Cryptocurrency represents the rise of the digital economy, and with this new age comes a new financial lexicon. If you’ve ever been confused by crypto terms in the news or didn’t quite understand the latest viral cryptocurrency meme, we’ve got your knowledge gaps covered.
From altcoins to yield farming, we’ve compiled the ultimate cryptocurrency glossary with all the terms you need to know. Feel free to bookmark this page so you can reference this glossary as you start to buy and sell crypto on your own.
If you’re ready to dive into the world of crypto, you’ll want to have some background on common cryptocurrency terms. Use the table of contents to navigate this guide or just scroll through and read to absorb the crypto knowledge.
Known as a wallet address or crypto address, this term refers to a string of numbers and letters that represents a location where you can send and receive crypto.
Like the name implies, the simplest way to think about crypto addresses is think of them much like email addresses or physical addresses. Crypto addresses specify a wallet’s unique location on a blockchain.
An “airdrop” occurs when a crypto project sends some of its tokens, free of charge, to a certain list of eligible crypto addresses. It’s typically used as a marketing tactic to increase engagement on a particular platform or incentivize people to hold a certain token so that the token holder can be eligible for future airdrops of tokens from other projects.
An All-Time High, sometimes abbreviated to just “ATH” is the highest price point that a particular crypto asset has ever reached in its history. Generally, the ATH is the greatest price a trader has ever paid for the asset, and is very often a significant moment in a crypto project’s history.
The All-Time Low, sometimes abbreviated to “ATL” is the lowest price point a specific crypto asset has ever reached since it launched. It is the opposite of a crypto’s All-Time High (ATH).
Altcoin, short for “alternative coin”, refers to any other crypto asset that is not Bitcoin, and possibly Ethereum. There is still debate in the crypto community as to whether Ethereum should be considered an altcoin. However, besides Bitcoin and Ethereum, it is generally accepted that all other coins are altcoins. Examples include: Litecoin, Cardano, and Dogecoin.
A computer that is specifically designed to solve mathematical problems associated with Proof of Work blockchains. For example, Bitcoin mining is typically done using ASICs since only such specialized hardware is efficient enough to have a chance at finding the next Bitcoin block.
In crypto terms, a bag refers to any tokens or coins an individual is holding in their portfolio. It’s generally used as slang to refer to one’s crypto position in a particular coin. For example, a “heavy bag” refers to an extremely large holding of one type of crypto.
A bag holder is any investor that keeps large amounts of a specific crypto despite the coin’s performance. This term has a negative connotation as “holding the bag” refers to the feeling of being left behind still holding a coin after its price has dropped significantly.
A bear market occurs when a market has lost 20% or more of its value when compared to high points from previous months. It’s often the result of economic decline and is characterized by low investor confidence. It is called a bear market because the paws of a bear swat downwards, indicating the direction that asset prices are heading.
Bitcoin is the first-ever crypto asset, created in 2009 by its mysterious pseudonymous inventor, Satoshi Nakatomo. It’s the most popular crypto asset and is represented by the ticker symbol “BTC”.
A crypto asset that was designed to address Bitcoin’s scalability issues and be easier to use as a medium of exchange. Unlike Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash is a transactional coin that is meant to be spent. It’s represented by the ticker symbol (BCH) and should not be confused with Bitcoin (BTC).
A block is a unit of organization for a group of transactions that occur on the blockchain. All transactions that happen in a crypto blockchain must be organized into blocks first before they can be verified and added. A blockchain is made up of multiple linked blocks and each block is ordered sequentially.
Block confirmation refers to when your transaction is included in a block on a blockchain. With crypto exchanges, it signifies that a transaction is final and irreversible.
A tool used to look up transactions on the blockchain. Block explorers can look up information about any transactions that occur on the blockchain due to the nature of all transactions being public on the blockchain.
Block height is the number of blocks that come before any given block on a blockchain. A blockchain’s block height is a measure of how long it has existed. The smaller the block height, the longer that block has existed on the blockchain.
A block reward is a term for the coins given as a reward for the process of mining or solving the cryptographic problem that’s required to add another block to the blockchain.
