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Cryptocurrency Glossary

If you are not familiar with cryptocurrencies or stablecoins, there are a few terms you will need to know.

  • Altcoin: any cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin.
  • Bitcoin (BTC): the first and biggest cryptocurrency.
  • Cryptocurrency: “… a digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography, which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend.” In other words, it is money that is created and distributed on a secure computer network, sometimes called crypto. Some are called coins, and some are called tokens. I don’t really know the difference.
  • Decentralized: not subject to private ownership or control by a government. It is controlled only by computers, and the programs are open source.
  • ERC-20: coins and tokens on this list are compatible with the Ethereum network.
  • Ethereum (ETH): the biggest altcoin. ETH tokens are necessary to pay for transactions on the Ethereum network.
  • Exchange: similar to a stock exchange, a cryptocurrency exchange is a website where cryptos are bought, sold, and traded.
  • Fiat currency: what most people mean when they talk about “real money,” e.g., dollars, euros, pesos, yen, etc.
  • Gas fees: payments charged for transactions on the Ethereum network, paid in ETH tokens. Fees fluctuate based on how much traffic is on the network at a given moment.
  • Liquidity: “… refers to the ease with which an asset, or security, can be converted into ready cash without affecting its market price.” If it’s not cash, how quickly can it be converted to cash? In relation to crypto, liquidity means you have crypto on hand to buy, sell, and trade, which is important for exchanges.
  • Mining: the process of creating new Bitcoin (and some altcoins).
  • Stablecoin: a crypto whose value is programmed to match the value of a fiat currency. As the name suggests, this makes the value stable, so it provides an alternative to the volatility of most cryptos. If tied to the dollar, then one coin = $1. Value may fluctuate by a penny or two, but it is designed to correct back to $1.
  • Volatility: the price is subject to wild swings up and down.
  • Wallet: a safe location, online or offline, for storing crypto.