buying cryptocurrency for members on Uphold.
Address - A cryptocurrency address is used to send and receive transactions into Digital Wallets. Similar to a routing number, wallet owners share this address with anyone they wish to receive funds from.
Altcoin - Altcoins are abbreviated from “bitcoin alternatives”. It’s used to describe any single cryptocurrency that is not bitcoin. Most popular altcoins use the same fundamental building blocks as bitcoin.
AML - AML is an acronym for “Anti-Money Laundering.” AML regulations were originally designed around traditional centralized banking systems, and have since needed to adapt to account for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency transactions.
AML Bitcoin - AML Bitcoin is a relatively new cryptocurrency aimed at fully complying with US regulatory authorities. Its proponents claim that it is fully compliant with the USA PATRIOT Act, the Bank Secrecy Act, and the US Office of Foreign Assets Control. Since it meets the standards of US regulatory agencies, AML Bitcoin also complies with many other government regulations from around the world.
Arbitrage - Arbitrage is a technical term from the world of finance and economics. It is a form of trading that capitalizes on the price difference between two or more markets. For example, a trader practicing arbitrage might buy a currency in one market and sell it in another market at a higher price, earning a profit from a temporary difference in prices. The difference between the prices is called a spread.
ASICs - ASICS are application-specific integrated circuits designed to process only a specific kind of application. An ASIC is programmed to do one thing only, and it does this much faster and more efficiently than multi-purpose processors. Bitcoin mining ASICs are tailored to mining bitcoins quickly and efficiently.
ATH - ATH is an acronym for “all-time high.” In cryptocurrency discussions, ATH refers to the highest valuation reached to date for a particular currency.
Basic Attention Token (BAT) - The Basic Attention Token (BAT) from Brave Software is a cryptocurrency designed to reinvent online advertising where users can pay content creators and publishers directly.
Bear Market - Bear Market refers to a market where the prevailing trend is falling prices, encouraging selling. Bearish is used to describe speculators and analysts who have an outlook that assumes falling prices are likely to occur in the near future. The opposite of bearish is bullish.
Bitcoin (BTC) is the world’s first peer-to-peer decentralized digital currency. As the leading cryptocurrency, the Bitcoin network is a payment system that functions without an intermediary, unlike banks and other conventional payment administrators.
Bitcoin Cash (BCH) - Bitcoin cash is a hard fork of the Bitcoin network, meaning a new cryptocurrency with altered rules was spun off from the original bitcoin. Bitcoin cash is designed to be faster and more efficient in the processing of transactions and payments.
Bitcoin Gold (BTG) - Bitcoin gold is another hard-fork off of Bitcoin. Bitcoin gold is designed to be more decentralized than bitcoin for miners. One of the major critiques of Bitcoin is the centralization of its mining power, which some analysts believe undermines the democratic foundation of the currency. Bitcoin Gold, on the other hand, is ASIC-resistant.
Bitstamp - Bitstamp is a Luxembourg-based cryptocurrency exchange. One of the oldest cryptocurrency exchanges, Bitstamp facilitates trading in bitcoin, litecoin, ether, ripple, bitcoin cash, US dollars, and Euro.
Bittrex - Bittrex is one of the major cryptocurrency exchanges based in the United States. It facilitates trading of more than 190 different cryptocurrencies including bitcoin, ether, blackcoin and gambit.
Block - Blocks are where unalterable data from the network is stored, mainly the data for transactions.
Block Reward - The block reward is the prize miners receive for successfully validating a new block and adding it to the chain.
Blockchain - Blockchain refers to the public ledger that records cryptocurrency transactions. A blockchain is a linear, chronological list of transaction records called blocks. The blocks are linked together and secured against tampering using cryptography. A blockchain is not stored in a single set of central servers controlled by one entity. Instead, a blockchain is spread around the globe using a vast network of private computers that simultaneously store data and execute computations.
Bull Market - A term used to refer to a market where the prevailing trend is rising prices, encouraging buying. Bullish is used to describe speculators and analysts who have an outlook that assumes raising prices are likely to occur in the near future. The opposite of bullish is bearish.
