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If you’re involved with any subculture for any length of time, you quickly begin to notice that it has its own vocabulary. Whether it’s a religious, political, or local community group, longtime members tend to use certain unfamiliar terms or use familiar terms in an unfamiliar way. The reason for this is mostly convenience; it’s a shorthand way of referring to concepts and ideas well-known to the group. But it can be disconcerting to new members nonetheless.
The cryptocurrency community is no different. Those just beginning to look into Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are met with an onslaught of acronyms, unfamiliar terms, and references that make no sense. Unfortunately, to make matters more confusing, in the crypto world there are also multiple meanings to many terms, because they have been co-opted by those on one side or another of an internal cryptocurrency debate (subcultures within subcultures!).
To help out, below is a reference of various cryptocurrency-related terms, with their actual definition, and how they are often used in practice.
What it means: Any cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin.
Example: “Altcoins now account for 50% of the total cryptocurrency market capitalization.”
How it’s often used: A derogatory term that suggests the project is just a scam.
Example: “Ethereum is just an altcoin. It’s got no real-world uses.”
What it means: A project community coming to agreement on proposed changes to the project’s network protocol.
Example: “Once 90% of miners signal for the upgrade, we will consider that consensus and upgrade the network within two weeks.”
How it’s often used: A barrier to prevent implementing any changes I don’t like.
Example: “My twitter poll showed only 30% of users agree with that upgrade; obviously we don’t have consensus.”
Antonym: Controversial split
What it means: A network in which no one person or group is in control; instead decisions are made by the free choices of all the participants.
Example: “Bitcoin was created to be a decentralized electronic payment system.”
How it’s often used: A mythic state that is only achieved by projects I support and rejected by projects I don’t like.
Example: “I can’t believe Dash has Masternodes—don’t they believe in decentralization?”
Antonym: Centralized, a.k.a. “evil.”
What it means: When a cryptocurrency’s value decreases quickly following a sell-off by many of its main holders.
Example: “A month after CoinB reached its peak, it dropped down to only pennies when the founders disappeared. I guess they dumped it.”
How it’s often used: Any decrease in a coin’s value I didn’t see coming.
Example: “I can’t believe Litecoin went down by $2 yesterday. Obviously a dump.”
What it means: An acronym for “fear, uncertainty, and doubt,” it refers to (usually false) news that is propagated to attack cryptocurrency in general, or one coin specifically.
Example: “Did you hear that report about the bug in Ethereum? That’s just FUD.”
How it’s often used: A label for any news or opinion related to my favorite cryptocurrency that I don’t agree with.
Example: “I can’t believe the FUD being spread by those big-blockers!”
Antonym: Good News.
What it means: A change in the underlying consensus rules for a cryptocurrency project that is not backwards compatible.
Example: “Bitcoin Cash is scheduling a hard fork for next month to upgrade its protocol.”
How it’s often used: Any upgrade I don’t like.
Example: “Gavin is planning a hard fork – it’s an attack on Bitcoin!”
Antonym: Soft Fork
What it means: The allocation of coins in a cryptocurrency project before the project is publicly launched (pre-mine), or which are allocated very quickly at the beginning of the project (instamine).
Example: “Project CoinY is premining one million coins for the founders and developers of the project.”
How it’s often used: Any allocation of coins that didn’t include me.
Example: “Those scammers over at CoinZ instamined one million coins for themselves and their friends and no one knew about it! (At least I didn’t.). Such scammers.”
Antonym: “Fair distribution”
What it means: When a cryptocurrency’s value increases quickly based on the self-promotion of the project.
Example: “Did you see how much that new coin’s value rose? Its founders really pumped it.”
How it’s often used: Any increase in a coin’s value I didn’t see coming.
Example: “I can’t believe Dash went up $2 yesterday. Obviously a pump.”
What it means: A cryptocurrency project that exists solely to make money for its creator.
Example: “OneCoin is a pyramid scheme and a scam.”
How it’s often used: Any successful cryptocurrency project that I didn’t think would be successful.
Example: “I can’t believe Ripple is a Top 5 cryptocurrency; it’s just a scam.”
What it means: A person who is paid to relentlessly promote a specific cryptocurrency project.
Example: “I hear that Project CoinX just hired a bunch of people to shill for their coin.”
How it’s often used: Anyone who says anything positive about a cryptocurrency I don’t like.
Example: “Roger Ver is just a shill for Bitcoin Cash.”
What terms did I miss? Comment below!