A blockchain is a distributed, online ledger that is made of a sequence of blocks. This technology is the foundation of most cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
A crypto bounty is a reward given to users for completing specific tasks assigned by a blockchain network. A bounty could also be awarded to anyone who discovers a flaw/bug in a crypto project’s code and reports it to the crypto project’s developers before that flaw/bug can be used by a hacker to steal from or attack the project.
Brokers act as a mediator between traders and the cryptocurrency market. They facilitate orders to buy, sell or trade crypto assets.
A bull market marks a time when the prices of assets increase significantly. It can be used to describe the crypto or stock market and typically denotes times when investors are feeling greedy or euphoric. It is called a bull market because the horns of a bull point upwards, which describes the direction of movement for stock/crypto prices during a bull market.
A burn refers to coins that are taken out of circulation. The burning of coins reduces the total supply of coins circulating and makes the remaining coins more valuable. Since the supply is now less, and the value of the burned coins would get automatically spread around the remaining coins.
A tool that shows the price movement of a specific security during a given time period. Typically, the chart displays high, low, open and closing prices. When there is strong buying pressure, the chart will depict long white or green candlesticks.
A digital version of government-issued fiat. A CBDC allows a country’s central bank to have a direct relationship with the consumer.
Centralized cryptocurrency exchanges are exchanges that are run by one specific company and often require “Know Your Customer (KYC)” information on clients before a client is able to access the exchange. They are currently the most common form of crypto exchange.
A coin represents one unit of a specific crypto that has its own blockchain. This is in contrast to a token which is also one unit of a crypto but one that does not have its own blockchain. A coin is sometimes also called a “native token”.
A type of crypto wallet that stores digital assets like crypto private keys, offline. They are typically physical devices similar to USB drives and are disconnected from the internet. Cold wallets are considered more secure than “hot wallets” due to their “air-gap” between the internet and the device itself.
Consensus refers to when all users in a network agree on the sequence and content of blocks in a blockchain. Consensus is required in a decentralized system to add a new block to the blockchain and keep the blockchain in sync between decentralized nodes.
A digital currency in which transactions are verified and records maintained by a decentralized system using cryptography, rather than by a centralized authority.
Cryptography is the study and practice of securing information using the principles of mathematics and computer science such that unintended parties cannot access it. Typically, it involves disguising a coded message (encryption), sending the message, and having it decoded once the recipient has received it.
A custodian is a third party that offers storage for crypto and holds it on someone’s behalf. Custodians are typically companies who hold clients’ crypto. Custodians provide an easy solution for people who want to invest and trade crypto but don’t want to or don’t have the infrastructure or technical expertise to set up their own storage solution.
A DAO is short for “decentralized autonomous organization” and describes a company that is based out of, and run by leveraging decentralized blockchain technology. As the name suggests, a DAO aims to function just like a regular company but without any centralized locations or rigid structures.
Decentralization describes how decisions are made in a system or network. As the name implies, in a decentralized network, the decision-making control lies with a distributed network rather than one individual, organization, government, or any small group of agents. Crypto networks are typically managed in a decentralized way, and being more decentralized is seen as a positive thing for a crypto project.
A dApp (pronounced “dap”) is any digital application that operates on a decentralized network. They are similar to regular applications that one can access through an app or website. However, dApps rely on blockchain technology and their services are maintained and administered in a decentralized way to avoid single-point failures.
A decentralized exchange (DEX) is a dApp that sits on the blockchain. Like a centralized exchange, the purpose of a DEX is to facilitate trading one token for another, or provide other services such as lending and borrowing. In a decentralized exchange, all transactions are done without needing to verify the user’s identity, and all transactions happen in a decentralized and peer-to-peer manner.
Decentralized finance refers to a movement that promotes alternative means to traditional, centralized financial services. DeFi leverages an ecosystem of dApps and blockchain technology which eliminates the need for intermediaries like banks or payment processors. Defi provides services that can let the user borrow and lend crypto without having to go through any traditional financial institutions.
Anything that is both considered valuable and digital in nature is called a digital asset. Examples of digital assets are what we know as cryptocurrencies and NFTs.