Coin - Traditionally, the term “coin” has referred to small, flat, round piece of metal or plastic that serves as a medium of exchange and/or legal tender. With the rise of cryptocurrencies, the term “coin” has come to refer to individual units of account within a particular cryptocurrency.
Coinbase - Coinbase is a digital currency exchange and wallet based in San Francisco, California. They broker transactions of bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ether, litecoin, and other cryptocurrencies with traditional currencies in 32 countries. They also manage cryptocurrency transactions on behalf of merchants, particularly online retailers.
Cold Storage - Cold storage refers to a method of storing a reserve of cryptocurrency offline. Cold storage eliminates the risk of theft from hackers, but creates new problems and risks of its own. Some of most popular cold storage methods include:
- USB drive or other digital data storage medium kept in a secure physical location
- A piece of paper
- On a bearer item such as a physical coin
- A specially designed offline cryptocurrency hardware wallet, such as Ledger Nano
Confirmation - Confirmation refers to the process of verifying a bitcoin transaction on the blockchain. When a new block is created and added to the blockchain by miners, it records new transactions that have occured since the last block was created. A transaction that is verified and recorded in a block has been confirmed.
Cryptocurrency - A cryptocurrency is a digital currency that uses cryptography and encryption techniques to regulate the generation of units of currency and to verify the transfer of funds. Like traditional currencies, cryptocurrencies are designed to function as a unit of account, store of value, and medium of exchange. Unlike traditional currencies, cryptocurrencies are decentralized from a governing authority.
Cryptography - Cryptography is the practice and study of techniques for secure transmission and storage of data. It includes a wide variety of methods for storing and transmitting data in a form readable only by those who are intended to read and process it. Cryptography is the basis for all cryptocurrencies.
DASH - Dash is a cryptocurrency that emphasizes transaction speed. Dash maintains a two-tier architecture with miners and “masternodes” that allow the Dash network to perform near-instant transactions (known as InstantSend). Dash network functions are handled in two different ways. Creating new blocks is handled by Dash miners in a manner that is similar to other altcoins. The second tier of the Dash network is a set of “masternodes” which perform PrivateSend, InstantSend, as well as some governance functions.
Day Trading - Day trading refers to a financial activity in which individuals or organizations buy and sell financial instruments within the same trading day or very frequently. Because day traders only hold on to the securities they purchase over the short term, day trading is considered highly speculative.
Dead Cat Bounce - Dead cat bounce is a term from finance that refers to a small recovery in the price of a financial instrument that is otherwise declining in value. It comes from the idea that a dead cat will bounce if dropped from a sufficient height.
Digital Money - Digital money refers to only those types of currency that are available exclusively in digital form. Digital currencies do not exist in the physical realm, and therefore do not circulate as banknotes and metal coins.
Distributed Ledger - A distributed ledger refers to a database of transactions that is stored and updated in a large network of computers and servers. This means that transactions are public, and recorded at each network point, or “node”.
ERC-20 - ERC-20 is the Ethereum token standard used for Ethereum smart contracts (associated with tokens). ERC-20 gives developers the ability to understand in advance how any new token based on the standard will behave on the Ethereum platform. Ethereum-based apps can then easily adapt to any new cryptocurrency or token that follows the ERC-20 protocol.
Ether - Ether is the primary value token of the Ethereum blockchain and distributed computing platform.
Ethereum - Ethereum is a distributed public blockchain network similar to Bitcoin. However, there are important differences between the two. Ethereum uses smart contracts and gives developers resources to raise funds. Ethereum also has a faster transaction speed than the Bitcoin network.
Exchange - An exchange is marketplace that matches buyers’ and sellers’ orders on currency, securities, commodities, and financial instruments. Think of the famous trading floor on the New York Stock Exchange, where buyers and sellers search for mutually agreed upon deals. In the cryptocurrency world, exchanges are where cryptocurrencies are bought and sold by traders, much like in traditional stock exchanges.
