Your Definitive Crypto Glossary
If you're compelled by crypto but the lingo has your head spinning, you're not alone. With complex acronyms and meme-worthy misspellings, the world of cryptocurrency can feel tough to crack. But fear not—N26 is here with some clarity to counter the chaos. We've created a handy glossary with even the most obscure crypto definitions, so you can hold your own during any blockchain banter.
Made up of the words "alternate" and "coin," altcoin is a term for all cryptocurrencies and tokens that are not Bitcoin. Many altcoins are "forks" of either Bitcoin or Etherium and are generally geared toward a specific project or purpose. Two of the most famous altcoins are Litecoin (forked from Bitcoin) and Ether.
A slang term in both the stock and crypto spheres, a bagholder is someone who buys a position at a high price, only to see the value of their holdings fall. For example, if you purchased cryptocurrency during a market peak and held onto it even as the price fell drastically, you would be considered a bagholder. Bagholder is formed from the word "stockholder" and an idiom indicating unfortunate or forced responsibility: "to be left holding the bag."
Standing for "buy the dip" or, more curtly, "buy the (expletive) dip," BTD is used to talk about buying crypto coins at low prices with the assumption that they will eventually increase in value. The "dip" refers to a drop in crypto prices—especially at times when they are on the rise. Some use "BTD" as a warning to crypto investors to hold off until the price of coins or tokens lowers again.
Coins are a digital representation of a cryptocurrency. They're essentially used as a medium of exchange or store of value within a digital economic network. Crypto coins are native to their currency's blockchain, and each currency is independent from all other cryptocurrencies—their coins can be only bought by participants on their particular network.
Any crypto wallet that is stored offline is considered a cold wallet. In general, they store your private key for accessing your cryptocurrency on a blockchain. Cold wallets generally look like a USB stick, though they can take any number of forms.
Crypto exchanges are businesses that allow customers to purchase, trade, and sell cryptocurrencies, digital currencies, and even NFTs. Centralized crypto exchanges serve as an intermediary between the seller and purchaser, earning profits through transaction fees and commissions. As decentralized entities, crypto exchanges use smart contracts to allow peer-to-peer transactions.
A crypto wallet is a digital wallet for your cryptocurrency. It's a place to organize your crypto portfolio and send and receive currency. Some wallets comes with a private key that allows you to access the wallet’s contents, while others are managed by third parties. There are different types of crypto wallets available, including mobile apps and wallets that are not connected to the internet, known as "cold wallets."
Cryptosys is a tongue-in-cheek phrase referencing a made-up disease caused by cryptocurrency hype. Cryptosys may be used to describe individuals who can't stop talking, discussing, or purchasing cryptocurrencies. For example, someone might say, "she's got a severe case of cryptosys" when talking about a friend who has become obsessed with the topic.
DAO stands for "decentralized autonomous organizations," which are collectively owned organizations united around a common mission and organized through blockchain technology. With no governing body, decisions are made by members (or tokenholders) through collectively cast, transparent votes. The benefits include democratic participation in all decisions, a high level of transparency, and a collective spirit—while some disadvantages might be inefficiency and security concerns.
While many apps sell customer data to advertisers to earn revenue, dApps are controlled and funded by users—which is to say, real people. dApps store customer data on multiple computers, are tied to the blockchain, and are operated by a decentralized group of peers. Like blockchain technology, dApps were conceived of to protect user information from being controlled by a single entity, such as a company.
Decentralization is when an organization's decisions are made by a group or distributed network, rather than by a single, centralized entity. In blockchain technology, this means that everyone in the group has a copy of the same data and an equal voice in the collective. This reduces responsibilty and dependency on one single entity. In effect, it's about giving control to the community rather than one person.
DeFi is short for decentralized finance—an emerging field that lets participants cut out the middleman and make financial transactions directly with others. It’s quickly gaining in popularity as an alternative to traditional financial services. DeFi already lets you do most things offered by traditional banks and centralized financial institutions, with new products and transactions available each day.
Simply put, fiat money is currency issued and printed by a government. US dollars, euros, and pounds sterling are all types of fiat money. Because it's not backed by any commodity—like gold, for example—governments can decide how much of it is printed, giving them better control of their economy. However, since it's not linked to a stockpile of real commodities, too much fiat currency floating around can cause it to lose value, resulting in inflation—or even hyperinflation.
Conceived in 2017, Flippening refers to a potential future flip of the most valued currency—which, to date, is Bitcoin. As the first cryptocurrency invented, Bitcoin still has the largest value in terms of shares (called "market cap"). Many predict that Etherium will overtake Bitcoin as the most valued cryptocurrency at some point.
