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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ The embassy was ordered to destroy its cipher equipment and remaining codes.
▪ The women are strong characters, but the men in this movie are mere ciphers.
▪ A pair of rock crystal goblets engraved with the cipher of Peter the Great.
▪ He was a cipher to me, a silent man of abstracted benevolence, and I never got to know him well.
▪ No one is a cipher, and Maloney tries to give his subjects a character, a singular demeanour and poise.
▪ One bears the Romanov double-headed eagle, another the cipher of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth.
▪ The first would be to protect Britain's own secrets by developing the necessary cipher machines, codes and operating procedures.
▪ When I felt outrage was I simply a cipher for cultural prejudice?
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Cipher \Ci"pher\, n. [OF. cifre zero, F. Chiffre figure (cf. Sp.cifra, LL. cifra), fr. Ar. [,c]ifrun, [,c]afrun, empty, cipher, zero, fr. [,c]afira to be empty. Cf. Zero.]

  1. (Arith.) A character [0] which, standing by itself, expresses nothing, but when placed at the right hand of a whole number, increases its value tenfold.

  2. One who, or that which, has no weight or influence.

    Here he was a mere cipher.
    --W. Irving.

  3. A character in general, as a figure or letter. [Obs.]

    This wisdom began to be written in ciphers and characters and letters bearing the forms of creatures.
    --Sir W. Raleigh.

  4. A combination or interweaving of letters, as the initials of a name; a device; a monogram; as, a painter's cipher, an engraver's cipher, etc. The cut represents the initials N. W.

  5. A private alphabet, system of characters, or other mode of writing, contrived for the safe transmission of secrets; also, a writing in such characters.

    His father . . . engaged him when he was very young to write all his letters to England in cipher.
    --Bp. Burnet.

    Cipher key, a key to assist in reading writings in cipher.


Cipher \Ci"pher\, a. Of the nature of a cipher; of no weight or influence. ``Twelve cipher bishops.''


Cipher \Ci"pher\, v. i. [imp. & p. p. Ciphered; p. pr. & vb. n. Ciphering.] To use figures in a mathematical process; to do sums in arithmetic.

``T was certain he could write and cipher too.


Cipher \Ci"pher\, v. t.

  1. To write in occult characters.

    His notes he ciphered with Greek characters.

  2. To get by ciphering; as, to cipher out the answer.

  3. To decipher. [Obs.]

  4. To designate by characters. [Obs.]

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

late 14c., "arithmetical symbol for zero," from Old French cifre "nought, zero," Medieval Latin cifra, with Spanish and Italian cifra, ultimately from Arabic sifr "zero," literally "empty, nothing," from safara "to be empty;" loan-translation of Sanskrit sunya-s "empty." The word came to Europe with Arabic numerals. Originally in English "zero," then "any numeral" (early 15c.), then (first in French and Italian) "secret way of writing; coded message" (a sense first attested in English 1520s), because early codes often substituted numbers for letters. Klein says Modern French chiffre is from Italian cifra.


"to do arithmetic" (with Arabic numerals), 1520s, from cipher (n.). Meaning "to write in code" is from 1560s. Related: Ciphered; ciphering.


n. 1 A numeric character. 2 Any text character. 3 A combination or interweaving of letters, as the initials of a name; a device; a monogram. 4 A method of transforming a text in order to conceal its meaning. 5 (context cryptography English) A cryptographic system using an algorithm that converts letter or sequences of bit into ciphertext. 6 ciphertext; a message concealed via a '''cipher'''. 7 A grouping of three digits in a number, especially when delimited by commas or periods: 8 A design of interlacing initials: a decorative design consisting of a set of interlaced initials. 9 (context music English) A fault in an organ valve which causes a pipe to sound continuously without the key having been pressed. 10 A hip-hop jam session [] 11 The path (usually circular) shared cannabis takes through a group, an occasion of cannabis smoking. 12 Someone or something of no importance. 13 (context obsolete English) zero. vb. (context regional dated English) To calculate.

  1. n. a message written in a secret code [syn: cypher]

  2. a mathematical element that when added to another number yields the same number [syn: zero, 0, nought, cypher]

  3. a quantity of no importance; "it looked like nothing I had ever seen before"; "reduced to nil all the work we had done"; "we racked up a pathetic goose egg"; "it was all for naught"; "I didn't hear zilch about it" [syn: nothing, nil, nix, nada, null, aught, cypher, goose egg, naught, zero, zilch, zip]

  4. a person of no influence [syn: cypher, nobody, nonentity]

  5. a secret method of writing [syn: cypher, cryptograph, secret code]

  6. v. convert ordinary language into code; "We should encode the message for security reasons" [syn: encode, code, encipher, cypher, encrypt, inscribe, write in code] [ant: decode]

  7. make a mathematical calculation or computation [syn: calculate, cypher, compute, work out, reckon, figure]

Cipher (disambiguation)

A cipher is a method of encryption or decryption.

Cipher may also refer to:

  • An English name for the number 0
  • A word used to refer to zero, the letter "O" or any circle in the doctrine of The Nation of Gods and Earths (also known as The Five Percent nation)
  • CIPHER (DOS command), an external filter command in some versions of MS-DOS 2.xx
Cipher (band)

Cipher is an American hardcore punk, metalcore band that formed in 1996 in Long Beach, New York. Cipher's core line-up consisted of Maurice "Moe" Mitchell (vocals), Danny "Cipher" Bobis (drums), Chris Fry (guitar) and Krys Maniecki (bass).