Financial experts analogize Bitcoin to “digital gold” because of its ability to store value over time. Bitcoin shares many of the same properties as gold such as having a limited supply, difficult to obtain by mining, durable against degradation, not tied to a single government or entity (non-sovereign) etc.
A method of using cryptography to prove that a digital message or document is authentic and sent by the correct party. Valid digital signatures show proof that the communication is not altered or tampered with. All crypto transactions need to be “signed” with a digital signature.
A distributed ledger is essentially a database that stores data about transactions across a distributed network. They can be public or private and don’t always involve cryptocurrency. A blockchain is an example of a distributed ledger.
Dogecoin is an altcoin and one of the first meme coins. It was created as a “joke coin” in 2013 and has risen in popularity due to its fun reputation in the media. “Doge” is the name of a shiba inu dog whose pictures are popular on the internet. Unlike Bitcoin, Dogecoin has no coin limit and is considered an inflationary coin.
Double spending refers to the possibility of the same amount of currency being spent twice simultaneously. It’s a prominent issue with virtual currencies because digital data can easily be reproduced. In order for a crypto to be successful, it must prevent the double-spending of coins.
In the crypto community, users are encouraged to “do your own research” instead of following advice from others. This is because users who rely on the advice of others and do not do their own research are more likely to fall victim to scams.
The term dust refers to a very small or trace amount of crypto that gets leftover after a transaction. It typically has negligible monetary value, ranging from minuscule fractions of a penny to a few dollars. Dust can be difficult to get rid of, and get stuck in a wallet as the amount can be too small to pay for transaction fees necessary to send it out of the wallet.
The process of encoding information so that it can’t be deciphered without an appropriate decryption aid, like an algorithm or key.
Ethereum request for comment (ERC) 20 is the name of the technical standard used to denote fungible or interchangeable tokens on the Ethereum network. ERC20 tokens are used for smart contracts on the Ethereum network.
ERC-721 is the technical standard used for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the ethereum blockchain. NFTs are used as proof of ownership for a certain piece of intellectual property such as a piece of art, or other digital assets.
The native token of the Ethereum blockchain platform is referred to as Ether. In order to transfer value, mint NFTs, execute any transaction or do anything that requires computational processing on the Ethereum network, ether must be expended.
Ethereum is a decentralized, blockchain platform that provides functionality for smart contracts and decentralized apps. Its native token called “ether”, is regarded as the second-most popular crypto platform and is represented by the ticker symbol (ETH).
The Ethereum virtual machine (EVM) is a computation engine which acts like a decentralized computer that has millions of executable projects. One can think of it as a decentralized global computer that does not have a physical location.
Any online platform that allows for the buying, selling, and swapping of crypto. Usually broken down into two categories, decentralized exchanges and centralized exchanges.
Fiat is a government-issued currency that isn’t backed by physical commodities and is generally considered legal tender. Most paper currencies such as the Canadian dollar or Euro are fiat currencies. The word “fiat” comes from Latin and means something along the lines of “let it be done”. Government issued money is called fiat because the government simply declares it to have value, and therefore it has value.
In terms of blockchain, a fork refers to when a chain splits and creates an alternate chain. These two chains run simultaneously and it is the case that either only one emerges as the “correct” blockchain and the blockchain gets effectively upgraded (soft fork), or the two separate permanently, forming two different cryptos (hard fork). A fork in the Bitcoin blockchain in 2017 produced Bitcoin Cash.
FOMO stands for “fear of missing out”. It describes the fear of being left behind when an asset’s price skyrockets and therefore encourages investors to pour money into the asset as soon as possible.
The term FUD stands for “fear, uncertainty, and doubt”. In the crypto world, it references anyone who spreads negativity intending to get an asset’s price to fall, or simply disparages a crypto due to their personal dislike of it.
Fundamental analysis describes a method of analyzing an asset’s value and trying to predict its future performance by looking at factors that directly relate to the project such as a coin’s tokenomics, utility, supply, supply issuance rate, etc.
