Browse Definitions :


A cryptogram is a word puzzle featuring encrypted text that the user decrypts to reveal a message of some sort. Once used for message security, cryptograms are now typically only used for entertainment purposes in newspapers and magazines. Cryptoquotes and cryptoquips are common variations that feature quotations.

Cryptograms in newspapers and magazines are usually based on a simple substitution cipher, often replacing each letter in the alphabet with a different one. The letter A, for example, might be represented by the letter K, while the letter K is represented by the letter R. Puzzle solvers use a number of methods to help them decrypt the messages.

Frequency analysis can be applied to note how often words or particular combinations of letters appear. Coupled with a knowledge of common short words, that information can yield helpful clues. A single letter usually represents either "A" or "I," common two-letter words include "if," "as" and "at," and a three-letter word is quite often "the" or "and." If a single letter also appears as the start of a three-letter word, then that word has a better-than-average chance of being "and," since "T" (the first letter in "the") is not a word.

Patterns of letters and words provide more clues for cryptanalysis. For example, a four letter word starting and ending with the same letter has a better-than-average possibility of being "that." You might then notice a three-letter word starting with the two same letters, which is likely to be "the" if "that" is correct. Penciling in every occurence of those letters that can be guessed will provide the solver with clues about the other letters and words.

Cryptograms have a long history. One of the best known is Caesar's cipher, which is said to be among the less complicated used by the Roman Emperor. According to Suetonius, who wrote a set of biographies of Julius Caesar in 121 A.D.:

"If he had anything confidential to say, he wrote it in cipher, that is, by so changing the order of the letters of the alphabet, that not a word could be made out. If anyone wishes to decipher these, and get at their meaning, he must substitute the fourth letter of the alphabet, namely D, for A, and so with the others."

From Caesar's day (at least), cryptograms were used to protect the content of military and personal messages. Cryptograms designed purely for entertainment purposes made their appearance in the Middle Ages as an intellectual pastime for monks. More recently, in 1929, the American Cryptogram Association was formed with the goal of making the cryptogram as valued by hobbyists with chess, in the words of the ACA: “thus contributing to the happiness of mankind.”

Here's an example of a cryptogram based on one of our Favorite Technology Quotes:

All hail the computer!
This was last updated in November 2017

Continue Reading About cryptogram


  • information governance

    Information governance is a holistic approach to managing corporate information by implementing processes, roles, controls and ...

  • enterprise document management (EDM)

    Enterprise document management (EDM) is a strategy for overseeing an organization's paper and electronic documents so they can be...

  • risk assessment

    Risk assessment is the identification of hazards that could negatively impact an organization's ability to conduct business.


  • honeypot (computing)

    A honeypot is a network-attached system set up as a decoy to lure cyber attackers and detect, deflect and study hacking attempts ...

  • spam trap

    A spam trap is an email address that is used to identify and monitor spam email.

  • cracker

    A cracker is someone who breaks into someone else's computer system, often on a network; bypasses passwords or licenses in ...



  • risk mitigation

    Risk mitigation is a strategy to prepare for and lessen the effects of threats faced by a business.

  • call tree

    A call tree is a layered hierarchical communication model that is used to notify specific individuals of an event and coordinate ...

  • Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

    Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) is the replication and hosting of physical or virtual servers by a third party to provide ...


  • storage virtualization

    Storage virtualization is the pooling of physical storage from multiple storage devices into what appears to be a single storage ...

  • erasure coding

    Erasure coding (EC) is a method of data protection in which data is broken into fragments, expanded and encoded with redundant ...

  • continuous data protection

    Continuous data protection (CDP), also known as continuous backup, is a backup and recovery storage system in which all the data ...