1. a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, as for finding the greatest common divisor.


  1. a logical arithmetical or computational procedure that if correctly applied ensures the solution of a problemCompare heuristic
  2. logic maths a recursive procedure whereby an infinite sequence of terms can be generated

by 1799, from algorithm + -ic. In reference to symbolic rules or language, by 1881.


1690s, from French algorithme, refashioned (under mistaken connection with Greek arithmos “number”) from Old French algorisme “the Arabic numeral system” (13c.), from Medieval Latin algorismus, a mangled transliteration of Arabic al-Khwarizmi “native of Khwarazm,” surname of the mathematician whose works introduced sophisticated mathematics to the West (see algebra). The earlier form in Middle English was algorism (early 13c.), from Old French.


  1. A step-by-step protocol, as for management of health care problems.

  1. A finite set of unambiguous instructions performed in a prescribed sequence to achieve a goal, especially a mathematical rule or procedure used to compute a desired result. Algorithms are the basis for most computer programming.

A set of instructions for solving a problem, especially on a computer. An algorithm for finding your total grocery bill, for example, would direct you to add up the costs of individual items to find the total.

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