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Dictionary maker gets behind 'blockchain' and 'cryptocurrency'

Merriam-Webster's website adds 850 new words and definitions, including a few popular digital-finance buzzwords.

Artist's rendering of a handshake.

You can now look up words like "blockchain" and "cryptocurrency" in the dictionary. 

Aaron Robinson/CNET

If you're not exactly sure what blockchain and cryptocurrency are, you have a new resource at your fingertips for finding out: the good ol' dictionary. 

Merriam-Webster has added 850 new terms to its site, including trendy words like "kombucha" and "life hack." 

Acknowledging a hot topic in tech and finance circles, the dictionary maker also created entries for "cryptocurrency," "blockchain" and "initial coin offering" ("the first sale of bitcoin-like digital currency," Merriam-Webster explains). It also welcomed "unicorn," the term venture capitalists use to refer to a startup valued at $1 billion or more.

Blockchain is the technology behind bitcoin, a digital currency (aka cryptocurrency) that's seen its fair share of fluctuations in value over the last year. 

It works this way: Certain online transactions create or build blockchains, ever-growing sets of data blocks that act as a kind of ledger. Instead of storing information on a central computer, blockchains distribute it across a group of computers.

And it's not just for finance. Blockchain can be used for a variety of purposes, from ensuring that food ordered online is legit to making sure a prescription drug isn't counterfeit

 Blockchain Decoded:  Get a closer look at the tech powering bitcoin -- and soon, too, a myriad of services that will change your life.

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