from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The mathematical symbol (0) denoting absence of quantity; zero.
  • noun An Arabic numeral or figure; a number.
  • noun One having no influence or value; a nonentity.
  • noun A cryptographic system in which units of text of regular length, usually letters, are transposed or substituted according to a predetermined code.
  • noun The key to such a system.
  • noun A message written or transmitted in such a system.
  • noun A design combining or interweaving letters or initials; a monogram.
  • intransitive verb To solve problems in arithmetic; calculate.
  • intransitive verb To put in secret writing; encode.
  • intransitive verb To solve by means of arithmetic.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To put (a batsman) out without scoring; also, to put a cipher opposite to (a batsman's name) to indicate that he has failed to score.
  • To use figures; practise arithmetic by means of numerical figures or notation.
  • In fox-hunting, to hunt carefully about in search of a lost trail: said of a dog.
  • To run on three legs: said of a dog.
  • Of an organ-pipe, to sound independently of the action of tiie player, in consequence of some mechanical derangement in the organ.
  • To reckon in figures; cast up; make out in detail, as or as if by ciphering: generally with up or out, and often used figuratively: as, to cipher or cipher up the cost of an undertaking; to cipher out the proper method of proceeding.
  • To write in occult characters.
  • To designate or express by a sign; characterize.
  • To decipher.
  • noun In arithmetic and algebra, a character of the form 0, which by itself is the symbol of nought or null quantity, but when used in certain relations with other figures or symbols increases or diminishes their relative value according to its position.
  • noun Figuratively, something of no value, consequence, or power; especially, a person of no weight, influence, usefulness, or decided character.
  • noun A written character in general, especially a numeral character.
  • noun A combination of letters, as the initials of a name, in one complex device, engraved, stamped, or written on something, as on a seal, plate, coach, tomb, picture, etc.; a literal device. See monogram.
  • noun In heraldry, such a combination of letters borne upon a small escutcheon or cartouche, and substituted in an achievement of arms of a woman for the crest, which appears only in those of men.
  • noun A secret or disguised manner of writing; any method of conveying a hidden meaning by writing, whether by means of an arbitrary use of characters or combinations understood only by the persons concerned, or by a conventional significance attached to words conveying a different meaning to one not in the secret; cryptography.
  • noun Anything written in cipher; a cryptogram.
  • noun The key to a cipher or secret mode of writing.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Of the nature of a cipher; of no weight or influence.
  • intransitive verb To use figures in a mathematical process; to do sums in arithmetic.
  • noun (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.
  • noun One who, or that which, has no weight or influence.
  • noun obsolete A character in general, as a figure or letter.
  • noun A combination or interweaving of letters, as the initials of a name; a device; a monogram; The cut represents the initials N. W.
  • noun A private alphabet, system of characters, or other mode of writing, contrived for the safe transmission of secrets; also, a writing in such characters.
  • noun a key to assist in reading writings in cipher.
  • transitive verb To write in occult characters.
  • transitive verb To get by ciphering.
  • transitive verb obsolete To decipher.
  • transitive verb obsolete To designate by characters.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A numeric character.
  • noun A method of transforming a text in order to conceal its meaning.
  • noun cryptography A cryptographic system using an algorithm that converts letters or sequences of bits into ciphertext.
  • noun Ciphertext; a message concealed via a cipher.
  • noun A grouping of three digits in a number, especially when delimited by commas or periods:
  • noun A design of interlacing initials: a decorative design consisting of a set of interlaced initials.
  • noun music A fault in an organ valve which causes a pipe to sound continuously without the key having been pressed.
  • noun The path (usually circular) shared cannabis takes through a group, an occasion of cannabis smoking.
  • noun Someone or something of no importance.
  • noun obsolete Zero.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English cifre, from Old French, from Medieval Latin cifra, from Arabic ṣifr, from ṣafira, to be empty (translation of Sanskrit śūnyam, cipher, dot); see ṣpr in Semitic roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

14th century. From Old French cyfre, cyffre (French chiffre), ultimately from Arabic صفر (sifr) ‘zero, empty’, from صفر (safara) ‘to be empty’. Compare zero.


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  • And "cipher" is the nom de guerre of Le Chiffre, the numbers-man racketeer of the French Communist Party and perhaps the most odiously sadistic of Fleming's villains.

    Bottoms Up 2006

  • And "cipher" is the nom de guerre of Le Chiffre, the numbers-man racketeer of the French Communist Party and perhaps the most odiously sadistic of Fleming's villains.

    Bottoms Up 2006

  • And "cipher" is the nom de guerre of Le Chiffre, the numbers-man racketeer of the French Communist Party and perhaps the most odiously sadistic of Fleming's villains.

    Bottoms Up 2006

  • Eyeballing the incomplete key so far, there do seem to be some obvious glyph clusters, and I should note the possibility that solving the substitution cipher is only step one.

    Solution to the Fringe Glyph Cipher 2009

  • Put in cipher #2 in slot 1 so you are going to (2,0).

    Archive 2008-01-01 2008

  • A cipher is created, the cipher is cracked; Germany creates the Enigma code machine, the Allies crack it (and don't let on that they know); electronic passports are released, with RFID chips containing biometric and other identity information, and enterprising young rebels experiment with microwaving them and other means of disablement, before realizing you just need to take a hammer to it and it's back to a plain ole paper passport.

    MIND MELD: Are We Headed For a Technological Panopticon? 2008

  • The real cipher is to just get into the habit of noticing the small things that might bring about outsized improvements in our lives.

    Resolve to Make Modest Changes | Lifehacker Australia 2008

  • And, couched in code, cipher, and guarded language generally, the situation was far from clear.

    Dragonfly in Amber Gabaldon, Diana 1992

  • The interested listeners were disappointed with the brevity of the conversation, and spoke guardedly and in cipher to each other after Pearl and Mrs. Paine had gone: Somebody is away, see!

    Purple Springs 1921

  • A municipal declared that she was showing her son how to talk in cipher, and they made her renounce the lessons in arithmetic.

    The Ruin of a Princess Cl 1912


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  • Whatever WeirdNet says, codes and ciphers are different.

    I was half-hoping it would suggest the meaning zero.

    November 29, 2007

  • Woooo!! Enigma!! The five-rotor ones are even more impressive.

    November 29, 2007

  • VanishedOne - it does suggest that in the third definition

    July 25, 2008

  • ...but still more astounding were the notes penciled in the margin, and plainly referring to the text. I couldn't believe my eyes! They were in cipher! Yes, it looked like cipher. Fancy a man lugging with him a book of that description into this nowhere and studying it--and making notes--in cipher at that!

    --Heart of Darkness (Conrad)

    March 19, 2011