• A set of mathematical instructions, or a computer program, used to produce a control output.


  • A sequence of defined steps utilized to solve a problem. encryption, for instance, utilizes algorithms for coding and decoding.

Health Economics

  • (written as Algorithm)
    A mathematical procedure or formula for solving a problem in a sequential fashion, with each step depending on the outcome of the previous one. Named, in a corrupted 12th-century Latinate version, after the great scholar Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi (780-850 CE) who was born in the ancient Persian empire (in the territory now called Uzbekistan) and spent most of his working life in Baghdad, then arguably the greatest intellectual centre in the world. The root of the word 'algebra' is directly derived from his great work Kitab al-Jabr.

Information & Library Science

  • noun a logical sequence of steps for solving a problem, often written out as a flow chart, that can be translated into a computer program

Origin & History of “algorithm”

Algorithm comes from the name of an Arab mathematician, in full Abu Ja far Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi (c. 780–c. 850), who lived and taught in Baghdad and whose works in translation introduced Arabic numerals to the west. The last part of his name means literally ‘man from Khwarizm’, a town on the borders of Turkmenistan, now called Khiva.

The Arabic system of numeration and calculation, based on 10, of which he was the chief exponent, became known in Arabic by his name – al-khwarizmi. This was borrowed into medieval Latin as algorismus (with the Arabic -izmi transformed into the Latin suffix -ismus ‘-ism’). In Old French algorismus became augorime, which was the basis of the earliest English form of the word, augrim. From the 14th century onwards, Latin influence gradually led to the adoption of the spelling algorism in English. This remains the standard form of the word when referring to the Arabic number system; but in the late 17th century an alternative version, algorithm, arose owing to association with Greek árithmos ‘number’ (source of arithmetic (13th c.)), and this became established from the 1930s onwards as the term for a step-by-step mathematical procedure, as used in computing.

Algol, the name of a computer programming language, was coined in the late 1950s from ‘algorithmic language’.