Crypto Terms

This list of definitions can help you understand all of the words you may run into on a daily basis.

Updated over a week ago

blockchain address

An address is an alphanumeric string of letters and numbers that is unique to a wallet. It is what is used to route digital assets across the network to a particular destination. Different coins have unique address formats.


New tokens are sometimes given to a number of users that have assets on a particular blockchain, whether it be NXT or BTC. Essentially, when the new tokens are distributed, they are “airdropped” to the holders on the blockchain.


Algorithms solve problems using calculations and data processing. Most modern software depends on functioning algorithms.


Cryptocurrencies that came to be after Bitcoin was created are referred to as altcoins.

ASIC Miner

ASIC is the abbreviation for “application-specific integrated circuit”. They are created specifically for a certain use rather than to be multi-use. ASIC miners work best for mining digital assets.


The first internationally renowned digital payment network and protocol. It is not to be confused with “bitcoin” with a lowercase “b”.


The first internationally renowned digital asset. It is not to be confused with “Bitcoin” with an uppercase “B”.


A block is a file where transaction data is recorded in the blockchain.

block explorer

Block explorers display transactions on the blockchain. Some common block explorers include:





block height

The block height is the number of blocks separating the current block and the genesis block.


The ledger that tracks digital asset transactions into sequential order.

block reward

New digital assets rewarded to a miner for participating in the mining process.

cold storage

Cold storage is any kind of crypto storage that is not online at all times. There are two types of walletsthat may be considered cold storage:

  • Hardware wallets - A physical device that is only online when it is hooked up to a secondary device such as a laptop or desktop.

  • Paper wallets - A physical piece of paper that is a physical representation of owned crypto.


In terms of cryptocurrencies, a coin is a digital token.  


Confirmations are necessary for a successful transaction. The number of confirmations is based on the number of times that the network has accepted the transaction. The more confirmations, the more likely the transaction is to be legitimate. If there are only a few confirmations, the likelihood of coins being double-spent increases.

contract address

A contract address is an address that utilizes a smart contract. This is specific to Ethereum and ERC-20 tokens.


“DAO” stands for “decentralized autonomous organization”. These organizations are utilized through smart contracts.


To move power away from a specific authoritative body.

decentralized exchange

A decentralized exchange supports the trading of decentralized currencies, aka digital assets.

deposit address

A deposit address is where someone deposits their digital assets. If you are using ShapeShift, you will need to send your digital assets to the deposit address before receiving the asset you desire.

destination tag

Destination tags are a short numeric string specific to Ripple (XRP). Most Ripple wallets will require a destination tag for the funds to be routed to the correct recipient.

elliptic curve

Public-key cryptography sometimes uses data storage based on the algebra behind elliptic curves. This is because this type of data storage detects common corruption issues.

ERC-20 token

An ERC-20 token piggybacks off of the Ethereum network, but for an ERC-20 token to be accepted, the token must meet a certain set of rules. “ERC” itself stands for “Ethereum Request for Comments”, and it is meant to improve the Ethereum network.


The Ethereum network supports ethereum, a crypto that hopes to fully decentralize transactions.


An exchange is any service that allows someone to trade one digital asset for another.

exchange rate

The rate that a digital asset is exchanged for another, or in some cases, fiat.


Fiat currencies are centralized currencies, such as the U.S. Dollar or the Euro.


A fork is when a digital asset splits into two different cryptocurrencies. Examples include:

  • BTC and BCH

  • ETC and ETH


Crypto traders sometimes use the term “gainz” or “gains”. This refers to how much their investment has earned them since they originally invested.


Gas is what is used to send ethereum and ERC-20 tokens across the network. A small amount of ethereum is necessary for a transaction to process, and this is referred to as “gas”. If a transaction does not have enough gas, it may not confirm.

genesis block

A genesis block is the very first block on the blockchain.


GPU stands for “graphics processing unit”, but they do not only process graphics. GPUs are also used to mine digital assets, as they can make computations as well.


