Many bitcoin-adjacent subcultures have cropped up in the time since its 2009 launch, and with new subcultures often comes new terminology. “Bitcoin” was once a novel word itself—it first appeared in the bitcoin whitepaper merging the concepts of a digital “bit” and “coin”.
You may run across confusing bitcoin-associated terms in various places: books, podcasts, social media, and, increasingly, in traditional media outlets. Here we’ll cover the most popular bitcoin-adjacent terms, acronyms, and other slang—with brief origin stories, where available.
“Crypto” is a term often used to describe the “cryptocurrency space” as a whole. Bitcoiners, however, tend to make a distinction between bitcoin and crypto—often using the latter term in a derogatory way to refer to the thousands of non-bitcoin crypto-projects (i.e., altcoins), all of which face varying degrees of uncertainty about their long-term viability.
Interestingly, before the advent of cryptocurrency, crypto was more commonly understood as short for “cryptography,” not “cryptocurrency”—much to the recent chagrin of cryptographers.
DYOR stands for “do your own research”. DYOR is a disclaimer that encourages due diligence and taking personal responsibility when making decisions about investing or saving for the future—especially in bitcoin.
DYOR can carry a variety of meanings, but it is generally used to suggest someone dig deeper into the information they encounter online to determine its legitimacy for themselves, warn someone not to take one person’s words as final, or suggest someone become better informed about bitcoin as a whole (i.e., being able to articulate the difference between bitcoin and crypto).
DYOR is also a warning to be on the lookout for scams. Especially in the “cryptocurrency space,” many projects are owned and controlled by stakeholders hoping to “pump” a project for their own gain. DYOR promotes the idea of examining more deeply the validity of such hype before taking action.
FOMO means “fear of missing out”. In general, FOMO describes anxiety about missing what is perceived to be a limited window of opportunity to participate in some positive event. In bitcoin, it usually refers to fear that, if you don’t take advantage of it now, you may miss out on the opportunity for a dramatic upswing in price.
The danger with FOMO is that it is reactionary and emotion-based, which frequently leads to errors in decision making. It commonly exerts its most powerful influence as prices near their peak, and in volatile markets, FOMO may lead to buying at or near the top of a price swing only to experience unrealized losses soon thereafter.
The antidote to FOMO is making a plan and sticking to it. When acquiring bitcoin, a technique many people use to counteract the emotional pressure of FOMO is dollar-cost averaging. This approach is both rational and unemotional and tends to reduce the psychological impact of price volatility over time.
FUD stands for “fear, uncertainty, and doubt”. FUD refers to negative stories or other commentary in the media intended to stir fear and anxiety about the future of bitcoin. These stories may be spread by general naysayers, people supporting alternative projects, or individuals wishing to temporarily suppress the price of bitcoin in order to acquire it less expensively.
There are several categories of bitcoin FUD. Most are repeated ad nauseum by the media regardless of having been exhaustively debunked in the past.
Some examples include:
- Governments will ban bitcoin
- Bitcoin uses too much energy
- Bitcoin is a pyramid scheme
- Bitcoin is too slow
- Bitcoin is backed by nothing
- Bitcoin is too volatile
- Bitcoin is only used by criminals
Such stories are so common, some popular websites keep track of “bitcoin obituaries” with hundreds of FUD-backed stories listed. The antidote to FUD is gaining a better understanding of the counterarguments. An excellent primer on bitcoin fundamentals that includes well-articulated rebuttals to most common FUD is Parker Lewis’ Gradually, Then Suddenly series.
HFSP stands for “have fun staying poor”. This expression applies to several circumstances, but it’s generally used to discount criticism of bitcoin by exhibiting confidence that bitcoin will succeed despite the arguments that might be made. In other words, HFSP says “bitcoin’s value will continue to rise, and instead of confronting your counterargument, I’ll simply allow you to be disproven with time.”
Bitcoin pioneer Adam Back once noted HFSP could be considered a “…shorter form of the gem Satoshi (Nakamoto) quote, ‘If you don’t believe it or don’t get it, I don’t have the time to try to convince you, sorry.’”
HODL is a misspelling of the word “hold” that took on a life of its own. It was originally part of the text of a viral forum post on BitcoinTalk.org in December 18, 2013.
The author, GameKyuubi, lamenting his ability as a short-term trader, stated, “You only sell in a bear market if you are a good day trader or an illusioned noob. The people inbetween [sic] hold. In a zero-sum game such as this, traders can only take your money if you sell.”
The expression HODL has since become a rallying cry for those who save in bitcoin and hold regardless of market conditions.
Probably one of the more contentious terms on this list, “maxi” refers to a bitcoin maximalist, which most commonly refers to someone who only owns or supports bitcoin and not other cryptocurrencies.
There’s also a harder definition: Someone who understands that the world is converging towards one form of money and that bitcoin has the optimal and most credible monetary policy of any currency that has ever existed.
NGMI means “not going to make it”. This acronym is most often used to suggest a person is making a financial decision that will not turn out well for them. It’s also used to discount a news story, opinion, or other commentary as foolish or indefensible in the face of criticism or logical counter-argument.
In the bitcoin community, you might see NGMI used as a quick way to characterize the arguments of Keynesian economists, monetarists, FUD promoters, or crypto-proponents as untenable or likely to lead to poor financial outcomes for their proponents.
“Pleb” is short for plebeian. In ancient Rome, commoners, as opposed to wealthy ruling-class patricians, were called “plebeians”. Historically, the plebeians fought with patricians for more rights and greater political influence in society. In bitcoin, calling someone (or oneself) a “pleb” is considered a form of humility. It is a title worn by those who claim not to know everything, but humbly do the best they can while advocating for bitcoin and individual sovereignty.
Rekt is the phonetic spelling of the word “wrecked”. As a cultural term, it can mean anything from losing badly in a sport or video game to being intoxicated. In bitcoin, it generally refers to loss of funds due to altcoin trading, over-leverage, or other imprudent strategies. It also refers to situations that could lead to loss of funds, such as leaving bitcoin in exchange custody.
A “whale” is someone who owns a large amount of bitcoin. The actions of whales are followed closely by observers due to whales’ ability to impact liquidity and move market prices. Once the term whale caught on, various additional names emerged for other individuals based on the amount of bitcoin owned (usually applied by influencers on social media).
Not your keys, not your bitcoin
“Not your keys, not your bitcoin” is an expression that calls out the fact that bitcoin only answers to the person holding its private keys. When your bitcoin is left on an exchange (or held in other forms of trusted third-party custody) you only have an IOU. Without holding the private keys, you have effectively given up control of your funds.
Learn more about best practices for self-custody and protecting your bitcoin savings from exchange hacks, insolvency, and other impairments by scheduling a free consultation with a member of Unchained Capital’s concierge team. Right now, Concierge Onboarding is on promotion—for only $250, we’ll help you get your bitcoin safely into multisig cold storage that you control.