Gas is the name given to the network fee used to conduct transactions, enable smart contracts, or launch dApps on the Ethereum network. On the Ethereum blockchain, gas is required to be paid using its native token ether (ETH).
The genesis block refers to the first confirmed block of a blockchain network. It’s also known as block 0 or block 1.
A Gwei is a denomination of Ether that is used to define the cost of gas. One Ether is equivalent to one billion Gwei.
A governance coin represents voting power on a blockchain and is distributed to users to vote on governance proposals. These tokens help shape protocol on a blockchain project. Governance coins serve as a way for the community to participate in a crypto project in a decentralized manner.
A process where the reward rate for mining a block is cut in half. This process is written into Bitcoin’s code and occurs once roughly every four years. Halving events are seen as positive on the price of bitcoin because it cuts the new issuance rate of bitcoin in half.
Hash refers to the output of a hash function, which is used in cryptography to map and secure arbitrary data to a fixed-size value. Typically, they are a unique string of letters and numbers of a fixed length.
HODL stands for “Hold On for Dear Life” and is a passive investment strategy where you keep an asset for the long term, especially during times of high volatility. It was originally a typo of the word “hold” in a Bitcoin forum and became a famous expression thereafter.
A type of digital wallet that connects to the internet to store digital assets such as cryptocurrency keys. Hot wallets are more convenient to use for people who want to move crypto in or out of the wallet quickly and frequently.
KYC stands for “Know Your Customer”. It is the process of identifying and verifying the user of a certain service/account. Many institutions, including centralized crypto exchanges, are required by law to collect KYC info about its customers.
Immutability is the inability to be changed or altered. This characteristic is inherent to blockchains and is the reason many crypto transactions are irreversible.
Refers to the rate at which the supply of a currency expands. Both crypto and fiat money can inflate and the rate is usually measured as percentages per year.
This is a crowdfunding strategy where a new company sells crypto to raise capital. Similar to an Initial Public Offering (IPO) when it comes to stocks, an Initial Coin Offering is the first time that the general public gets to invest in a crypto project.
Lambo wealth refers to when your portfolio of cryptocurrency reaches a substantial enough value that you could afford a Lamborghini. It is often a benchmark used by many crypto investors as owning a Lamborghini is seen as a symbol of success.
Layer-1 refers to the base layer of a blockchain. The Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum networks all exist as layer-1 blockchains. Layer-1s are platforms which smart contracts and other services can be built upon.
Used together with a layer-1 blockchain, layer-2 is a scaling solution that enables better transaction throughput while maintaining the security of the base layer-1 blockchain. Layer-2s are built on top of a layer-1 blockchain and aim to provide more flexibility, lower fees, and higher speed when it comes to transactions.
A ledger is a list of transactions that is used for accounting and record-keeping purposes. Ledgers can be in the form of a blockchain, a centralized database at a bank, or simply on a piece of paper.
Limit orders are a type of order that purchases or sells an asset at a certain price or better. For example, for a limit buy order, the order will only execute if it can be executed at a “limit price” (or less) per share set by the user. For a limit sell order, the order would only be executed if the asset can be sold for the “limit price” or higher.
A measure of how much of the asset is available to be traded at any given moment. An asset that has a lot of available trading supply is said to be more “liquid”. Can also be thought of as the ability to buy or sell crypto or any other asset without significantly affecting the market price. The higher the liquidity, the larger the orders can be without affecting the market price.
Founded in 2011 by Charlie Lee, Litecoin is an altcoin that is considered to be one of the first derived from Bitcoin’s open-source code. It’s characterized by quicker block confirmation times and lower network fees than Bitcoin. While Bitcoin is referred to as “digital gold”, Litecoin supporters have dubbed Litecoin “digital silver”.
The practice of using funds borrowed from a broker to trade an asset such as a crypto or stock.
Market capitalization or “market cap” is the total value of the entire supply of an asset at its current price. It’s calculated by multiplying the existing coin supply by the market price and is used to rank crypto assets by size.
Mining is the main method by which blocks are confirmed and added to a blockchain in Proof of Work blockchains. It’s also the process in which new coins are minted. Mining involves solving mathematical problems using computers which consume a large amount of electricity.
