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[al-guh-rith-uh m] /ˈæl gəˌrɪð əm/
a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, as for finding the greatest common divisor.
Origin of algorithm
1890-95; variant of algorism, by association with Greek arithmós number. See arithmetic
Related forms
algorithmic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for algorithm
  • The company uses an algorithm to figure out how long it will take for any order, at any time of day, at any restaurant.
  • As their name implies, genetic algorithms employ trial-and-error to mimic the way natural selection works in the living world.
  • Meanwhile, these algorithms tend to see the market from a machine's point of view, which can be very different from a human's.
  • The decision to surface is made by an algorithm that depends on a mathematical function called a wavelet.
  • Those chips temporarily hold data, including the keys to modern data-scrambling algorithms.
  • They do that by scrambling data on the basis of a mathematical algorithm.
  • And lesson plans are generated by a complicated computer algorithm for the 80 students in the class.
  • For example, it suggests new friends using an algorithm that looks at existing ones.
  • Even an excellent algorithm flogs if burdened with poor data structures.
  • In searching engine business, you're only as good as your latest data base and search algorithm.
British Dictionary definitions for algorithm


a logical arithmetical or computational procedure that if correctly applied ensures the solution of a problem Compare heuristic
(logic, maths) a recursive procedure whereby an infinite sequence of terms can be generated
French name algorism
Derived Forms
algorithmic, adjective
algorithmically, adverb
Word Origin
C17: changed from algorism, through influence of Greek arithmos number
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 algorithm

1690s, from French algorithme, refashioned (under mistaken connection with Greek arithmos "number") from Old French algorisme "the Arabic numeral system" (13c.), from Medieval Latin algorismus, a mangled transliteration of Arabic al-Khwarizmi "native of Khwarazm," surname of the mathematician whose works introduced sophisticated mathematics to the West (see algebra). The earlier form in Middle English was algorism (early 13c.), from Old French.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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algorithm in Medicine

algorithm al·go·rithm (āl'gə-rĭð'əm)
A step-by-step protocol, as for management of health care problems.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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algorithm in Science
A finite set of unambiguous instructions performed in a prescribed sequence to achieve a goal, especially a mathematical rule or procedure used to compute a desired result. Algorithms are the basis for most computer programming.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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algorithm in Culture
algorithm [(al-guh-rith-uhm)]

A set of instructions for solving a problem, especially on a computer. An algorithm for finding your total grocery bill, for example, would direct you to add up the costs of individual items to find the total.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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algorithm in Technology
algorithm, programming
A detailed sequence of actions to perform to accomplish some task. Named after the Iranian, Islamic mathematician, astronomer, astrologer and geographer, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi.
Technically, an algorithm must reach a result after a finite number of steps, thus ruling out brute force search methods for certain problems, though some might claim that brute force search was also a valid (generic) algorithm. The term is also used loosely for any sequence of actions (which may or may not terminate).
Paul E. Black's Dictionary of Algorithms, Data Structures, and Problems (
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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