# algorithmically

**al·go·rithm**(ăl’gə-rĭ′əm)*th*__n.__**▸**A finite set of unambiguous instructions that, given some set of initial conditions, can be performed in a prescribed sequence to achieve a certain goal and that has a recognizable set of end conditions.**╂**[Variant (probably influenced by**ARITHMETIC**(Cf. ↑arithmetic)) of**ALGORISM**(Cf. ↑algorism).]**al′go·rith’mic**(-rĭ’mĭk)*th*__adj.__**al′go·rith’mi·cal·ly**__adv.__Because of its popularity over the last century, one might figure*Word History:**algorithm*for a new coinage. The source of*algorithm,*however, is not Silicon Valley but Khwarizm, a region near the Aral Sea in south-central Asia and the birthplace of the ninth-century mathematician Muhammad ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi (780?-850?). Al-Khwarizmi, "the Khwarizmian," who later lived in Baghdad, wrote a treatise on what is called*algorism,*or the use of Arabic numerals for mathematical computation. Despite the name by which the Arabic numerals are known in Europe, these symbols, as well as the methods for using them, were actually developed in ancient India. Europeans learned to use the numerals, however, through treatises written in Arabic by mathematicians working in the Muslim world.*Algorism,*the English word for computation with Arabic numerals, is derived from Al-Khwarizmi's name. The word*algorithm*originated as a variant spelling of*algorism,*probably under the influence of the word*arithmetic*or its Greek source*arithmos,*"number." With the development of sophisticated mechanical computing devices in the 20th century,*algorithm*was adopted as a convenient word for a recursive mathematical procedure, the computer's stock-in-trade. In its new life as a computer term,*algorithm,*no longer a variant of*algorism,*nevertheless reminds us of the debt that modern technology owes to the scientists and scholars of ancient and medieval times.

*Word Histories.
2014.*

### Look at other dictionaries:

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