Crypto Glossary

A list of terms pertaining to blockchain, web3, NFTs, and all things crypto.

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2FA

see two-factor authentication

51% attack

a type of attack on a blockchain in which an entity or multiple collaborative entities try to take over a network by obtaining more than half the mining power

a

account (aka address)

an entity that can receive, hold, and send ether; can be owned either by a person with the private keys or by a smart contract

address

see account

alt-coins

any cryptocurrency that is like Bitcoin with just a few parameters tweaked; also used pejoratively to refer to any coin that is not Bitcoin, aka “shitcoin,” often by Bitcoin maximalists

asset

anything that produces economic value

b

bitcoin (lowercase)

the first cryptocurrency, the digital asset native to the Bitcoin network, with a supply of twenty-one million, giving it characteristics of digital gold

Bitcoin (uppercase)

the first blockchain; the peer-to-peer electronic cash network that runs the software enabling the first cryptocurrency, bitcoin (lowercase), to be transferred without an intermediary

blockchain

a time-stamped, distributed, decentralized, historical ledger of all the transactions on a crypto network; copies of the ledger are held on a global network of computers; it acts as a golden copy of time-stamped transactions that can replace intermediaries normally tasked with executing the transactions

block explorer

a website giving data on the transactions in a blockchain

BTC

the ticker for bitcoin

c

carbonvote

a type of vote by blockchain that does not require the voter to send coins but instead records the number of coins inside the wallet from which the vote was sent; at the end, it tallies the number of coins in the wallets that sent to the yes address versus the number of coins in the wallets that sent to the no address

chain split

see hard fork

client, software

the piece of software, like a desktop app, that connects a user’s computer to a service; in the case of Ethereum, the software that helped individual users run or connect to the Ethereum network

CME

an exchange for trading futures and options

coin

another word for cryptocurrency or token

CoinMarketCap

a popular cryptocurrency data site ranking coins by their market capitalization

cold storage

the most secure way of storing one’s crypto, with the private keys held offline

consensus (lowercase)

the desired state of a blockchain in which all nodes agree on the state of the ledger and on what transactions should be included in what order

Consensus (uppercase)

the largest blockchain conference, held annually in New York City by crypto-focused publication CoinDesk

ConsenSys

the Brooklyn-based Ethereum venture production studio founded by Joe Lubin, which created Ethereum infrastructure tools and tried to foster decentralized applications on Ethereum

cryptocurrency

a digital asset produced by a blockchain that is highly fungible, divisible, and transportable and whose movements can be tracked, unless the chain has built-in privacy features

cryptoeconomics (aka tokenomics)

the game theory that gives different actors in a crypto network the incentive to offer services on it that will keep the decentralized network alive without any company in the middle hiring employees and tasking them with specific responsibilities

cypherpunk

a person or ethos advocating strong encryption and privacy-preserving technologies, often to evade government detection or surveillance or to push for sociopolitical change

d

DAO

decentralized autonomous organization; an organization managed via votes on a blockchain

DAO, the

the decentralized venture fund built by Slock.it that aimed to have its token holders decide to which projects it would allocate its capital

dapp (decentralized application)

any application built on a blockchain without an intermediary, such as a company in the center hiring for all the roles to provide all the services; it instead has built-in incentives, usually involving its native coin, to entice individuals and entities to offer those services on the network

DevCon

the annual Ethereum developer conference

difficulty

a way of keeping a cryptocurrency mining algorithm competitive for miners such that miners will find blocks at a targeted average interval, such as ten minutes on bitcoin or twelve to fifteen seconds on Ethereum

DoS attack

denial of service attack; a way of hobbling a company or blockchain by spamming it, or inundating it with more requests than it can handle

e

early contributors

people who work on crypto projects before the crowdsale; often times participating in the first rounds of private sales or are involved in the community development at some other capacity; sometimes referred to as “early believers”

EEA

Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, the industry organization promoting use of Ethereum in companies

