IATE Term of the Week: cryptocurrency

September 29, 2017 10:00 am

Although many people still seem to be apprehensive about using cryptocurrencies, they have become a global phenomenon known to almost everyone. For this reason, the term cryptocurrency has been chosen as this week’s IATE Term of the Week.


Basically, cryptocurrencies were designed as a unit of exchange and as a place to store assets without relying on a bank and they drew people’s attention in short time.

IATE defines cryptocurrency as a “form of digital currency based on mathematics, where encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds and which operates independently of a central bank.”

Here you can see the entry for cryptocurrency in IATE:

IATE entry for cryptocurrency

In fact, cryptography, the process of converting legible information into an almost uncrackable code, was born out of the need for secure communication in the Second World War and it has evolved in the digital era with elements of mathematical theory and computer science to become a way to secure communications, information and money online.

The first cryptocurrency to hit the scene was Bitcoin. Being still the best known, it was invented in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, a secretive internet user, and it went online in 2009. In his announcement of Bitcoin in late 2008, Satoshi said he developed “a Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System“ and the most important part of his invention was the fact that he found a way to build a decentralised one.  In the past decade, there has been a proliferation of cryptocurrencies and there are now more than 900 available, the most common of which are Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin.

A diagram of how cryptocurrency works

Cryptocurrencies use decentralised technology to let users make secure payments and store money without the need to use their name or go through a bank. They are known for being secure and providing a level of anonymity. But because of the anonymity they offer, they are often associated with illegal activities, particularly on the dark web.

For a growing number of investors, cryptocurrency is not only the future of money, but also an attractive and potentially profitable investment asset, though highly risky and volatile.

Contribute to IATE! We would appreciate your contribution to update this term in your language. A terminologist of the relevant language will be in charge of the validation of contributions and, thus, a delay is to be expected.

IATE Term of the Week banner - Definition of cryptocurrency

We suggest that you check some previous IATE Terms of the Week that relate to finance:

We also encourage you to check related glossaries through our Glossary Links tool and through our recently-updated EU Glossaries‘ list!

Enjoy terminology learning and have a nice weekend!


  • McGoogan, C., Field, M. (2017) “What is cryptocurrency, how does it work and why do we use it?” in The Telegraph. Available at: http://bit.ly/2wmMN9w (Accessed 28 September 2017)
  • Wong, K. (2017) “What You Should Know About Cryptocurrency”, two cents. Available at: http://bit.ly/2xIwMOf (Accessed 28 September 2017)
  • Blockgeeks (n.d.) “What is Cryptocurrency: Everything You Need To Know”. Available at: http://bit.ly/2fTz3No (Accessed 28 September 2017)

Written by Georgia Nikolaidou – Terminology Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. BA in Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting from the Ionian University on Corfu and MA in Translation (EMT) from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Prepared by Pedro RamosTranslator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg).

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