Exchange Rate - An exchange rate is the value of a currency in terms of another currency. Also known as a currency pair, exchange rates capture a moment in time when traders are willing to pay x amount in one form of currency for y amount of another form of currency. As orders are entered to buy a currency and sellers agree to sell at that price this sets Exchange Rates.They change constantly depending on movements in the market and even world events and news headlines.
Fiat currency - Fiat currency refers to currency without any intrinsic value other than by legal decree. Fiat currencies are usually regulated and controlled by a government or central bank.
Fintech - Fintech refers to a technological innovation in the financial sector, from education to cryptocurrency.
FOMO - A slang acronym that stands for “Fear of Missing Out.” Cryptocurrencies that are quickly rising in value often draw interest from investors due to the fear of missing out (FOMO) on a chance to get in when prices are still low. Many market analysts advise against making investment decisions based purely on emotional reactions.
Forex - The abbreviation for Foreign Exchange, Forex is a decentralized global marketplace for trading in all of the world’s FIAT currencies. Famous for never closing, Forex allows trading 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from anywhere in the world. With a daily trading volume of $5 trillion or more, it’s the largest, most liquid market in the world. Forex does not officially support trading in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, but some Forex brokers will trade in cryptocurrencies under certain circumstances.
Fork - A fork occurs when a cryptocurrency’s existing code is changed. A hard fork splits a blockchain into two divergent chains, which why two distinct cryptocurrencies arise, such as BTC and BTG. A soft fork is only results in one coin.
FUD - FUD is an acronym for “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt”. In cryptocurrency discussions, FUD refers to negative analysis that stimulates investors to step back from the market. FUD can cause the perceived value of a cryptocurrency to drop.
Gemini - Gemini is a cryptocurrency exchange based in New York. On Gemini, you can only trade between US dollars, bitcoin, and ether. Founded by the Winklevoss twins, Gemini has distinguished itself with an embrace of regulation and legal compliance. Gemini is regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS).
Genesis Block - A Genesis Block is the first block created on a blockchain. All cryptocurrencies begin with a Genesis Block. Bitcoin’s Genesis Block was the first-ever block of blockchain technology.
Going Long - Going long is a term used to describe when an investor purchases an asset with the assumption that the asset price is likely to rise in the future. Also called a long position, going long is the action of an investor with bullish expectations about a given asset. Going long on bitcoin means purchasing bitcoin because the price is believed to rise in the near future. The opposite of going long is going short.
Going Short - Going short is a term used to describe a position when an investor expects an asset to lose value. Going short involves borrowing an asset from a broker, then immediately selling the asset at the current price. Once the asset loses value, the investor can repurchase the asset and pay back the broker with it. The investor profits off the difference between the asset’s value when it was initially borrowed and the lowered value when the asset was paid back. Going short is the opposite of going long.
Hashrate - The hashrate is the measuring unit for the processing speed of a given cryptocurrency network. The higher the hashrate, the faster the cryptocurrency network will complete transactions and other operations.
Hedging - Hedging describes an investment meant to reduce risk of price movements in a related asset. Investors will hedge their positions by purchasing assets or futures contracts that will offset their losses if their investment positions fail to pan out as expected. For example, an equities investor may buy gold to hedge against a possible stock market crash.
HODL - HODL is a slang trading term that means holding on to a cryptocurrency for the long term rather than selling it for a profit when it hits a certain valuation. Investors who HODL often will not sell their assets even in falling markets.
One interesting fact is that HODL is not an acronym but rather a term based on a misspelling of the word “hold” due to an infamous typo by a bitcoin trader in the earlier days of the cryptocurrency.
Hot Wallet - A hot wallet is a method of keeping a cryptocurrency reserve or wallet connected to the internet. Digital money platforms like Uphold offer both hot wallets and cold storage of cryptocurrency assets, which makes access and trading easier and more efficient. The trade-off is that hot storage is more vulnerable to hackers and other malevolent online factors than cold storage.
Initial Coin Offering - An initial coin offering (ICO) involves selling a newly created cryptocurrency or token to raise money for a startup, software project, or blockchain network. Investors generally buy tokens from ICOs which they hope to sell on an exchange for a profit later.