A fluctuation is a change—or, to be more specific, a rising and falling—of an amount or number. In finance and cryptocurrency, it refers to any change in prices.
"Fear of missing out," or FOMO, is a catch-all term for the feelings you might have if you aren't participating in something that you could have enjoyed or benefited from. It's sometimes preemptive, and can feel like envy, agitation, or anxiety. In the world of crypto, FOMO often relates to the decision whether or not to invest at a high price in a volatile market—all with the hopes of achieving the same success as others.
All data segments, or "blocks," on a blockchain form a path that connects back to the original transaction. When a community makes a change to the blockchain's set of rules, this is referred to as a fork—a diverging of the blockchain into two distinct paths. This action creates a new chain, albeit one that shares the entire history of the previous blockchain.
Standing for "fear, uncertainty, and doubt," FUD describes a psychological tactic that's used to manipulate public opinion about the crypto market or specific coins. The goal is usually to discourage further crypto purchasing or encourage people to sell their coins. For example, cryptocurrency loyalists may accuse the skeptics of "spreading FUD."
On the Etherium blockchain, gas fees are the charges imposed on transactions or contract executions. Specifically, these charges are applied to the Ether currency (Etherium's native coin) and are used to fund the Etherium blockchain and keep it operational, secure, and decentralized.
HODL stands for "hold on for dear life." HODL is used mainly to encourage crypto investors to keep their coins during volatile market periods. The term originated in a 2013 blog post from a crypto investor who misspelled the word "hold" when encouraging others not to sell their crypto despite the market's extreme fluctuations.
A hot wallet is a form of digital crypto storage that can be accessed through your computer or phone. A hot wallet allows you to see how many coins or tokens you have and facilitate transactions. Unlike a cold wallet, which stores your cryptocurrency offline, a hot wallet is a place to send and receive crypto that is always online—which may leave your crypto more vulnerable to hackers.
An ICO is a type of funding—typically crowdfunding—done through cryptocurrencies. Stemming from the business equivilent (IPO), this process may be used to gather funds to create a new coin, app, project, or service related to cryptocurrency.
A ledger is a public record-keeping system available for public viewing and verification. Long ago, a ledger was used to keep track of information for the community. Today, ledgers serve a similar purpose in the universe of blockchain. It keeps a record of all authentic, verified transactions, while keeping identities and their respective crypto funds anonymous.
Market capitalization, or market cap, is the total monetary value of a publicly traded company's stock shares. In the cryptocurrency sphere, this referrs to the total value of mined coins at a given moment in time.
Crypto mining is a way to generate cryptocurrencies. So-called "miners" solve complex math problems using ultra-high-powered computers and receive coins in return for their work. Crypto mining serves two purposes: generating new cryptocurrency, and verifying the legitimacy of cryptocurrency transactions on their blockchain.
A no-coiner refers to someone who owns no crypto coins, is generally mistrustful of cryptocurrencies, or is openly critical of the economics of cryptocurrencies. Some camps also accuse "no-coiners" of actively hoping that the cryptocurrency market will crash, leaving those who own coins with losses. The phrase is used most commonly by crypto investors.
Technically speaking, a node is a point of intersection in any telecommunication network. Within the cryptocurrency world, nodes are networks of computers that participate in building the blockchain by keeping track of the distributed ledger and acting as a hub for various tasks. Nodes determine which transactions to accept and which ones to block. Then, they store the transactions and broadcast them to other nodes within the blockchain.
As their name indicates, on-chain transactions are transactions that occur on the blockchain. Each of these are added to the open-source, public ledger. A transaction is considered on-chain when it has been validated and authenticated, i.e. updated on the entire blockchain network.
On-ledger currencies are blockchain-based currencies. All cryptocurrencies are on-ledger, because they are created for a distributed, single copy of a shared database. The philosophy of on-ledger currencies is that no single entity has control over the parameters. However, on-ledger currencies can be forked, kicking off a new on-ledger currency with new parameters but a record of the same history.
In finance, portfolios are the mechanisms that make it possible for you to manage your investments, such as stocks, bonds, and—more recently—cryptocurrencies. Portfolios can be hosted by management software, which provides analysis tools and allows you to make purchases or sales and track earnings and losses.
Private keys are secure codes that enable the holder to make cryptocurrency transactions and prove ownership of their holdings. Bitcoin keys specifically feature a 256-bit string displayed as a combination of letters and numbers. It’s stored within your crypto wallet, so that you can access your Bitcoin whenever you need to.
