The hidden meaning of crypto

What does the word “crypto” mean to you?

For many decades it has been a term of art in applied mathematics—shorthand for both “cryptography” and “cryptology,” being thereby particularly useful for those of us who don’t want to argue about which of these two words is correct for a given context.

As I have been teaching cryptography/cryptology since the mid ’70s, I have written and accumulated a huge number of documents using the word “crypto” in this sense. But now I will have to edit or rewrite all these assignments, lessons, quizzes, and tests, as most people today think that “crypto” means the blockchain technology known as cryptocurrency! This change of meaning hadn’t even been on my radar screen until one of my summer students told me in August (at the end of the course) that he was excited to learn about bitcoin but didn’t quite see the connection with what he had learned in my course.

For more information, please check out these two sources, each of which is short enough for you to read in a few minutes:

Categories: Linguistics, Math, Teaching & Learning