cipher

\ \ [14] The central meaning of cipher is ‘zero’ (a word to which it is related); its use since the 16th century in connection with encrypted communications derives from the fact that in their earliest forms such codes usually consisted of numbers representing letters, and cipher had by then broadened in use from ‘nought’ to ‘any numeral’. It entered English through Old French cifre, which came via medieval Latin cifra from Arabic sifr (source of English zero); this was a nominal use of an adjective meaning ‘empty’.
\ \ Cf.ZERO

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

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  • 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}.] [1913 Webster] 1. (Arith.) A character [0] which, standing by itself, expresses… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cipher — UK [ˈsaɪfə(r)] / US [ˈsaɪfər] or cypher UK / US noun Word forms cipher : singular cipher plural ciphers 1) [countable/uncountable] a secret system of writing, used for sending messages so that no one can understand them unless they know the… …   English dictionary

  • Cipher — Ci pher, a. Of the nature of a cipher; of no weight or influence. Twelve cipher bishops. Milton. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cipher — [sī′fər] n. [ME cifre < OFr cyfre < ML cifra < Ar ṣifr, ṣefr, a cipher, nothing < ṣafara, to be empty] 1. the symbol 0, indicating a value of zero 2. a person or thing of no importance or value 3. a) a system of secret writing based… …   English World dictionary

  • 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. [1913 Webster] T was certain he could write and cipher too. Goldsmith. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Cipher — Ci pher, v. t. 1. To write in occult characters. [1913 Webster] His notes he ciphered with Greek characters. Hayward. [1913 Webster] 2. To get by ciphering; as, to cipher out the answer. [1913 Webster] 3. To decipher. [Obs.] Shak. [1913 Webster]… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cipher — [n] zero; nothingness blank, diddly squat*, goose egg*, insignificancy, nada*, naught, nil, nobody, nonentity, nothing, nought, nullity, squat, zilch, zip, zippo*, zot*; concepts 668,787 cipher [v] figure out code break, calculate, clear up,… …   New thesaurus

  • cipher — index blank (emptiness), calculate, designation (symbol), indicant, nonentity Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton …   Law dictionary

  • cipher — is the recommended spelling, not cypher …   Modern English usage

  • cipher — (also cypher) ► NOUN 1) a code. 2) a key to a code. 3) an unimportant person or thing. 4) dated a zero. ► VERB ▪ encode (a message). ORIGIN Old French cifre, from Arab …   English terms dictionary

  • Cipher — For other uses, see Cipher (disambiguation). Edward Larsson s rune cipher resembling that found on the Kensington Runestone. Also includes runically unrelated blackletter writing style and pigpen cipher. In cryptography, a cipher (or cypher) is… …   Wikipedia

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