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Etymology edit

14th century. From Middle English cifre, from Old French cyfre, cyffre (French chiffre), ultimately from Arabic صِفْر (ṣifr, zero, empty), from صَفَرَ (ṣafara, to be empty). Doublet of zero. Sense 8 (a fault in an organ valve) may be a different word.[1]

Pronunciation edit

Noun edit

cipher (plural ciphers)

  1. A numeric character.
    Synonyms: number, numeral
  2. Any text character.
    • 1614, Walter Ralegh [i.e., Walter Raleigh], The Historie of the World [], London: [] William Stansby for Walter Burre, [], →OCLC, (please specify |book=1 to 5):
      This understanding wisdom began to be written in ciphers and characters and letters bearing the forms of creatures.
  3. A combination or interweaving of letters, as the initials of a name.
    Synonyms: device, monogram
    a painter's cipher
    an engraver's cipher
    • 1834, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter XXIV, in Francesca Carrara. [], volume I, London: Richard Bentley, [], (successor to Henry Colburn), →OCLC, page 290:
      Just then, an attendant to whom the Queen had whispered returned; and taking a small case from her hand, Anne produced a bracelet somewhat similar to the very one with which Francesca had parted, excepting that it had her cipher, surrounded by a wreath of fleurs-de-lis. "Louis, will you offer this to Mademoiselle Carrara?"
  4. A method of transforming a text in order to conceal its meaning.
    Synonym: code
    The message was written in a simple cipher. Anyone could figure it out.
    • 1724, [Gilbert] Burnet, edited by [Gilbert Burnet Jr.], Bishop Burnet’s History of His Own Time. [], volumes (please specify |volume=I or II), London: [] Thomas Ward [], →OCLC:
      His father [] engaged him when he was very young to write all his letters to England in cipher.
  5. (cryptography) A cryptographic system using an algorithm that converts letters or sequences of bits into ciphertext.
    a public-key cipher
  6. Ciphertext; a message concealed via a cipher.
    The message is clearly a cipher, but I can't figure it out.
  7. A grouping of three digits in a number, especially when delimited by commas or periods:
    The probability is 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000 — a number having five ciphers of zeros.
  8. (music) A fault in an organ valve which causes a pipe to sound continuously without the key having been pressed.
  9. (music, slang) A hip-hop jam session.[2]
    • 2011, “The World Is Listening”, in The Journey Aflame, performed by Akua Naru:
      They say no girls in the cipher, so I rock solo
  10. (slang) The path (usually circular) shared cannabis takes through a group, an occasion of cannabis smoking.
    Synonym: rotation
    • 1993, “Midnight”, performed by A Tribe Called Quest:
      As the night seemed darker, cops is on a hunt / They interrupt your cipher, and crush your blunt
  11. Someone or something of no importance.
    Synonyms: nobody, nonentity, nothing; see also Thesaurus:nonentity
    • 1724, [Gilbert] Burnet, edited by [Gilbert Burnet Jr.], Bishop Burnet’s History of His Own Time. [], volumes (please specify |volume=I or II), London: [] Thomas Ward [], →OCLC:
      There he was a mere cipher.
  12. (dated) Zero.
  13. Eggcorn of siphon.

Derived terms edit

Related terms edit

Translations edit

Verb edit

cipher (third-person singular simple present ciphers, present participle ciphering, simple past and past participle ciphered)

  1. (intransitive, regional, dated) To calculate.
    I never learned much more than how to read and cipher.
    • 1843 April, Thomas Carlyle, “ch. IX, Abbot Samson”, in Past and Present, American edition, Boston, Mass.: Charles C[offin] Little and James Brown, published 1843, →OCLC, book II (The Ancient Monk):
      For the mischief that one blockhead, that every blockhead does, in a world so feracious, teeming with endless results as ours, no ciphering will sum up.
    • a. 1887 (date written), Emily Dickinson, “[Book IV.—Time and Eternity] (please specify the chapter or poem)”, in Mabel Loomis Todd and T[homas] W[entworth] Higginson, editors, Poems, First Series, Boston, Mass.: Roberts Brothers, published 1890, →OCLC, page 115:
      So I must baffle at the hint / And cipher at the sign, / And make much blunder, if at last / I take the clew divine.
    • 1979, Octavia Butler, Kindred:
      Can you cipher too—along with your reading and writing?
  2. (intransitive) To write in code or cipher.
  3. (intransitive, music) Of an organ pipe: to sound independent of the organ.
  4. (obsolete) To decipher.

References edit

  1. ^ Cipher. (n.d.). In the New Oxford American Dictionary.
  2. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20060213154654/http://rapdict.org/Cipher Rap Dictionary. Retrieved 30 November 2005.

Anagrams edit