EF

Ethereum Foundation

EIP

Ethereum Improvement Proposal, a technical suggestion for improving things related to the Ethereum network, such as the protocol, clients, or standards for specific types of contracts

ERC-20 token

a token created using a standard for new tokens on Ethereum, so called because it was the twentieth issue posted on a discussion board called Ethereum Request for Comments

ETC

the ticker for the ether classic price

ETH

the ticker for the ether price

Ethereum Foundation (aka EF or Stiftung Ethereum)

the Swiss-based nonprofit organization tasked with stewarding the development of the Ethereum protocol

Etherscan

a popular “block explorer” or website offering data for the Ethereum blockchain

crypto exchange

a business that enables its customers to trade one asset for another, such as BTC for ETH

f

fiat currency

a type of money issued by a government by decree and not backed by anything such as gold

fiduciary members

the group of Ethereum cofounders who would also be financially responsible

FUD

fear, uncertainty, doubt; a slang term, often used to dismiss criticism of a cryptocurrency as invalid but sometimes used to describe fake criticism about a cryptocurrency stoked by fans of a rival coin

g

gas

the fee paid to have transactions processed or computation executed on the Ethereum decentralized computer

Geth

the Go Ethereum software client GitHub a website for software development

GPU

graphics processing unit; a type of computer chip from a gaming computer that is more powerful than a typical computer’s central processing unit, or CPU, making it a more efficient and profitable way to mine cryptocurrencies (though not the most efficient and profitable)

h

hard fork

a non-backward-compatible software upgrade to a crypto network; usually refers to a “contentious” hard fork, in which one portion of the nodes on a crypto network make the upgrade and another portion of the nodes do not. This causes the nodes that upgrade to create a blockchain separate from the nodes running the original software, resulting in two cryptocurrencies with a shared history until the moment of the fork. (If the whole network simultaneously upgrades, which is a noncontentious hard fork, everyone stays on the same blockchain, and the hard fork will not result in a second chain and cryptocurrency.)

hash

a string of numbers and letters of fixed length that results from running an encryption function on a piece of data so that even changing one punctuation mark in the data will result in a wildly different hash; used to uniquely identify things like blockchain transactions or addresses

hashrate

a way to measure the amount of computing power and security on a blockchain, as well as the efficiency of any miner or piece of mining equipment; technically, the rate at which a blockchain miner can create new hashes per second or do the calculations necessary to win the cryptocurrency being minted by the software

hot wallet

a wallet whose private keys are online, making it more vulnerable to hacking, phishing, and theft

Howey test

the test used by the US Securities and Exchange Commission to determine whether an investment contract is a securities offering

Hyperledger

an open-source community for enterprise blockchains hosted by the Linux Foundation

i

ICO

initial coin offering; a crowdsale of new tokens, usually in exchange for cryptocurrency, to fund the development of a new blockchain and to distribute the tokens to a large population in order to seed the network with users incentivized to bring more people to the network and thereby see the value of their tokens increase

immutability

the principle that blockchains should be immutable or unchangeable

k

key

see private key

KYC (know-your-customer) process

identity-verification process to comply with financial regulations

m

maximalist

a person who believes only in one cryptocurrency; most commonly used to describe hardcore Bitcoiners (i.e., “Bitcoin maximalists”) but also occasionally used to describe diehard fans of other cryptocurrencies (e.g., “Ethereum maximalists”)

miner

someone running cryptocurrency software, usually on specialized equipment, so as to win the new coins minted by the software, usually as a by-product of their participation, and simultaneously offering a benefit to the network, such as security

mining

attempting to win new cryptocurrency being minted on a blockchain, in a process that also results in the addition of new transactions to the ledger

mint

to create new units of a crypto asset or currency

multisig

a type of crypto wallet requiring some fraction of multiple possible signatures, such as ⅔ or ⅗, in order to execute transactions for enhanced security

