Cryptocurrency Explained: What is a Mnemonic phrase? [Understanding Bitcoin Ethereum Crypto Keys] in 2022

laatste update: 10-2022

What is a cryptocurrency mnemonic phrase? How does it relate to a bitcoin or ethereum private key? Are they the same thing? Are seeds and mnemonics the same thing? Can someone guess my bitcoin private key or mnemonic? Watch this video to understand how mnemonic phrases work, why they’re used in bitcoin, why they’re considered secure. Hint: turn on closed captions to help you remember what’s being taught.

0:00 If a bitcoin private key is such a big number and you can never guess it, how does relate to mnemonic phrases?
1:03 Let’s discuss what a mnemonic phrase actually is.
1:23 Cryptographic keys are just numbers. A bitcoin private key is just a number.
1:42 What is a mnemonic phrase?
2:10 Bitcoin Improvement Proposal or BIP39 is the standard for seed phrases
3:03 There are 2048 words in the BIP39 dictionary
4:00 How do you make a number out of words?
6:09 Example of how to take a number like a bitcoin private key and encode it in 24 words
8:06 Derivation function that allows you to take the mnemonic and generate the same sequence of keys
8:27 Summary of why a mnemonic phrase is as secure as a bitcoin private key written in decimal or binary

This video help explains how mnemonic phrases or mnemonic seeds as they’re often called, relate to cryptocurrency private keys. It discusses the bitcoin improvement proposal BIP39 and its implementation. If you want to understand how your cryptocurrency wallet works, this video is for you. This video was made as a followup to the “Can Someone Guess My Bitcoin Private Key” video here: You may want to watch that video first to really understand what’s being explained.

Learn more about bitcoin, ethereum, and other cryptocurrency private keys in these videos:
Passwords and authentication:
Bitcoin and crypto security:

Learn why bitcoin, ethereum, and other open blockchain technologies are different in my talk The Fairness Protocol:

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30 gedachten over “Cryptocurrency Explained: What is a Mnemonic phrase? [Understanding Bitcoin Ethereum Crypto Keys] in 2022”

  1. This way my question from the livestream 🙂 it's not quite a commit in the bitcoin GitHub but it's still cool 🙂

  2. Wonderfully good and clean explained.
    Although I wonder one thing. Are there duplicate words in a mnemonic phrase? If not, then it would actually be 2048*2047*2046*2045….

  3. Small correction: the first word in the BIP39 English wordlist is abandon, not about and the last word is zoo. If you're curious about the BIP39 English wordlist and the languages here's a link: If you like this video let me know by hitting the thumbs up button. ICYMI the first video referenced here is "Can Someone Guess My Private Key?"

    If you want to learn more about how to Choose a Cryptocurrency Wallet take a look at the workshops on my website:

  4. Is the mnemonic phrase associated with a wallet or with a secret key? As far as I know, a wallet can have several secret keys. I'm confused about that.

  5. Hey Andreas, are you concerned by the situation with “tether”, I can’t profess to totally understand it, it looks as though they may have been buying bitcoin and using it back their stable coin, how I (don’t) understand it is that if they are buying up bitcoin off exchanges in times of low liquidity they’re effectively creating a false scarcity as they drive up the price and then that gives them the ability to mint more tether. Then comes the question “what is stopping larger corporations or government pulling the same kind of trickery”, I know I have a lot of blanks in my understanding, I hope from this you can get the gist of what I’m trying to get at. I’m having one of those “could this kill bitcoin” moments. Love listening to you and love ya bee kind T-shirt hehe.