A tactic where a group of miners pool resources together to increase their likelihood of solving the Proof of Work and confirming the next block.
The process of creating new coins using a proof-of-stake protocol. When new coins are minted, they’re added to circulation to be traded.
An expression used to describe when an asset, like a cryptocurrency, is experiencing a strong upward price movement. Sometimes used in a phrase like “to the moon” because it evokes a mental image of a rocket taking off towards the moon, which indicates the direction of the price of an asset.
A computer or participant on a blockchain network that works with the collective to keep the system secure. Nodes are required to keep a full copy of the blockchain and sync with other nodes. Nodes also verify that a block that is trying to be added to the blockchain meets all the requirements.
A nonce is a random whole number that miners in proof-of-work blockchains like Bitcoin iterate over to solve the cryptographic puzzle that allows them to add a new block and earn the block reward.
Non-fungible tokens or NFTs are cryptographic tokens that represent real-world or digital assets and can’t be replaced or exchanged for other tokens. One can think of NFTs as digital versions of collectibles analogous to a baseball card or a one of a kind stamp in a collection.
Over-the-counter trading is the process of trading assets like crypto directly between parties. This process is usually facilitated by professionals who directly work with both the buyer and seller. OTC trades are often done in secret to avoid affecting the price of the asset being traded and to ensure privacy for both the buyer and the seller.
A type of physical wallet that stores a cryptocurrency address and private key on a printed piece of paper. This is possible since the private key to a wallet address is just a number or seedphrase that can be printed on a piece of paper.
Peer-to-peer refers to the interaction between two or more parties without the use of an intermediary or central authority. In a P2P network, computers in a distributed network interact to share a workload.
A privacy coin is crypto that is specifically designed to ensure the privacy of the sender and receiver and obscure all information about the transactions on the network. Privacy coins allow for the user to remain completely anonymous. Examples of privacy coins include Monero (XMR) and ZCash (ZEC).
A type of blockchain that requires permission from a central authority to access the network.
An encrypted code assigned to a crypto address that is used to demonstrate proof of ownership of that address and allows access.
A blockchain consensus mechanism where validators stake a certain amount of coins to participate in block validation. If a validator misbehaves or tries to attack the network, the stake is confiscated in part or in whole (also called “slashing”).
A blockchain consensus mechanism by which miners must solve a computational problem in exchange for a block reward.
A type of blockchain that anyone can access to make or receive secure transactions. Most crypto projects that are well-known (like Bitcoin) run off a public blockchain.
A wallet address that you can share with others. Similar to a bank account number, you can provide a public key so that people may send or receive money from you.
Ripple is a blockchain-based digital payment company that launched its own cryptocurrency in 2012. The native token, XRP, is pre-mined and is represented by the same ticker symbol (XRP).
A rugpull is a type of crypto scam where a new crypto (often with no utility or with outlandish claims) is promoted, often using social media to generate hype. The insiders of the project would control a large amount of the token which they can suddenly sell and immediately withdraw the liquidity. After the scammers exit, the price of the crypto generally falls to zero. It is called a rugpull because the feeling of getting rugpull is akin to standing on a rug that gets pulled out from underneath you.
Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym of the creator of Bitcoin. Nakamoto’s real identity is currently unknown, and the name could also represent a group of people that created Bitcoin.
A Satoshi is the smallest denomination of Bitcoin and is equivalent to one hundred millionth of a Bitcoin or 0.00000001 BTC.
A seedphrase, sometimes called a “mnemonic phrase” or simply just a “seed”, is a phrase consisting of 12 or 24 English words that are chosen from a specific list. This phrase is used to generate a digital master private key which underpins a crypto wallet.
An upgrade for Bitcoin that was introduced in 2017 which allows for more efficient transactions and changes the format of how transactions are recorded on the Bitcoin blockchain.
A proposed scaling solution for Ethereum where the blockchain can be broken into multiple parts or “shards” with each shard running simultaneously. Once implemented, it will allow chains such as Ethereum to drastically increase the number of transactions that can be handled at the same time.
