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also cy·pher (sī′fər)
1. The mathematical symbol (0) denoting absence of quantity; zero.
2. An Arabic numeral or figure; a number.
3. One having no influence or value; a nonentity.
a. A cryptographic system in which units of text of regular length, usually letters, are transposed or substituted according to a predetermined code.
b. The key to such a system.
c. A message written or transmitted in such a system.
5. A design combining or interweaving letters or initials; a monogram.
v. ci·phered, ci·pher·ing, ci·phers also cy·phered or cy·pher·ing or cy·phered
To solve problems in arithmetic; calculate.
1. To put in secret writing; encode.
2. To solve by means of arithmetic.

[Middle English cifre, from Old French, from Medieval Latin cifra, from Arabic ṣifr, from ṣafira, to be empty (translation of Sanskrit śūnyam, cipher, dot); see ṣpr in Semitic roots.]


References in classic literature ?
Numbers and sizes and distances are so great, here, that we have to be made so we can FEEL them - our old ways of counting and measuring and ciphering wouldn't ever give us an idea of them, but would only confuse us and oppress us and make our heads ache.
Knitting, sewing, reading, writing, ciphering, will be all you will have to teach.
They make up a balanced account with Heaven, as our old cellarer used to call his ciphering, as fair as Isaac the Jew keeps with his debtors, and, like him, give out a very little, and take large credit for doing so; reckoning, doubtless, on their own behalf the seven-fold usury which the blessed text hath promised to charitable loans.