IOTA - IOTA is a distributed ledger platform and one of the few prominent cryptocurrencies that does not rely on blockchain technology. IOTA does not need to be mined and is completely blockless. Instead, the platform verifies transactions by confirming previous transactions across IOTA wallets.
JOMO - JOMO is an acronym that stands for the “Joy of Missing Out.” JOMO is the opposite of FOMO. It occurs when an individual is glad they didn’t invest in a cryptocurrency that proved to be less valuable than initially imagined.
KYC - KYC is an acronym that stands for “Know Your Customer” or “Know Your Client”. KYC is used to refer to the methods a business deploys to verify and record the identity of its clients. Anti-money laundering regulations that govern financial transactions are sometimes known as KYC laws.
Lambo - Lambo refers to a an attitude or individual associated with significant financial success due to cryptocurrency trading. It may be derived from the story of Peter Saddington, who bought a Lamborghini with part of his bitcoin holdings originally valued at $115. Many cryptocurrency-related memes feature photos of Lamborghinis, referred to as “lambos.”
Ledger Nano - A Ledger Nano is a type of hardware wallet for storing cryptocurrencies. It can connect to any computer or device with a USB port. A Nano Ledger allows for the cold storage of cryptocurrencies, allowing you to access and manage your account using a computer.
Limit Order - A limit order is a term from finance used to describe an order to buy or sell an asset at a specific price or better. For example, a client or firm may give an individual trader a limit order, which authorizes the trader to execute a purchase or sale as long as certain price conditions are met.
Litecoin - Litecoin is a cryptocurrency founded in 2011, making it one of the oldest coins after bitcoin. Envisioned as a lightweight alternative to bitcoin, it has maintained a consistent presence in the top 10 cryptocurrencies since its inception. Compared to bitcoin, litecoin has shorter time intervals between the addition of new blocks to its blockchain.
Long - A long position refers to when a party has invested in an asset with the expectation that the asset’s price will rise.
Margin Trading - Margin trading refers to the practice of investing in assets with money borrowed from a broker. For example, buying on margin would be borrowing money to purchase a security or other asset such as a cryptocurrency.
Market Cap - Short for Market Capitalization, this refers to the total value of all securities or assets related to a specific entity. In traditional financial markets, the market capitalization of a company like Apple would refer to the total value in US dollars of all outstanding shares of the company. In cryptocurrency markets, the market capitalization of a cryptocurrency refers to the total value measured in US dollars of all the coins in a given cryptocurrency. For example, the market capitalization of Bitcoin refers to the current total value of all bitcoins in existence.
Mempool - Short name for “Memory Pool”. The mempool is the pool of unconfirmed transactions on the Bitcoin network. After a transaction happens, it is first placed in the mempool before it gets picked up confirmation.
Miner - While traditional currencies are printed by central banks, bitcoins are “minted” by Bitcoin miners. In this way, bitcoin resembles gold. Like gold, there is only a limited amount of bitcoins out there to find. The original Bitcoin protocol permanently limited the total number of bitcoins to 21 million.
In order to get bitcoins, miners must solve complex mathematical problems that require lots of computing power and time to solve. Also, bitcoins are awarded to miners as a form of payment for carrying out the task of validating bitcoin transactions on the blockchain nodes which they maintain.
Mining Pool - A mining pool facilitates the sharing of resources over a network (such as processing power/hashrate) among a given set of cryptocurrency miners, who then split the rewards of mining according to the contributions of each of them to the pool. Miners in pools benefit because they often get more cryptocurrency working together then they would when mining on their own.
Monero - Monero is a privacy-focused cryptocurrency first developed in 2014. It has gained popularity among users who wish to remain completely anonymous. Monero utilizes innovative technical features such as ring signatures and stealth addresses to protect the identity of individuals on its network. Ring signatures blend together an individual user’s account keys with public keys from the blockchain, resulting in a range of possible signers. This prevents anyone analyzing the blockchain from discovering the identity of the parties in a given transaction.
Multisig - Multisig is short for multisignature. It is a security mechanism that requires more than one person to authorize access to a system. Most cryptocurrencies support both single signature and multisig transactions. Multisig is useful for organizations that do not want a single individual in total control of its cryptocurrency wallet.
