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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 algorithms
  • Running the algorithms, officials found clusters of behaviors that helped predict success.
  • Eventually the team wants to let music scholars share the algorithms they create by incorporating them into the service.
  • He says it took about a month to get the algorithms working, followed by months of tweaks as design requirements shifted.
  • The findings could help researchers design novel algorithms for routing data traffic over networks.
  • They combined these with other mathematical algorithms to create a computer model of a human heart.
  • Her research made advances in symbolic computation and algebraic algorithms, including ideas that can be used in cryptography.
  • Computer algorithms then identified features of the metabolic profiles that distinguished cancer patients from controls.
  • The wonks ran algorithms derived from past tournaments.
  • Mysterious and possibly nefarious trading algorithms are operating every minute of every day in the nation's stock exchanges.
  • In fact, traders won't always know why their algorithms are doing what they're doing.
British Dictionary definitions for algorithms


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 algorithms



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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algorithms 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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algorithms 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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algorithms 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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