'Satoshi' and other great words from the crypto lexicon

19 October, 2019

You cannot have something as prolific as cryptocurrency evolve over a decade of time without it affecting the way people speak. At the very least, those interested in following cryptocurrency have developed their own vocabulary and catchphrases. The amazing thing is that some of the more well-known terms in the crypto lexicon have now made it into the mainstream. 'Satoshi' is one of them.

Believe it or not, 'satoshi' is now officially recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as a word for the masses. In their most recent edition of the revered dictionary, editors have defined 'satoshi' as "the smallest monetary unit in the bitcoin digital payment system, equal to one hundred millionth of a bitcoin." The dictionary sites numerous uses of the word dating back to at least 2012.

Adding satoshi to the Oxford dictionary is no small thing. If you're not sure why, consider how the organization behind it describes itself in its official corpus:

"Our role is to monitor and record emerging vocabulary so that we can make new terms available to our dictionary users as soon as they start to gain traction. This involves identifying and tracking new words, capturing new word meanings, and updating existing dictionary entries with new evidence."

The OED essentially sees its mission as one of tracking the English language and updating its dictionaries with new words and definitions as the language evolves. Every time a new word or updated definition is added, the OED is recognizing its regular use in normal speech.

More about Satoshi

It is great for the cryptocurrency community that 'satoshi' has been recognized as a legitimate word worthy of publishing in the world's foremost English dictionary. But where did it come from? What is its origin? The word finds its roots in the history of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is the first commercially viable cryptocurrency ever introduced. It was developed more than a decade ago by an unknown developer or group of developers who chose to use the pseudonym 'Satoshi Nakamoto'. We know very little about this individual, or group of developers if that is the case, other than a few breadcrumbs gleaned from interviews given years ago.

Satoshi Nakamoto wisely divided the bitcoin into smaller and larger denominations for ease-of-use. The term 'satoshi' was used to denote the smallest denomination through which most people would use the bitcoin to buy and sell. As such, the satoshi is to Bitcoin what the penny is to the U.S. dollar or British pound.

For the record, numerous people over the years have claimed to be the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. No such claims have ever been backed up by real world evidence. As such, we still do not know who actually developed Bitcoin way back then.

With 'satoshi' now an official word in the Oxford English Dictionary, we thought it might be interesting to look at some of the other great words and phrases in the cryptocurrency lexicon. Who knows? Maybe smore of them will eventually be added to the dictionary.


It should be obvious that 'crypto' is just a shortened version of 'cryptocurrency'. We English speakers are lazy in the sense that we don't want to speak more syllables than we absolutely have to. So we shorten words all the time. 'Cryptocurrency' gets shortened to 'crypto' because the latter has three fewer syllables and rolls off the tongue more easily.

There is some debate as to whether or not this abbreviation should be used. Those against it cite the fact that 'crypto' has already been used as a shortened version of 'cryptography' over the years. They think cryptocurrency fans should come up with another term so as to avoid confusion.

Whether or not people actually stop using the abbreviation to refer to cryptocurrency is unclear. If we had to bet, we would say it is not going to happen. The term 'crypto' has become so embedded within the cryptocurrency community that it's unlikely to ever go away.


One of the more ubiquitous words birthed from the cryptocurrency phenomenon is 'blockchain'. This is no accident. While Satoshi Nakamoto and the Bitcoin project might be responsible for introducing blockchain to the world, it did not take long for other software developers to seize on the blockchain idea and make it their own. As such, blockchain is everywhere these days.

If you are not familiar with blockchain, it is a computer technology designed to facilitate data exchange and record keeping in an immutable ledger. The term itself is derived from the fact that data stored in the ledger is contained inside blocks. Said blocks are of limited size, facilitating the need to create new blocks as data is added. New blocks are added to existing blocks to form a chain of data.

The people behind the Ethereum project were the first to hit on the idea of using blockchain as a platform for building certain kinds of applications. The technology had already proven itself as a foundation for a monetary system, so the Ethereum people decided to take it to the next level.

Today, there are countless applications and digital asset projects built on the Ethereum foundation. That's why you hear so much about blockchain payment systems, video games, logistics applications, accounting programs, and so forth. Suffice to say that blockchain is not just for cryptocurrency anymore.

Smart Contract

Among all the words and phrases in the cryptocurrency lexicon, perhaps none is more misunderstood than 'smart contract'. A smart contract is essentially a subroutine programmed into the larger blockchain code for the purposes of executing certain activities within the blockchain. A smart contract is not smart in the sense that it relies on deep learning or artificial intelligence to do what it does. It is only smart in the sense that it executes automatically.

When you buy something with Bitcoin, digital tokens must be transferred from your wallet to the seller's wallet. The path your tokens take is not as straight as it might seem. Numerous actions have to take place across the Bitcoin ecosystem in order for the transaction to be considered valid and final. Bitcoin's network relies on a series of smart contracts to implement those actions.

Your Bitcoin payment initiates the first contract, a contract that sends information about the transaction to the Bitcoin network. Upon reaching the network, another contract is triggered to tell nodes on the network to begin processing the transaction. Meanwhile, a third contract has been triggered to facilitate the seller's wallet sending the information required to receive the tokens.

A series of additional contracts are executed until the tokens finally end up in the seller's wallet. All of these contracts execute automatically - which is to say that no human intervention is required to complete the actions. Once the seller agrees to accept the tokens and the buyer initiates the transfer, everything else is done by computer.


If 'smart contract' is the most misunderstood term in the crypto lexicon, 'token' is not far behind. It is fairly common for the terms 'coin' and 'token' to be used interchangeably when talking about blockchain projects. However, they are two distinctly different things.

A coin in the cryptocurrency world is a digital representation of a monetary system. The coin associated with Bitcoin is known simply as a bitcoin. It is traded on exchanges under the BTC symbol. In the Ethereum ecosystem, the coin by which people can make payments is known as ether.

The thing about blockchain is that its usefulness is not limited to monetary systems. You could build an application for tracking package delivery using blockchain as a base. In order for it to work though, you would need some sort of marker that can be transferred back and forth in order to trigger smart contracts. That marker is a token.

In the simplest possible terms, a token does for a non-monetary blockchain system what the coin does for a monetary system. You can easily remember it this way: digital assets related to cryptocurrency blockchains are coins; assets related to non-cryptocurrency blockchains are tokens.

Alt Coin

The next term in our list is 'alt coin'. This is another one of those terms that gets misused from time to time. A true alt coin is any cryptocurrency project other than Bitcoin. In other words, Bitcoin is the standard crypto. All others are alt coins. They include projects like Litecoin, Monero, XRP, etc.

In summary

There are tons of other terms we could explore here but space will not permit. Perhaps that means another post is in order. At any rate, the big take-away here is that the cryptocurrency ecosystem has become so prolific a decade after Bitcoin's release that it is starting to affect the language. That is a really big deal.

When new things affect daily language, it is an indication that they have become socially acceptable and culturally entrenched. Adding to the language also indicates that the subject in question is likely here to stay. This all points to very good things for cryptocurrency in general, and Bitcoin more specifically.

'Satoshi' now being part of the Oxford English Dictionary establishes the legitimacy of Bitcoin as an alternative monetary system and an investment. If you are crypto user, you already knew that anyway.