Gas typically is paid for using Gwei. A single Gwei amounts to 10^9 Wei or 10^-9 ETH.


HODL is a term that meant use when they are referring to holding to a specific digital asset. It originated when someone mistyped the word “hold”. It is now often used to mean “Hold on for Dear Life”.

hot wallet

A hot wallet is a wallet meant to hold digital assets that is always online. Some common hot wallets are:

  • Exodus

  • Jaxx

  • Breadwallet

  • myCryptoWallet


The input is where a transaction is being sent from, or where a transaction starts.

key pairs

A key pair is the pairing of a public and private key.

legacy address

A legacy address is an older address format that begins with a “1” in terms of BTC.


Litecoin is a decentralized, peer-to-peer crypto network featuring cheap transaction costs. Litecoin (LTC), as a crypto, is exchanged using said network.

market cap

“Market cap” is short for “market capitalization”, or the value of an asset being traded on the market. In the crypto space, it is referring to coin market capitalization.


The "memory pool" of unconfirmed Bitcoin transactions. 


Mining is the act of confirming transactions on the blockchain using a series of advanced computations.

miner fee

A miner fee is crypto that is provided to reward miners for enabling transactions to be sent across the network.

multiple output transaction

Any transaction that has several outputs is a multiple output transaction.


Multisignature allows several users to digitally sign the same document for a valid transaction.


Nodes are used to pass block data throughout the network. These nodes are able to validate transactions.

out of gas

When an ETH transaction runs out of gas, it has done so because not enough gas was provided for a transaction to fully process on the blockchain. This error is common with smart contracts.


This is where a digital asset transaction was sent.

paper wallet

An offline, paper representation of digital asset ownership.

payment ID

A payment ID is an alphanumeric string that assures that a Monero (XMR) transaction reaches the correct recipient. Not all Monero wallets require this form of ID, but many do.


An act of fraud that pretends to be a particular entity to receive assets or information from the victim.

privacy coin

A privacy coin strongly focuses on anonymity and lack of traceability. A few examples of privacy coins are:

  • Monero (XMR)

  • Dash (DASH)

  • ZCash (ZEC)

private key

A private cryptographic key that should only be known to the user. This key can be used to decipher encrypted messages created by the public key.

public key

A cryptographic key that can be used by anyone to encrypt messages that are decipherable by the private key.


Re-syncing a wallet occurs the blockchain is rescanned within a wallet. The re-sync button is often represented by two arrows in the shape of a circle.

refund address

A refund address is the address provided by a user in case a return of the deposited digital asset is needed. When using ShapeShift, we recommend that you always provide a refund address.

replay attack

A replay attack is when one blockchain forks into two and results in an equal amount of coins existing on both blockchains.


A satoshi is a small amount of bitcoin. One bitcoin is equal to 100,000,000 satoshis.

Satoshi Nakamoto

Satoshi Nakamoto is the screen-name of the founder of Bitcoin.


SegWit stands for “Segregated Witness”, which is a newer form of address. It is forward compatible, meaning that no software updated need to take place for it to work.


SHA-256 is the cryptographic hash algorithm. It works by generating a 256-bit signature.

smart contract

A smart contract creates a certain set of conditions that a digital asset transaction must meet to be successful.

to the moon

The phrase “to the moon” refers to a coin’s value skyrocketing. This coin originated with Dogecoin (DOGE) when its value increased quickly. Some also refer to this as “mooning”.

transaction fee

A transaction fee is a fee that allows an entity to profit each time that a transaction is made.


The TXID (transaction ID) or the hash is the alphanumeric string that labels each transaction within the coin’s blockchain.


A UTXO stands for “unspent transaction output”. These occur to validate transactions via nodes on the network.


A wallet is a digital wallet, either hot or cold, that stores digital assets.


A whitepaper is written by those that are launching a new digital coin. It explains everything about the coin that someone may want to know.

withdrawal address

A withdrawal address is an address that a user provides to receive digital assets from an exchange. It may also be referred to as a "destination address".

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