A Glossary of Crypto Terms and Acronyms
To “HODL” means to hold crypto even in catastrophic market conditions, or to “hold on for dear life.” This term originated when a drunk bitcoin trader posted to the Bitcointalk forum that he was “hodling” his bitcoins even though the price was crashing.
A blockchain is a decentralized database with data that can’t be changed. On a blockchain, transactions are confirmed in groups called “blocks,” and each block refers to the block before it, creating a “chain” that shows its entire history from inception. Read more about these databases in our in-depth blockchain guide.
Proof of Work (Mining)
Proof of Work (PoW) is when a computer burns electricity as a kind of “postage” that prevents spam. In bitcoin, a computer is rewarded with newly minted bitcoins if it is the first to submit Proof of Work for a block. This process is called “mining.” Check out our full resource on crypto mining.
Proof of Stake (Staking)
Proof of Stake is a process in which a computer proves it has a “stake” in the network’s success. It does that by locking up coins or “staking” them. Proof of stake is an alternative to Proof of Work that uses less electricity.
Pro Tip: There are two ways to stake cryptocurrency. The first is by becoming a validator yourself, and the second is by delegating your coins to an already established validator. Either way, you can earn a yield on your crypto by staking it. For a detailed explanation of how it works, check out our Guide to Crypto Staking.
A UTXO is an unspent transaction output. It’s an amount of coins that has been sent to you previously, and now you can send it to someone else.
WAGMI stands for “we’re all gonna make it.” The phrase is meant as a kind of greeting and expression of hope. It was coined by bodybuilder Aziz Shavershian, also known as Zyzz.
A fork is a software upgrade of a crypto network. Most forks are uncontroversial, but if a group of validators doesn’t support a particular fork, it can cause the network to split in two, causing two new coins to be created where only one existed before.
A free IDO is an event in which a crypto coin’s team gives away free tokens to early investors in exchange for doing social media tasks. “IDO” originally meant “initial DEX offering,” but IDOs now are usually not done on a DEX.
The docs for a project are the documents that explain how the project works and what its purpose is. Most docs are Gitbooks, which usually have the word “docs” in their URL. For example, “https://docs.myproject.com.”
Decentralization is the ideal that no person or group should have an exclusive copy of a database — no authority should be able to arbitrarily censor or control users. In practice, complete decentralization is difficult to achieve, but it’s an ideal that most crypto networks strive for.
A smart contract is a file that runs on a blockchain network. It gets its name from a 1997 paper called “The Idea of Smart Contracts,” by Nick Szabo. In the paper, Szabo describes a type of contract that can be enforced entirely through code.
Turing Complete (or Incomplete)
A Turing complete programming language can solve any logical or mathematical problem. A Turing incomplete one can solve only a particular subset of problems. If a crypto network has a Turing complete language, a wide variety of apps can be run on it.
On a smart contract platform, the gas cost is the number of compute cycles a transaction requires the validator to perform. It is expressed in units of gas. The more complex the transaction, the more units it requires.
On a smart contract platform, the gas price is the amount of crypto charged by the validators per unit of gas spent. The price goes up or down based on the congestion of the network. The more congested the network, the higher the gas price goes.
An EVM-compatible network is a network that is compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine. These networks can run code written in Solidity, the programming language of Ethereum. That means popular apps from Ethereum can easily be cloned and ported to the network.
FYI: Some of the most popular crypto networks today are EVM-compatible, including Binance Smart Chain, Avalanche, Harmony, Fantom, and Polygon. We’ve got more info about some of these and other top networks in our List of the Best Cryptocurrencies.
A crypto wallet is a piece of software or hardware that can store private keys and perform crypto transactions. Using a wallet is an essential part of being a crypto user. You can find out more about wallets in our Beginner’s Guide to Crypto Wallets.
Your address is a hash of your public key. It’s your web identity in the crypto world. If you give your address to another person, he or she can send you crypto. You can also use your address as a kind of username in crypto apps.
Your private key is a secret string of characters your wallet uses to prove you are the owner of a particular address. You should never give your private key to anyone unless you want them to have access to your crypto.
Your public key is a string of characters that validators can use to decrypt messages sent by your wallet. Unlike the private key, the public key is not a secret. You can send it to anyone you want. It can’t be used to steal your crypto.
A hash is a string of characters that uniquely identifies a message. Hashing was originally invented to verify that messages weren’t being tampered with, but it’s now mostly used to save space in memory.
Seed words or a “mnemonic phrase” is a set of words that can be used to derive an infinite number of private keys. When you first set up a wallet, you have to write down your seed words and store them in case your device crashes. These should always be kept secret.
A stablecoin is a crypto token designed to be equal in value to some national currency in the real world, usually the U.S. dollar. Some stablecoins are backed by cash held in a bank, while others are pegged to a real-world currency through an arbitrage process.
BTD stands for “buy the dip.” When the price is falling, crypto investors often encourage each other to BTD.
A “dApp” is a decentralized application. It’s a piece of software that runs on a crypto network. A dApp could be a lending app, video game, social media network, or any kind of app imaginable, as long as it runs on a blockchain.
A DEX is a decentralized exchange. It’s a crypto token exchange that runs directly on the network, which means you don’t need to deposit your tokens into another person’s possession in order to trade with it. Uniswap, PancakeSwap, and Trader Joe are examples of DEXs.
A liquidity pool is a pool of tokens that investors have provided to a DEX. When a user makes a swap on a DEX, the token they get comes from the liquidity pool. Investors who provide to the pool get paid transaction fees by users.
An NFT is a “non-fungible token.” If a single smart contract produces more than one type of token, the tokens are considered to be “non-fungible.” NFTs usually represent collectibles instead of currencies. Video game items and digital art objects are the two most popular categories of NFTs. You can find out more about non-fungible tokens in our Ultimate Guide to Understanding NFTs.
P2E stands for “play to earn.” This is a type of video game where players can earn cryptocurrencies or NFTs for playing the game.
An NFT marketplace is a dApp that allows you to trade NFTs. It has functions for starting an auction, bidding on an item, and canceling an auction. OpenSea and Rarible are examples of NFT marketplaces.
A DAO is a decentralized autonomous organization. It works similarly to a corporation, except there are no managers and the “shares” are tokens. DAO token-holders can vote via the blockchain. A DAO can have a treasury that can be invested based on the will of the token-holders.
A RebaseDAO is a decentralized crypto investment fund. It issues tokens in exchange for stablecoins or other crypto assets. Each token is theoretically guaranteed to be worth $1. As the treasury increases, new tokens are minted and paid out to the current holders, creating a source of revenue for the investors in the fund.
DeFi stands for “decentralized finance.” It’s the trend of financial apps being put on the blockchain. To a large extent, it does away with the need for users to trust the developer. DEXs and crypto lending apps are examples of DeFi apps.
Did You Know? DeFi apps often provide yields of 3 percent to 4 percent or higher, but there are risks to using them. A DeFi app, for example, may have bugs or security flaws. Want to know more? Check out our page on how DeFi works.