noun, often attributive
                    ci·​pher | \ ?sī-f?r How to pronounce cipher (audio) \

                    Definition of cipher

                     (Entry 1 of 2)

                    b : one that has no weight, worth, or influence : nonentity It was an odd fact that the financier, a cipher in his own home, could impress all sorts of people at the office.— P. G. Wodehouse Why did the family, I wondered, act as if Rita hardly existed? Was she that much of a cipher?— Andrew M. Greeley
                    2a : a method of transforming a text in order to conceal its meaning secret communications written in cipher — compare code sense 3b
                    b : a message in code The cipher cannot be decoded without the key.
                    4 : a combination of symbolic letters especially : the interwoven initials of a name coins that bore the cipher of the sultan


                    ciphered; ciphering\ ?sī-​f(?-​)ri? How to pronounce ciphering (audio) \

                    Definition of cipher (Entry 2 of 2)

                    intransitive verb

                    : to use figures in a mathematical process all children should learn to read, write, and cipher— M. Pattison

                    transitive verb

                    1 : encipher ciphered the letters that passed between the two heads of state
                    2 : to compute arithmetically ciphered out the sum in his head

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                    Synonyms for cipher

                    Synonyms: Noun

                    aught, goose egg, naught (also nought), nil, nothing, o, oh, zero, zilch, zip

                    Synonyms: Verb

                    calculate, compute, figure, reckon, work out

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                    Examples of cipher in a Sentence


                    a cipher that can't be decoded She was nothing more than a cipher.


                    were surprised by how much we had spent on the cruise after we had ciphered out the grand total
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                    Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

                    The attributes of innocence and guilt cancel each other out, making Jodi something of a cipher. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: The Intimate Horrors of Human Nature," 3 Jan. 2019 However, a different version of the couple's joint cipher appeared on their wedding cake in 2011, where the C and W were overlaid. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "How Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Monogram Compares to Kate Middleton and Prince William's," 31 July 2018 The process is supposed to take multiple days given the rate at which the game doles out new letters for the nuclear codes, in addition to having to break a cipher just to put it all into use. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "Fallout 76’s first end-game nuke launches, starts apocalyptic battle," 15 Nov. 2018 In former MI5 Assistant Director Peter Wright's book Spycatcher, Wright recounted how British intelligence used a phone tap to record audio from an Egyptian embassy's cipher machine during the Suez Crisis. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Researchers find way to spy on remote screens—through the webcam mic," 28 Aug. 2018 And the show has been (lightly) criticized for turning Budd in to something of a cipher. Chloe Schama, Vogue, "Bodyguard Is the Best Political Thriller Since Homeland," 24 Oct. 2018 The joint logo certainly looks curlier and more ornate than the Duke and Duchess' individual ciphers. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "How Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Monogram Compares to Kate Middleton and Prince William's," 31 July 2018 On the other hand, them being ciphers is kind of the point. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Is Westworld moving forward or going in circles?," 18 June 2018 On the page, its words can seem as blunt and cipher-like as notes on a musical staff. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: In an Energized ‘Iceman,’ the Drinks are on Denzel," 26 Apr. 2018

                    Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

                    These remnants, signals from an earlier phase of our human condition, have been endlessly ciphered by generations of archaeologists in the Bears Ears region (which is named for twin buttes near its center). Stephen Nash, New York Times, "At Bears Ears in Utah, Heated Politics and Precious Ruins," 25 July 2017

                    These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cipher.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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                    First Known Use of cipher


                    14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


                    circa 1530, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

                    History and Etymology for cipher

                    Noun and Verb

                    Middle English, from Medieval Latin cifra, from Arabic ?ifr empty, cipher, zero

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                    Statistics for cipher

                    Last Updated

                    23 Apr 2019

                    Look-up Popularity

                    Time Traveler for cipher

                    The first known use of cipher was in the 14th century

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                    More Definitions for cipher



                    English Language Learners Definition of cipher

                    technical : a way of changing a message to keep it secret
                    formal + disapproving : a person who has no power or is not important


                    ci·​pher | \ ?sī-f?r How to pronounce cipher (audio) \

                    Kids Definition of cipher

                     (Entry 1 of 2)

                    2 : a method of secret writing or the alphabet or letters and symbols used in such writing
                    3 : a message in code


                    ciphered; ciphering

                    Kids Definition of cipher (Entry 2 of 2)

                    : to use figures in doing a problem in arithmetic : calculate

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                    More from Merriam-Webster on cipher

                    Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cipher

                    Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cipher

                    Spanish Central: Translation of cipher

                    Nglish: Translation of cipher for Spanish Speakers

                    Britannica English: Translation of cipher for Arabic Speakers

           Encyclopedia article about cipher

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