SHA-256 is the hashing algorithm that is used on the Bitcoin blockchain. Miners must solve a specific SHA-256 hashing problem in order to add a block to the Bitcoin blockchain.
A smart contract is a computer program that executes a set of instructions or facilitates a decentralized service on blockchain without the need for third-parties. The Ethereum blockchain is notable for its ability to execute smart contracts.
Solana is a layer-1 blockchain platform that can execute smart contracts and host decentralized apps. It’s quicker and has lower transaction costs than its rival, the Ethereum blockchain. The ticker symbol for Solana’s native token is (SOL).
Solidity is the programming language used on the Ethereum blockchain.
Stablecoins are a type of crypto that maintains a 1-to-1 peg to a fiat currency such as the US Dollar. The purpose of stablecoins is to have a quick and easy way to facilitate trading of other crypto, or transferring value on the blockchain, since the value of fiat currencies is what most people are the most familiar with.
Stellar is a blockchain-based cryptocurrency created by the Stellar Development Foundation. Its native token is called a lumen and is represented by the ticker symbol (XLM).
Technical Analysis, sometimes called “TA” for short, is a method of predicting or analyzing price movements of assets based on charts and rolling averages and other metrics which attempt to gauge investors’ sentiments.
A testnet refers to a test version of a blockchain. It is typically used to test new code and new upgrades before it is rolled out to the “mainnet”, which is the main blockchain being used. Testnets are used to make sure that there are no bugs before code is released to the mainnet.
Tether is a popular stablecoin whose price is pegged 1-to-1 to the U.S. dollar. It’s traded under the ticker symbol of USDT.
The ticker symbol is a unique string of letters that distinguishes and represents assets like cryptocurrencies or stocks on an exchange. It’s also referred to as a “ticker” or just as a “symbol”.
A token is a digital unit on a blockchain that can hold value or be used to transfer value. The difference between a coin and a token is that a token can exist on different blockchains. For example, USD Coin (USDC) is a stablecoin that exists as a token on Ethereum, Polygon, Solana, and Avalanche, among others.
Tokenomics refers to all things regarding a crypto’s economics of how it functions which include things like: total supply, inflation rate, amount held by insiders, whether or not the coin was “pre-mined”, etc.
A fee that’s charged to complete a transaction on a blockchain network.
Vitalik Buterin is known as one of the inventors of the Ethereum network, which came about in 2015.
Volatility is a statistical measure of how much an asset’s price tends to fluctuate from any given point. It’s represented by the standard deviation of the annual return of an asset over a certain amount of time. The more often and higher in magnitude an asset fluctuates in price, the more “volatile” it is said to be.
A wallet is a device or piece of software used to store digital assets like crypto. You can choose between a cold wallet (physical, offline storage) or a hot wallet (online, software storage).
Web3 refers to the next generation of the internet. In this iteration of the internet, value can be exchanged from peer-to-peer without the need for intermediaries. Web1 is generally referred to as the early internet where everything was primarily text-based. Web2 can be thought of as the multi-media internet that we have today.
A whale refers to investors that own a significant amount of a specific cryptocurrency and have the ability to influence market prices. For example, Satoshi Nakatomo is a Bitcoin whale because they own a significant portion of Bitcoin in existence. It is said that Satoshi owns about 1M bitcoin, and to-date has never moved them from their original wallets.
The official document for a crypto project which outlines the crypto’s purpose, as well as explains the technology behind how the crypto works, its tokenomics, and all other relevant information.
Yield farming is the process of earning interest through crypto investments in decentralized finance markets. It most often refers to lending crypto out in liquidity pools provided by DeFi services.
A 51% attack is a malicious event in which a single entity gains control over more than 50% of a network’s mining hash rate or computer power. With a majority control of the network, the attacker can then do all kinds of malicious things such as confirming blocks that break the rules of the blockchain protocol, or double spend coins.
Now that you know the difference between crypto terms like Bitcoin and altcoin, you can strengthen your new vocabulary by learning more on The Newton Blog. If you’re ready to flex your knowledge, check out Newton for a low-cost way to start trading.