# algorithm

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## English

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### Etymology

From French algorithme; from the Old French algorisme (the Arabic numeral system), a modification likely due to a mistaken connection with Ancient Greek ἀριθμός (arithmós); from Medieval Latin algorismus, a transliteration of Arabicized form of the name of the Persian mathematician al-Khwārizmī (الخوارزمي (native of Khwarezm)).

### Pronunciation

• IPA(key): /ˈælɡəɹɪðm/
•  Audio (US) Sorry, your browser either has JavaScript disabled or does not have any supported player. You can download the clip or download a player to play the clip in your browser. (file)
• Hyphenation: al‧go‧ri‧thm

### Noun

algorithm (plural algorithms)

1. A precise step-by-step plan for a computational procedure that possibly begins with an input value and yields an output value in a finite number of steps.
• 1990, Cormen, Leiserson, and Rivest, Introduction to Algorithms: page 1. Cambridge, MA, The MIT Press, 1999 (23rd printing)
Informally, an algorithm is any well-defined computational procedure that takes some value, or set of values, as input and produces some value, or set of values, as output. An algorithm is thus a sequence of computational steps that transform the input into the output.
• 2013 July 26, Leo Hickman, “How algorithms rule the world”, The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 7, page 26:
The use of algorithms in policing is one example of their increasing influence on our lives. And, as their ubiquity spreads, so too does the debate around whether we should allow ourselves to become so reliant on them – and who, if anyone, is policing their use.
2. (archaic) Calculation with Arabic numerals; algorism.

#### Usage notes

• Though some technical definitions require that an algorithm always terminate in a finite number of steps, this distinction is not generally observed in practice.