  6. Yes indeed. I have left a comment on another one of your videos, the last one with a similar subject. On a different account of mine. Sirjesusshaves. BUT! Dude ive found that guessing mnemonics is a lot easier than you think. Especially looking around downloading mobile wallets. In which ive found almost ALL of them rely on a 12 word mnemonic without even the option of adding a passphrase. Banking on a large amount of users owning one of these wallets, no matter which actual one they choose, as long as they use a 12 word mnemonic (so almost all of them). But then, ontop of this, you should know that not any combination of words works. The checksum narrows it down by a factor of 16. So choosing the first 11 at random, or even not at random (since people are stupid), and then running down the list in order, until i get a hit and a wallet opens. I also write down that 12th word, so i wont have to reguess that in the future.. this is a tedious process no doubt especially without a computer, but you're wrong.. its not impossible to guess. Perhaps im just extremely lucky? But when it all comes down to the bottom line.. i only need one. Just one. And so far, ive found two. One is a trap lol (no i didnt try to steal), and the other i left alone. I try to educate users on using ones with a passphrase in general, since most (including me) will avoid going for all that extra work. Instead focusing on the easy targets. While i dont steal, im sure others do. And id love to pick your brain and i can answer any Q's you have for me too, if any… my main account though is under Thefamine666, and yes i realize im not so hidden. Not trying to be. Reply or not, i still appreciate your work!

  7. Interesting, but, the dangerous part I think is the way a software code that is the same software installed in thousands of phones achieves to create a process to create "randomnes" (different random numbers), I know that there are processes ilke discharging a capacitor and measure the time of discharge each time that creates "randomnes" but how does a software accomplishes this?, is there an integranted chip in celular phones that does this?, regards Andreas.

  8. BITCOIN SV is the original bitcoin thats on the real blockchain. The rest just gonna crash eventuelly biggest ponzi ever with BTC Core Segwit bullshit Fork.

  9. So: When generating a wallet, the wallet software basically starts with the mnemonic phrase first, right? and from that it generates the private key and public keys?

  10. How come a single phrase can have so many different addresses?

  11. Thank you! 🙏🏼 This is the best teaching I’ve heard on a mnemonic phrase.

  12. So why is it that my mnemonic phrase from Exodus doesn't work with MetaMask and vice versa? They both support 12 words.

  13. Minor detail, but once you have chosen your 1st word there are 2047 options left, not 2048 and so on till you have all 24 words leaving 2024 unused

  14. Thank you for this very clear and most of all very important explanation of mnemonic phrases!! I am reading your books and have learned so much already from them!! And there is still a long way to go 🙂
    Thank you

  15. If you split the 24 words into 2 or 3 parts and store them seperately like the winklevoss twins did can you quantify how much the security is comprimsed if one portion is found and the remaining words are now is brute forced?

  16. 2048 to the power of 24 is correct if and only if the words in the mnemonic phrase can be repeated, can they?

  17. Ok so how do you input the mnemonic phrase (words) into a wallet to recover a wallet like Metamask? I see the paste option but of course learning from Aant we dont ever save these words digitally.

  18. Hllo bro
    I m from Australia. I have signed up in Myetherwallet account with software phrases key. I bought ethereum for $2000. Now after logging in my account, there are so many other address. But I can’t find my exact address. So plz suggest me what should I do now to find my address. I already have my phrase password and address.

  19. Can you help me understand the validation of a mnemonic sentence and why it contains a checksum. As i understand/ have read you should not create a mnemonic sentence by randomly generating 12-24 words. It goes on to say that if you randomly select 12-24 words from the worldlist, the last word you select probably wont contain the correct checksum for the rest of the words. Therefor when you try to import it into a wallet it might tell you its invalid.

  20. But what is the probability of randomly guessing a mnemonic key of any random person and not in particular. Because I think as the number of users increases, this probability should also increase but by how much. Will it still be worth a try to randomly guess mnemonics and gaining access to atleast 1 wallet per day or maybe per week?

  21. Now it makes sense. I was always wondering how those words can recover a private key. Thought the private key was stored somewhere on a platform, which would be unsecure. Thanks for the great explanation!

  22. Woudn't there be some likelyhood that a foolish person uses the first 12 or 24 words in a popular song?

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