MyEtherWallet (aka MEW)

a website that enabled people to directly interact with the Ethereum blockchain with simple buttons but did not require them to turn over control of their coins to a company

n

Nakamoto, Satoshi

the anonymous creator of Bitcoin

node

a computer that helps run the software for a cryptocurrency or asset and usually maintains a copy of its blockchain

p

Parity

the Rust-language Ethereum software client; also the company (originally called Ethcore) founded by Gavin Wood after he left the Ethereum Foundation, which created Ethereum-based software and products, such as a multisignature wallet, and later worked on its own blockchain, Polkadot

phish

a type of hack in which the hacker gets the victim to give a password to the hacker

Polkadot

the decentralized network that Gavin Wood/Parity proposed; its ICO raised $145 million, but shortly thereafter, $95 million was frozen

pre-mining

the mining of a new coin before its release to the public so as to allocate some coins to the creators or early investors as a reward

private key

the cryptographic string of numbers and letters that enables one to send cryptocurrency from a specific public address (the other half of the cryptographically connected “public/private key pair”)

protocol

an established set of rules for the computers running a particular type of network; in Bitcoin, the rules processing Bitcoin transactions; in Ethereum, the rules for running decentralized applications

public key/address

the cryptographic string of numbers and letters that function as an address where someone can receive funds as long as they have the matching private key (the other half of the cryptographically connected “public/private key pair”)

r

re-entrancy attack

see recursive call

recursive call (aka re-entrancy attack)

the type of attack used in the DAO that exploits a poor sequence of functions in the execution of a transaction, such as a withdrawal in which the attacker is able to start the withdrawal over and over again before the balance has been updated to reflect the previous withdrawal

replay attack

a type of attack possible after a contentious hard fork without replay protection, in which someone unwittingly makes a transaction that causes them to send coins that they did not mean to send

replay protection

a step taken to split two chains with a shared history up until a hard fork; it prevents a user from sending coins on both chains when they mean to send them on one, which occurs if the different assets are in addresses with the same identifiers

Reward Contract/reward

a contract in the DAO that will pay someone leaving the DAO their future revenues from any investments they have made

s

Securities and Exchange Commission

federal agency that enforces securities laws and regulates exchanges

service providers (the DAO)

contractors that the DAO would hire to create and sell products and services so as to return an investment to DAO token holders

ShapeShift

a crypto-to-crypto exchange that did not hold customers’ coins and did not require customers to open accounts or identify themselves; for the trades, ShapeShift was always the counterparty, buying the asset the customer wanted to trade and selling back the asset he or she desired

Silk Road

the first online drug marketplace, made possible because of bitcoin, which enabled drug dealers to accept payment online without using the traditional banking system

smart contract

a software program, rather than a company or other intermediary, that executes the terms of an agreement between two transacting parties

soft fork

a backward-compatible change in a cryptocurrency protocol; it only narrows what is possible, so nodes running the older software will still accept the new blocks as valid

Solidity

a programming language for writing smart contracts Spaceship the original Ethereum house in Baar, the town next to Zug split DAO see child DAO

Stiftung

a foundation with a purpose that ensures its funds are used in accordance with that mission, overseen by a Swiss government agency

t

token

specifically, a coin issued in ICOs, usually an ERC-20 token; the term can be interchangeable with cryptocurrency

tokenomics

see cryptoeconomics

transaction fees

fees paid to cryptocurrency miners to process transactions; a higher fee results in a higher likelihood of a transaction being mined and also of it being mined quickly

two-factor authentication

a way of securing an online account to a website by requiring two unrelated methods of identity verification, such as a password and a code sent via text message

tx

abbreviation for transaction

w

wallet

a device or software program that keeps a user’s private keys safe, interacts with blockchains, and makes it possible for the user to view his or her balance and send and receive money

whale

someone so wealthy in a particular cryptocurrency that their holdings could enable them to impact the market

whitelist

to place a person or thing on a list determined to be trustworthy

y

yellow paper

the Ethereum paper, written by Gavin Wood, outlining how Ethereum would work on a technical level