AskDefine | Define code

Dictionary Definition



1 a set of rules or principles or laws (especially written ones) [syn: codification]
2 a coding system used for transmitting messages requiring brevity or secrecy
3 (computer science) the symbolic arrangement of data or instructions in a computer program or the set of such instructions [syn: computer code]


1 attach a code to; "Code the pieces with numbers so that you can identify them later"
2 convert ordinary language into code; "We should encode the message for security reasons" [syn: encode, encipher, cipher, cypher, encrypt, inscribe, write in code] [ant: decode]

User Contributed Dictionary



From code with the meaning of a "system of law", from codex, caudex, the stock or tem of a tree, a board or tablet of wood smeared over with wax, on which the ancients originally wrote; hence, a book, a writing.



  1. A very short abbreviation, often with little correlation to the item it represents
    You assigned the same "unique" code to two intake-categories, causing a database error!
  2. A body of law, sanctioned by legislation, in which the rules of law to be specifically applied by the courts are set forth in systematic form; a compilation of laws by public authority; a digest.
    "The collection of laws made by the order of Justinian is sometimes called, by way of eminence, "The Code"." -Wharton
  3. Any system of rules or regulations relating to one subject; as, the medical code, a system of rules for the regulation of the professional conduct of physicians; the naval code, a system of rules for making communications at sea means of signals.
  4. A set of rules for converting information into another form or representation.
  5. A cryptographic system using a codebook that converts words or phrases into codewords.
  6. Source code.

Related terms



  1. To write software programs.
  2. To categorise by assigning identifiers from a schedule, for example CPT coding for medical insurance purposes.
  3. To encode.
    We should code the messages we sent out on usenet.


Derived terms






  • lang=fr|/kɔd/
  • SAMPA: /kOd/





  1. Plural of coda

Extensive Definition

In communications, a code is a rule for converting a piece of information (for example, a letter, word, or phrase) into another form or representation, not necessarily of the same type. In communications and information processing, encoding is the process by which information from a source is converted into symbols to be communicated. Decoding is the reverse process, converting these code symbols back into information understandable by a receiver.
One reason for coding is to enable communication in places where ordinary spoken or written language is difficult or impossible. For example, a cable code replaces words (e.g., ship or invoice) into shorter words, allowing the same information to be sent with fewer characters, more quickly, and most important, less expensively. Another example is the use of semaphore, where the configuration of flags held by a signaller or the arms of a semaphore tower encodes parts of the message, typically individual letters and numbers. Another person standing a great distance away can interpret the flags and reproduce the words sent.
In the history of cryptography, codes were once common for ensuring the confidentiality of communications, although ciphers are now used instead. See code (cryptography).

Codes in communication used for brevity

Code can be used for brevity. When telegraph messages were the state of the art in rapid long distance communication, elaborate commercial codes which encoded complete phrases into single words (commonly five-letter groups) were developed, so that telegraphers became conversant with such "words" as BYOXO ("Are you trying to weasel out of our deal?"), LIOUY ("Why do you not answer my question?"), or AYYLU ("Not clearly coded, repeat more clearly."). Code words were chosen for various reasons: length, pronounceability, etc. Meanings were chosen to fit perceived needs: commercial negotiations, military terms for military codes, diplomatic terms for diplomatic codes, any and all of the preceding for espionage codes. Codebooks and codebook publishers proliferated, including one run as a front for the American Black Chamber run by Herbert Yardley between WWI and WWII. The purpose of most of these codes was to save on cable costs. The use of data coding for data compression predates the computer era; an early example is the telegraph Morse code where more frequently-used characters have shorter representations. Techniques such as Huffman coding are now used by computer-based algorithms to compress large data files into a more compact form for storage or transmission.

An example: the ASCII code

Probably the most widely known data communications code (aka character representation) in use today is ASCII. In one or another (somewhat compatible) version, it is used by nearly all personal computers, terminals, printers, and other communication equipment. It represents 128 characters with seven-bit binary numbers—that is, as a string of seven 1s and 0s. In ASCII a lowercase "a" is always 1100001, an uppercase "A" always 1000001, and so on. Successors to ASCII have included 8-bit characters (for letters of European languages and such things as card suit symbols), and in fullest flowering have included characters from essentially all of the world's writing systems (see Unicode and UTF-8).