Network - A cryptocurrency network is a peer-to-peer payment system that works under a cryptographic protocol. Users send and receive coins by sending messages to the network using compatible cryptocurrency wallet software. Miners solve complex, time consuming math equations to validate these transactions.
Network Fee - A network fee is a fixed amount of cryptocurrency a user must pay to transfer an amount via the blockchain. Network fees go to the miners who verify the transactions. Anytime you buy or sell a cryptocurrency, you must pay a network fee. Higher network fees generally mean faster transaction speeds as they are given priority over transactions with lower fees.
Node - A node is a computer on a cryptocurrency network.
P2P - P2P stands for “peer-to-peer” and refers to networks that have no central control. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies operate as peer-to-peer electronic transaction systems.
Permissioned Ledger - A permissioned ledger is a variant on the blockchain used by certain cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin’s public blockchain allows any party to read the chain as well as make changes and write new blocks (as long as the rules of blockchain are followed). By contrast, a permissioned ledger is a type of blockchain that requires permissions to perform some or all of these actions. Ripple is a prominent cryptocurrency that utilizes a permissioned ledger in its blockchain. Ripple decides who can be a transaction validator on their network, and it has partnered with organizations such as MIT and Microsoft to serve as transaction validators.
Poloniex - Poloniex is a cryptocurrency and digital asset exchange based in the United States. Founded in early 2014, this exchange offers trading in a wide variety of cryptocurrencies and provides advanced charts and data analysis tools. Poloniex also emphasizes its margin trading and lending products.
PoSpace - PoSpace is an acronym for Proof of Space, or can also be referred to as PoC for Proof of Capacity. With PoSpace or PoC, Hard Driving mining is used to validate new coins. This means miners use the space on their hard drive to mine. The more space you have, the more likely you are to mine a block.
PoS - PoS is an acronym for Proof of Stake. In PoS-based cryptocurrencies, the creator of the next block is chosen in a deterministic way, depending on his/her wealth (aka stake). In PoS systems, there is no block reward, so miners take transaction fees.
PoW - PoW is an acronym for Proof of Work. Proof of Work is a key principle underlying blockchain technology. In most blockchain systems, PoW is a piece of information which is hard to get but easy for others on the network to verify and which also follows the network’s rules. PoW requirements force miners to conduct expensive computations in order to facilitate transactions on the blockchain. The computations are expensive in the sense that they are costly in terms of time, hardware and energy. The expense involved in PoW is compensated by paying miners in cryptocurrency coins. PoW is very similar to PoSpace (Proof of Space), except PoSpace.
Private Key - A private key is a cryptographic code made up of 51 alphanumeric characters. A private key allows its owner to access his/her cryptocurrency assets and gives its owner unique protection from theft and unauthorized access to funds. A private key is one half of a key pair. The other half is the public key (or address). Funds can be deposited with knowledge of the public key, but withdrawn only with access to the private key.
Public Key - The public key is the known identity of a cryptocurrency reserve or wallet. It serves as an address known to the public, and allows for the deposit of funds into the wallet. A public key is also one half of a key pair. The other half is the private key, known only to its owner. You may better understand the key pair using this analogy: the public key is like a mailbox, and the private key is like the key that opens the mailbox.
Rekt - Rekt is a deliberate misspelling of “wrecked.” It is a slang term to describe the condition of one who has suffered a major financial loss due to unwise cryptocurrency trades. A run of bad luck may also be associated with the term.
Revolut - Revolut is a digital money platform for peer-to-peer payments in traditional currency and cryptocurrency.
Ripple (XRP) - Ripple is a San Francisco-based technology startup company, and it is also the name of the payment protocol and associated cryptocurrency, also developed by the company. Ripple released 100 billion XRP tokens at the get go - and this is the maximum amount of tokens there will ever be. This is in contrast to other cryptocurrencies such as Ether which essentially has no limit to the number of tokens it can release or Bitcoin which has to be ‘mined’ and will eventually reach a maximum amount of coins. XRP was actually intended as a ‘bridge currency’ for financial institutions, to allow them to make simple, fast, cross-border payments, without the need for multiple middlemen, or the huge fees usually associated with these types of transactions.
