Main definitions of cipher in English

: cipher1cipher2

cipher1

(also cypher)

noun

  • 1A secret or disguised way of writing; a code.

    ‘he was writing cryptic notes in a cipher’
    [mass noun] ‘the information may be given in cipher’
    • ‘Encryption, codes and ciphers were once associated only with spies, espionage and illicit letters between lovers.’
    • ‘These cribs were essential for breaking the ciphers.’
    • ‘The problem with mono-alphabetic ciphers like the Caesar Cipher is that they're relatively easy to crack.’
    • ‘One of his most damning accusations is that the agency failed to do what it was mainly designed to do: break high-level ciphers.’
    • ‘Wilkins worked on codes and ciphers, publishing his work in 1641.’
    • ‘It's a computer program that's used to break ciphers, trying to crack the code of the math code.’
    • ‘The first cipher broken was Serpent: the cipher universally considered to be the safest, most conservative choice.’
    • ‘He was also an inventor of puzzles, games, ciphers, and mnemonics, and an amateur pioneer in photography.’
    • ‘A team of researchers in Sweden has cracked the final cipher and claimed the £10,000 prize.’
    • ‘Julius Caesar used a substitution cipher, now known as the Caesar Shift Cipher, where messages were encoded by replacing each letter in the alphabet with the letter three places along.’
    • ‘British agents broke into the Spanish Embassy in Washington and stole the keys to their ciphers, enabling Bletchley Park to crack the Spanish codes.’
    • ‘Indeed, communication security today, a collective term for all types of codes and ciphers, is probably more important than it has ever been in our history.’
    • ‘She was transferred to work on coding and cyphers supervised by Bletchley Park.’
    • ‘Other people taught us how to use secret inks, how to use cyphers of course, how to use radio transmitters, and how to use explosives.’
    • ‘A cipher is a sort of cryptographic coding system used to disguise information.’
    • ‘The second cipher, which used several different symbols for each English letter in the text, was much more difficult.’
    • ‘I have studied the equation-solving technique for the cryptanalysis of secret-key ciphers.’
    • ‘As radio was developed, the ability of the enemy to eavesdrop on radio messages brought about the development of codes and ciphers.’
    • ‘The enciphering and deciphering of messages in secret code or cipher is called cryptology.’
    • ‘Thus unbreakable ciphers do exist, and are not merely a figment of abstract imagination.’
    code, secret writing
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A thing written in a cipher.
      • ‘He printed ciphers on silk squares so agents could carry the information more easily across borders.’
      • ‘The English language uses letters with varying frequencies, allowing code-breakers to calculate which ciphers represent which letters.’
      • ‘Loved ones turn into cyphers, impossible to decode.’
      • ‘An equivalent way of writing the same cipher is shown in the diagram.’
      • ‘In the first century AD, miracles were seen as a secret code - a set of signs and ciphers known only to the Jews.’
      • ‘Jim is an expert at classical cryptography and has written a program that is quite good at cracking Enigma cipher.’
      • ‘And why are they targeting me with their runes, signs and ciphers?’
      • ‘Japanese culture is a culture in which even written language has evolved from drawings rather than alphabetical ciphers.’
    2. 1.2A key to such a cipher.
      • ‘A Second World War code cipher book won't help!’
  • 2dated A zero; a figure 0.

    • ‘From nine years observations, at Cincinnati, it appears that the thermometer falls below cypher twice every winter.’
    zero, nought, nil, 0
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1A person or thing of no importance, especially a person who does the bidding of others and seems to have no will of their own.
      • ‘I'm less sympathetic toward Hollywood stars, mostly blank-eyed cyphers with nothing to say and an artless way of expressing it.’
      • ‘He will never shed his image as a mere cypher of his father's wealthy friends and the interests of big business.’
      • ‘Governors have become mere cyphers for the decision-makers - often people with little or no practical experience of the problems faced by prison administrations.’
      • ‘This sequel presents us with an almost identical plot and mere ciphers for characters.’
      • ‘Let us treat our pupils as real people rather than ciphers, and let us encourage their minds to range as far and wide as their talents will allow them.’
      • ‘The women seem thinly written, ciphers rather than people, making it difficult for any compelling drama to be sustained.’
      • ‘Astrid throughout remains a mere cipher, a beautiful woman with a crooked smile whom the narrator met while he was a student.’
      • ‘He can act as a cypher, a mouthpiece for other's voices.’
      • ‘The characters are not mere ciphers, drawn along by the plot.’
      • ‘Most of the characters rarely develop into something more than ciphers; most remain pawns in the chess game the film is playing with itself.’
      • ‘Jim should be the compassionate heart of the film and instead all he is is a cypher, pushed into clichéd situations.’
      • ‘Vassily Gerello, on the other hand, was a total cipher in the title role, and the rest of the cast seemed equally vague.’
      • ‘Pablo is not a mere cipher, but a true collaborator.’
      • ‘There is a longstanding principle of English parliaments that members are not party ciphers.’
      • ‘She challenges the assumption that actors are mere ciphers channeling the influence of directors and writers.’
      • ‘And we finally get sufficient insight into Connot MacLeod to render him a character rather than a cipher.’
      • ‘At times, they resemble mere ciphers who are there to move the story on and no more.’
      • ‘He would not have got as far as he has if he were the mere unintelligent cipher that he is portrayed as being.’
      • ‘The behaviour of the contestants has reduced them to little more than cyphers, their actions unsympathetic.’
      • ‘Fforde's two previous books contain greater emotional depth, and it's disappointing to see his leading lady dwindling into a cypher.’
  • 3A monogram.

    • ‘Of his many personal ciphers and mottoes one appears more frequently on his personal possessions than any other.’
    • ‘The badge of the Wiltshire's was a combination of the Maltese Cross and the Duke of Edinburgh's coronet and cipher.’
    • ‘Among the drawings are masterpieces by Rex Whistler, whom the Queen Mother also commissioned to design a new royal cipher.’
    • ‘Her Majesty's wishes were that it should be replaced with a Colour bearing the cypher of the Sovereign of the day.’
    numeral, number, integer, figure, digit
    View synonyms

verb

  • 1[with object] Put (a message) into secret writing; encode.

    • ‘An ancient diary tells them that the location of a hidden crypt that has been ciphered within the pages of the Renaissance text.’
    • ‘With a black calligraphy pen, each word had been carefully ciphered in a Gothic style.’
    • ‘Theirs took almost five minutes to cypher and decode, ours took one to two minutes.’
    • ‘It became a vital tool for the Nazis during World War II who used it to cipher and decipher secret messages.’
    • ‘The encryption keys are sent over dedicated links, and the messages ciphered with those keys are transmitted over the Internet.’
  • 2archaic [no object] Do arithmetic.

    • ‘Many people in the community were illiterate, having little need for education beyond simple ciphering, and how to sign one's name.’

Origin

Late Middle English (in the senses symbol for zero and Arabic numeral): from Old French cifre, based on Arabic ṣifr zero.

Pronunciation:

cipher

/ˈsīfər/

Main definitions of cipher in English

: cipher1cipher2

cipher2

noun

  • A continuous sounding of an organ pipe, caused by a mechanical defect.

verb

[NO OBJECT]
  • (of an organ pipe) sound continuously.

Origin

Late 18th century: perhaps from cipher.

Pronunciation:

cipher

/ˈsīfər/