Proof of Authority (PoA) allows speedy transactions via a consensus algorithm on the blockchain. If a blockchain account has "proof of authority," it means that is has the power to validate transactions on the blockchain network and update it. Only a small group of accounts has this power. To make this work, one or several validating machines generate new "blocks" of transactions to be added to the blockchain.
Proof of stake is a consensus mechanism for processing transactions and creating new blocks in a blockchain. In the proof-of-stake system, validators "stake" (or pledge) their coins in order to process transactions and create new blocks of a blockchain—similar to what miners do in a proof-of-work blockchain.
Proof of work is a process wherein miners race to be the first to solve complex mathematical problems once a transaction block has been filled. Many cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, use the proof-of-work strategy to verify transactions. After solving the equation, they generate a 64-character hash, which validates the transaction and enables the miners to generate Bitcoin for themselves.
Unlike a private key, a public key is designed to be disclosed to other people so they can send you cryptocurrency. It’s linked to the holder’s private key, which is needed to “unlock” the public key. Sometimes a Bitcoin address is used for transactions instead, since they are essentially compressed versions of the public key.
First employed in the finance sphere, "pump and dump" is a form of market manipulation. Investors attempt to inflate (or "pump") the price of an asset, only to sell their holdings (or "dump") before the price falls. Recent years have seen many attempts to pump and dump in the crypto scene. This practice is illegal in most places.
More crypto jargon that started with a misspelled word: rekt is a slang term for when a person's crypto portfolio plummets in value. Hailing from a mangled spelling of the word "wrecked," this term is used heavily on social media to indicate massive financial loss caused by a bad crypto investment or trade.
Named after the founder of crypto, Satoshi Nakamoto, satoshi (or "sats" for short) is the smallest unit of Bitcoin available. And when we say small, we mean miniscule—one Bitcoin is equal to 100 million satoshis! These tiny units, in theory, help facilitate transactions by breaking them up into smaller bits.
A seed (as in seed phrase, seed recovery phrase, or backup seed phrase) is a list of words used to retrieve a user's Bitcoin funds on the blockchain. This is primarily used in crypto wallets, which generate a seed phrase for their users. These should typically be written down on paper in case of data or software loss. This way, the user can download the same wallet and recover their funds using their seed phrase.
The slang term "shill" describes the strong—sometimes shameless—promotion of a certain crypto coin. There are many reasons why someone would "shill," from wanting a currency to increase in value so that the market price increases to being paid for promoting a certain coin or token.
Smart contracts are self-executing (non-legally binding) contracts on a blockchain. Each party to a contract inputs conditions. Once met, the smart contract can be fulfilled automatically without a central authority or middleman. Smart contracts use simple “if … then …” statements written in code. You can use them to do things like send funds to a particular account on a specific day.
A spot market is a public financial market where assets can be traded upfront for immediate delivery. This means that someone trading an asset—anything from stocks to cryptocurrencies—can send and receive funds instantly, resulting in a real-time profit for the seller—though this depends on the kind of asset being traded. So, if you purchase a coin for $60, a spot market means that's exactly what you'll pay for your asset and what the seller will receive.
Like other forms of crypto, stablecoins are digital currencies on blockchain networks. But unlike other cryptocurrencies, they are designed to maintain a stable value against the real-world asset they track. Popular stablecoins like USD Coin and Tether tend to be linked—or "pegged"—to the US dollar, but can be pegged to any government-issued currency. It’s important to note that “stable” is a relative term, and stablecoins should not be confused with legal tender.
Staking is part of the process that certain cryptocurrencies use to verify transactions. It's all part of a consensus mechanism called “proof of stake.” With this mechanism, blocks of transactions are added to a blockchain—a string of “blocks” of transactions—by people who already hold a certain stake in that blockchain's native currency.
Vaporware is a software, hardware, tech product, or even a cryptocurrency or blockchain that's been announced to the public but is delayed or never really enters the market. This may happen because the concept is being rethought or the product is being redesigned.
Volatility is the measure of how quickly prices move up and down over a given period. The crypto market in particular is known for its extreme volatility and rapid price fluctuations.
A crypto whale refers to any person or entity with a large amount of cryptocurrency. Whales may own so much crypto that they have the power to impact or even manipulate markets by trading large amounts of their holdings.
Thought cars and crypto had little in common? Think again. "When lambo" is a slang term used to speculate about whether a crypto investment will make an investor wealthy enough to buy a Lamborghini. Effectively, it's used as a meme for when a crypto asset might pay high dividends—and it's a testament to the massive amounts of wealth floating around in the crypto world.