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cipher

[sahy-fer] /ˈsaɪ fər/
noun
1.
zero.
2.
any of the Arabic numerals or figures.
3.
Arabic numerical notation collectively.
4.
something of no value or importance.
5.
a person of no influence; nonentity.
6.
a secret method of writing, as by transposition or substitution of letters, specially formed symbols, or the like.
Compare cryptography.
7.
writing done by such a method; a coded message.
8.
the key to a secret method of writing.
9.
a combination of letters, as the initials of a name, in one design; monogram.
verb (used without object)
10.
to use figures or numerals arithmetically.
11.
to write in or as in cipher.
verb (used with object)
12.
to calculate numerically; figure.
13.
to convert into cipher.
Also, especially British, cypher.
Origin
1350-1400
1350-1400; Middle English siphre < Medieval Latin ciphra < Arabic ṣifr empty, zero; translation of Sanskrit śūnyā empty
Related forms
cipherable, adjective
cipherer, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for cipher
  • The failure of the code-breaking attempts has raised the suspicion that there may not be any cipher to crack.
  • Throughout history, there have been a number of code and cipher systems developed to protect important information.
  • But his absence from public discourse makes him a cipher.
  • He had a secret cipher of his own, though, a dove with an olive branch.
  • Some tiles need to be rotated in order to get the correct orientation to solve the cipher.
  • They'll be a mysterious cipher to you, and you will be one to them.
  • So if no one sees them come from the heavens, they can't be in the cipher.
  • And without any signs of anxiety to relate to, his role becomes a cipher.
  • It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world.
  • They must first have the common school to teach them to read, write, and cipher.
British Dictionary definitions for cipher

cipher

/ˈsaɪfə/
noun
1.
a method of secret writing using substitution or transposition of letters according to a key
2.
a secret message
3.
the key to a secret message
4.
an obsolete name for zero (sense 1)
5.
any of the Arabic numerals (0, 1, 2, 3, etc, to 9) or the Arabic system of numbering as a whole
6.
a person or thing of no importance; nonentity
7.
a design consisting of interwoven letters; monogram
8.
(music) a defect in an organ resulting in the continuous sounding of a pipe, the key of which has not been depressed
verb
9.
to put (a message) into secret writing
10.
(intransitive) (of an organ pipe) to sound without having the appropriate key depressed
11.
(rare) to perform (a calculation) arithmetically
Word Origin
C14: from Old French cifre zero, from Medieval Latin cifra, from Arabic sifr zero, empty
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cipher
n.

late 14c., "arithmetical symbol for zero," from Old French cifre "nought, zero," Medieval Latin cifra, with Spanish and Italian cifra, ultimately from Arabic sifr "zero," literally "empty, nothing," from safara "to be empty;" loan-translation of Sanskrit sunya-s "empty." The word came to Europe with Arabic numerals. Originally in English "zero," then "any numeral" (early 15c.), then (first in French and Italian) "secret way of writing; coded message" (a sense first attested in English 1520s), because early codes often substituted numbers for letters. Klein says Modern French chiffre is from Italian cifra.

v.

"to do arithmetic" (with Arabic numerals), 1520s, from cipher (n.). Meaning "to write in code" is from 1560s. Related: Ciphered; ciphering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for cipher

any method of transforming a message to conceal its meaning. The term is also used synonymously with ciphertext or cryptogram in reference to the encrypted form of the message. A brief treatment of ciphers follows. For full treatment, see cryptology.

Learn more about cipher with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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