Friday, 1 August 2014

Crypto - Secret Words

The source of this image is classified


Combining form. Before a vowel or h also crypt-.
[Greek kruptos hidden.]

Forming words, mostly scientific terms, modelled on Greek compounds,
with the sense 'concealed, secret, not visible to the naked eye',
as cryptogram, cyptobranchiate

Hence as a freely productive element forming nouns and adjective
with the sense 'unavowed(ly), not overt(ly)',
as crypto-Communist, crypto-Fascist, crypto-Semite.

As a child that was always reading books on codes, ciphers, secret societies and espionage, it's hardly surprising that the plethora of crypto- words would make it into Lexicolatry. In fact, of all the prefixes and combining forms I've covered thus far, I can emphatically state that crypto- yielded the most interesting and alluringly mysterious words by far! I could quite happily write a seperate post on each of the subjects below. However, in the interests of self-control (and the possibility of finishing this project before I'm 50), I'm going to show admirable restraint. Thus, I present to you a collection of some of the most interesting crypt- and crypto- words. Enjoy!

Noun. Originally U.S. E20
The practice or art of solving cryptograms by analysis; code-breaking.

Adj. E20
(a) obs. Designating primitive organisms presumed to have existed in earlier geological periods but to have left no trace of their existence;
(b) Crytozoic;
(c) Pertaining to or in a state of cryptobiosis.

Adj. E20
(Of a disease) of obscure or uncertain origin.

Noun. L19
Something written in cipher; a coded message.

Noun. M19
1 A cryptogram. M19
2 A device for encoding or decoding messages. M19

Noun. L20
A secret or coded language.

Noun. M17
1 Secret speech or communication; mysterious or enigmatic language. M17
2 The practice or art of encoding and decoding messages; the knowledge of codes. M20

Noun. L19
A secret name, a code-name.

Adj. L19
Whose name is secret, of the nature of a cryptonym.

Noun. M20
The search for and study of creatures (e.g. the Loch Ness monster)
whose supposed existence is evidenced by tradition, unsubstantiated reports, etc.

A magnifying glass

Do you have any favourite secret words?

Are there any crypto- words that aren't but should be?

Do please hide your most cryptic comments in the box below.


  1. Blimey, there's nothing Cryptic on Kryptonite ;)
    (must wait 'til K to find out the cryptic meaning of the name)

    1. I've just checked, and 'kryptonite' is in the OED! So yes ... wait until K and it'll get done : o )

  2. Cryptocephalus hypochaeridis. Only a coleopterist could deciper that.

    1. Hidden head, under ... hmm ... I can't get the second part. Time for Google ...

    2. Hmm. I can't (immediately) find out why it's called that. And that's what Google is all about, right? Immediately! Grr.

    3. Basically it is a leaf beetle that can retract its head and likes to live in yellow flowers and leaves of the genus hypochaeris. Like a beetle, sometimes it has to be teased out slowly from the undergoogle.

  3. Cryptosporidium is one that was (un)popular in Ireland a few years ago when it got into the tap water.

    1. There's a tap joke in there somewhere, but I wouldn't wanna faucet.