Definitions

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

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of the nature of a cipher; of no weight or influence.
  • n. A character [0] which, standing by itself, expresses nothing, but when placed at the right hand of a whole number, increases its value tenfold.
  • n. One who, or that which, has no weight or influence.
  • n. A character in general, as a figure or letter.
  • n. A combination or interweaving of letters, as the initials of a name; a device; a monogram; The cut represents the initials N. W.
  • n. A private alphabet, system of characters, or other mode of writing, contrived for the safe transmission of secrets; also, a writing in such characters.
  • intransitive v. To use figures in a mathematical process; to do sums in arithmetic.
  • transitive v. To write in occult characters.
  • transitive v. To get by ciphering.
  • transitive v. To decipher.
  • transitive v. To designate by characters.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. Figuratively, something of no value, consequence, or power; especially, a person of no weight, influence, usefulness, or decided character.
  • n. A written character in general, especially a numeral character.
  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. Anything written in cipher; a cryptogram.
  • n. The key to a cipher or secret mode of writing.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a mathematical element that when added to another number yields the same number
  • n. a person of no influence
  • n. a message written in a secret code
  • v. make a mathematical calculation or computation
  • v. convert ordinary language into code
  • n. a secret method of writing
  • n. a quantity of no importance

Etymologies

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 ṣpr1 in Semitic roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
14th century. From Old French cyfre, cyffre (French chiffre), ultimately from Arabic صفر (sifr) ‘zero, empty’, from صفر (safara) ‘to be empty’. Compare zero. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • 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

  • 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

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

    Archive 2008-01-01

  • 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?

  • 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

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

    Dragonfly in Amber

  • 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

  • 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

  • To-day a cipher from the German Foreign Office came in to be forwarded to the State Department for Bernstorff, so I suppose this is what he referred to.

    Face to Face with Kaiserism

  • This the major eagerly took and, noting that it was in cipher, read it by means of the code he carried in his pocket.

    The Filigree Ball

Comments

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  • ...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

  • VanishedOne - it does suggest that in the third definition

    July 25, 2008

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

    November 29, 2007

  • Whatever WeirdNet says, codes and ciphers are different.

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

    November 29, 2007