Satoshi - A satoshi is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin. Each bitcoin can be divided into fractions up to 8 digits long. That means 1 bitcoin can be divided into a maximum of 100,000,000 subunits. Each 0.00000001 of a bitcoin is called a satoshi. This is the smallest possible fraction of a bitcoin. Satoshi is named for the original designer of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto.
Satoshi Nakamoto - Satoshi Nakamoto is the original designer of Bitcoin and the inventor of the blockchain technology. Satoshi Nakamoto’s true identity is unknown and many believe the name is a pseudonym used by a person or team of persons who developed Bitcoin. Nakamoto has not been actively involved in Bitcoin since mid-2010.
SegWit - SegWit is a soft fork that changed the rules of the transaction format used in the Bitcoin blockchain and increased the block size limit. SegWit solved the problem by stripping off the signature from the public address of the sender in a transaction and moving it to a structure towards the end of the transaction. For more on Segwit, check out this guide.
SEPA - SEPA is an acronym for “Single Euro Payments Area.” SEPA wire transfers allow for easy transactions between banks and bank accounts that are located in Europe. Not all cryptocurrency platforms and exchanges support SEPA transfers.
Short - A short position refers to when a party has borrowed against an asset with the expectation that the asset’s price will fall, allowing them to profit from the difference. See also “Going short.”
Smart Contract - A Smart Contract is a contract recorded in computer language rather than in legal language. A smart contract can be used to set out the parameters of a legally-binding agreement in a transparent way that minimizes conflict, while avoiding the involvement of a lawyer. Smart contracts are stored and replicated on the blockchain and enforced by the network of computers that run the blockchain.
TA - TA is an acronym for Technical Analysis. TA considers the the history of a coin with regards to price charts and trading volume, without focusing on value projections. TA is useful for traders to asses the crypto market.
The Flippening - The Flippening refers to the prophecy that another cryptocurrency will eventually overtake bitcoin as the leading cryptocurrency in the world. Presently, bitcoin’s price-per-coin valuation and overall market capitalization are higher than any other cryptocurrency in the world. But the rapid appreciation of competing cryptocurrencies throughout 2017 has led some analysts and traders to predict ether or another coin could eventually overtake bitcoin.
Token - Token is a word often used interchangeably with cryptocurrencies, or single units of a particular cryptocurrency, but tend to represent a digital asset, utility, or equity that runs on top of another blockchain. Tokens are especially associated with ICOs (initial coin offerings).
Trading Pair - A trading pair entails a trade between two different kinds of currency. For example, a Bitcoin-Dash trading pair would mean buying bitcoin with dash or selling dash for bitcoin.
Trading Volume - Trading volume refers to the total value of assets and/or securities that are traded in a given period. For example, daily trading volume in a cryptocurrency exchange refers to the total amount of cryptocurrencies that were traded on that exchange over the course of a single day.
Volatility - Volatility in finance is the level of variation in asset prices measured over time. Measured in % change in price over a given period, high volatility means unstable asset prices that experience wild, hard-to-predict swings in valuation over the short term. Low volatility suggests relatively stable asset prices that do not bounce around unpredictably. Generally speaking, cryptocurrency markets have been characterized by high volatility in the recent past.
Wallet - A wallet has a special meaning in the cryptocurrency context. Instead of holding a collection of bills, coins and bank cards, a digital wallet stores bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. A digital wallet is exclusively controlled by its owner.
There are many different types of wallets for cryptocurrency. Some can hold other types of fiat currencies, commodities, and cryptocurrencies.
Uphold is a cloud-based digital wallet that enables anyone, anywhere, to move, convert, hold and transact in any form of money or commodity instantly and securely. Uphold is one of the safest and easiest digital wallets used to buy, send, and hold bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Whale - A whale is a cryptocurrency trader with significant financial resources. Whales are major players in the market, and can even affect the exchange rate of a cryptocurrency by buying or selling a large amount of coins.