Codes to detect or correct errors

Codes may also be used to represent data in a way more resistant to errors in transmission or storage. Such a "code" is called an error-correcting code, and works by including carefully crafted redundancy with the stored (or transmitted) data. Examples include Hamming codes, Reed–Solomon, Reed–Muller, Bose–Chaudhuri–Hochquenghem, Turbo, Golay, Goppa, low-density parity-check codes, and space–time codes. Error detecting codes can be optimised to detect burst errors, or random errors.

Codes and acronyms

Acronyms and abbreviations can be considered codes, and in a sense all languages and writing systems are codes for human thought. Occasionally a code word achieves an independent existence (and meaning) while the original equivalent phrase is forgotten or at least no longer has the precise meaning attributed to the code word. For example, '30' was widely used in journalism to mean "end of story", and it is sometimes used in other contexts to signify "the end".

Coupon Codes

In marketing, coupon codes can be used for a financial discount or rebate when purchasing a product from an internet retailer. Coupon codes are also referred to as "promotional codes," "promotion codes," "discount codes," "key codes," "promo codes," "shopping codes," "voucher codes" or "source codes."

Gödel code

In mathematics, a Gödel code was the basis for the proof of Gödel's incompleteness theorem. Here, the idea was to map mathematical notation to a natural number (a Gödel number).
code in Danish: Kode
code in German: Code
code in Modern Greek (1453-): Κώδικας
code in Spanish: Código
code in Esperanto: Kodo
code in French: Code (information)
code in Korean: 인코딩
code in Croatian: Kod
code in Indonesian: Kode
code in Italian: Codice (teoria dell'informazione)
code in Hebrew: קוד
code in Dutch: Code
code in Japanese: 符号
code in Norwegian: Kode
code in Polish: Kod
code in Portuguese: Código
code in Russian: Код
code in Simple English: Code
code in Slovak: Kód
code in Thai: รหัส
code in Ukrainian: Код

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Aesopian language, Babel, Code Napoleon, Greek, Napoleonic code, Procrustean law, TelAutography, Teletype, Teletype network, Teletyping, Ten Commandments, Zeitgeist, argot, axiology, babble, behavioral norm, body of law, business ethics, canon, cant, capitulary, census, cipher, closed-circuit telegraphy, code of ethics, code of laws, code of morals, coded message, codification, commandment, convention, conventions, corpus juris, criterion, cryptoanalysis, cryptoanalytics, cryptogram, cryptograph, cryptographer, cryptography, customs, cypher, decalogue, dictum, digest, digest of law, double Dutch, duplex telegraphy, electricity, encipher, encode, encrypt, equity, ethic, ethical system, ethics, ethos, facsimile telegraph, form, formality, formula, formulary, garble, general principle, gibberish, gift of tongues, glossolalia, gobbledygook, golden rule, guideline, guiding principle, imperative, index, interrupter, inventory, invisible ink, jargon, jumble, jurisprudence, key, law, law of nature, laws, legal ethics, maxim, medical ethics, mitzvah, moral, moral climate, moral code, moral principles, morals, multiplex telegraphy, new morality, news ticker, noise, norm, norma, normative system, order of nature, ordinance, organization, orthodoxy, pandect, penal code, practices, prescribed form, prescription, principium, principle, principles, professional ethics, protocol, quadruplex telegraphy, railroad telegraphy, receiver, regulation, regulations, rubric, rule, scramble, secret language, secret writing, sender, set form, settled principle, simplex telegraphy, single-current telegraphy, slang, social ethics, sounder, standard, standards, standing order, stock ticker, structure, submarine telegraphy, sympathetic ink, system, table, table of organization, telegraphics, telegraphy, teleprinter, teletypewriter, teletypewriting, telex, tenet, ticker, traditions, transmitter, typotelegraph, typotelegraphy, universal law, value system, wire service, working principle, working rule
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