Cipher (comics)

Cipher (Alisa Tager) is a fictional mutant character, a superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. She is a young African-American female who first appeared in Young X-Men #8 (Nov. 2008) and was created by Marc Guggenheim and Rafa Sandoval.

Cipher (album)

Cipher is the debut album by The Alpha Conspiracy, released in 2001.

Splendid E-Zine's Ron Davies called the album "easily one of the best electronic releases of the past year", and later wrote, "Whereas a great deal of electronic music is best described as icy and repetitive, Sega's compositions are completely engaging."


In cryptography, a cipher (or cypher) is an algorithm for performing encryption or decryption—a series of well-defined steps that can be followed as a procedure. An alternative, less common term is encipherment. To encipher or encode is to convert information into cipher or code. In common parlance, 'cipher' is synonymous with ' code', as they are both a set of steps that encrypt a message; however, the concepts are distinct in cryptography, especially classical cryptography.

Codes generally substitute different length strings of characters in the output, while ciphers generally substitute the same number of characters as are input. There are exceptions and some cipher systems may use slightly more, or fewer, characters when output versus the number that were input.

Codes operated by substituting according to a large codebook which linked a random string of characters or numbers to a word or phrase. For example, "UQJHSE" could be the code for "Proceed to the following coordinates." When using a cipher the original information is known as plaintext, and the encrypted form as ciphertext. The ciphertext message contains all the information of the plaintext message, but is not in a format readable by a human or computer without the proper mechanism to decrypt it.

The operation of a cipher usually depends on a piece of auxiliary information, called a key (or, in traditional NSA parlance, a cryptovariable). The encrypting procedure is varied depending on the key, which changes the detailed operation of the algorithm. A key must be selected before using a cipher to encrypt a message. Without knowledge of the key, it should be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to decrypt the resulting ciphertext into readable plaintext.

Most modern ciphers can be categorized in several ways

  • By whether they work on blocks of symbols usually of a fixed size ( block ciphers), or on a continuous stream of symbols ( stream ciphers).
  • By whether the same key is used for both encryption and decryption ( symmetric key algorithms), or if a different key is used for each ( asymmetric key algorithms). If the algorithm is symmetric, the key must be known to the recipient and sender and to no one else. If the algorithm is an asymmetric one, the enciphering key is different from, but closely related to, the deciphering key. If one key cannot be deduced from the other, the asymmetric key algorithm has the public/private key property and one of the keys may be made public without loss of confidentiality.
Cipher (newuniversal)

Cipher (Jennifer Swann) is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character appears in the newuniversal imprint of Marvel Comics, and is one of the four initial superhumans created by the White Event in 2006 (the others being Justice, Nightmask, and Star Brand). newuniversal, designated Earth-555 in the Marvel Comics multiverse, is a re-imagining of the New Universe imprint from the late 1980s. The name Cipher actually refers to two things: a powerful extra-dimensional glyph (tattoo) that confers superhuman powers on a sentient being, and the name of the being that wields the glyph. Cipher is a new superhuman created by Warren Ellis and Salvador Larroca who were inspired by the original Spitfire and the nature of the Star Brand itself (as an extra-dimensional tool of near-unlimited power), combined with strong conceptual ties to Iron Man.

Cipher (manga)

Cipher is a manga series written and illustrated by Minako Narita. It was adapted into an OVA in 1989.

Usage examples of "cipher".

It usually had a separate cipher alphabet with homophones and a codelike list of names, words, and syllables.

The polyalphabetic class of ciphers, to which purple belonged, is based ultimately upon an alphabet table, usually 26 letters by 26.

Each row thus offers a different set of cipher substitutes to the letters of the plaintext alphabet at the top.

To decipher, the clerk begins with the keyletter, runs in along the ciphertext alphabet until he strikes the cipher letter, then follows the column of letters upward until he emerges at the plaintext letter at the top.

The machine, to serve in the field, shifted its cipher alphabet irregularly by means of gears.

It permitted him to reconstruct a primary cipher alphabet without having to guess at a single plaintext letter.

Friedman chose to do so in anagram cipher, the solution to which he sealed in a time-stamped envelope, inviting readers to try and unravel it.

Another revelation buried in the biliteral cipher was of the levitation machine, which Fabyan attempted to build following the simple step-by-step directions.

A stone-waller, a no-sayer, a cipher whose bumbledom was itself an act of cruelty.

A string of ciphered spellcraft unreeled and spread with the winnowing wind.

A rudimentary ability in ciphering, some French, and some unremarkable talent in drawing.

My goal has been twofold: to narrate the development of the various methods of making and breaking codes and ciphers, and to tell how these methods have affected men.

It printed new editions of codes and ciphers and distributed them, and contracted with manufacturers for cipher machines.

But the technique of its solution lies at the heart of the cryptanalysis of nearly all more sophisticated substitution ciphers.

In a three-day marathon of cryptanalysis, Manly, aided by Miss Rickert, perceived the pattern of this 12-step official transposition cipher, with its multiple horizontal shiftings of three- and four-letter plaintext groups ripped apart by a final vertical transcription.