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What Is Mnemonic Phrase & Mnemonic Passphrase? – A Beginner’s Guide

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Think of this for a moment – you wake up and check your Bitcoin wallet to see that your bitcoins are missing!

When you dig further, you could find your crypto assets have been transferred to another public address for which you don’t control the private keys.

Can you imagine how horrible such a scenario could be?

Well, I know some of you have been there and that’s precise because of the lack of self-education and awareness.

But now the old days are gone where you need to hassle and keep your long strings of private keys safe in order to ensure your security.

Now there are more superior ways through which you can secure your Bitcoin and other crypto assets, one being learning about Mnemonic phrases and Mnemonic passphrase. This is also popularly known as Seed words.

What is it?

You need not worry if you don’t know about these terms now. By the end of this article, you will have a smile on your face.

What Is Mnemonic Phrase & Mnemonic Passphrase

Well, these two terms look alike but they are not. However, they are interrelated. Let’s dig into them one at a time and help you correlate both in the end.

Note: I have interchanged the word “Mnemonic phrases” and “Seed words” in this article, as both refers to the same thing.

What is Mnemonic Phrase in Cryptocurrency world?

A mnemonic phrase, mnemonic recovery phrase, mnemonic seed, seed key, and seed words are all different names of the same thing. If you break ‘mnemonic phrase’ you will understand ‘mnemonic’ stands for a system such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations’ which assists in remembering something, while ‘phrase’ stands for a small group of words‘.

On a similar concept, in the realm of Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies, we have a mnemonic phrase. These mnemonic phrases stores all the information that is needed at any point in time to recover your bitcoins or altcoins.

Whenever you make a new wallet for storing Bitcoin or other crypto assets, the wallets prompts you to note down 12, 18, or 24-word mnemonic phrase or seed words on a piece of paper or in some secure place. It is done in order to ensure you have had a back-up in a scenario where your device breaks down or becomes unusable due to any reason. In such cases, all you need is your mnemonic phrase to recover all your funds.

If you are new to this industry, I highly recommend you to read my earlier guide on: Cryptocurrency wallets – Different types for beginners

Moving ahead…

Not just that, there are several other benefits of using a mnemonic phrase:

  • Easily readable to human eyes
  • Easy to store, manage, and secure
  • Easy to memorize
  • Easy to hide it with other words, etc…

An example of a 12-word mnemonic phrase:

witch collapse practice feed shame open despair creek road again ice least

Mnemonic phrase
Another example of a phrase on paper

That’s why the bottom line is:

“If you don’t own your mnemonic phrase, you don’t own your cryptos.”

In the situation where you lose your bitcoin or crypto wallet, you can always recover your coins using mnemonic phrase (Seed words). Think of these words as password to access your crypto assets. Another interesting thing to know, your crypto assets are not stored on your phone or a wallet, they are stored on blockchain, and these seed words enables you or anyone to retrieve crypto assets from the blockchain.

Well, that’s what mnemonic phrase is, and now it’s time to learn another concept called Mnemonic Passphrase

What is Mnemonic Passphrase

It becomes of paramount importance to learn how to safely secure your mnemonic phrases for your Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency wallets. And that’s where mnemonic passphrase comes into the picture.

Let me explain it further.

Mnemonic phrases are like back-ups that can store all and any number of bitcoins for you but it is quite dangerous to rely on just a string of words for securing all your funds.

That’s why there is a mnemonic passphrase, which is, a sort of second factor or two-factor authentication for your crypto wallet.

Whenever you make a new wallet, the wallet gives you a mnemonic phrase to store it safely but some wallets also ask a password to encrypt the 12, 18, 24-word mnemonic phrase. This extra password or word is called a passphrase.

The beauty of passphrase is, it’s usually one word and you can store it in your head. Imagine this, you would be making a note of seed words (Mnemonic phrases) on a piece of paper, and if someone gets access to that paper, they can steal your bitcoin or other crypto assets. However, if they don’t have that one word passphrase, they will not be able to access your crypto assets.

Tip: I understand it may overwhelming for you as a new user to understand these concepts, but as you put this theory knowledge into practical knowledge, it would start making sense.

This adds a second layer of security to your crypto wallet and both the mnemonic phrase and the extra word (password/passphrase) are required to recover the wallet.

Some wallets call this passphrase a “seed extension”“mnemonic extension”, “Salt” or “13th/25th word”. The mnemonic passphrase could be written down alongside the mnemonic phrase, or it could be memorized to create a two-factor mnemonic phrase where both – “something you have”  i.e. mnemonic phrase, and “something you know” i.e.mnemonic passphrase – are required to unlock your bitcoins or altcoins.

That is why this feature is powerful and has the potential to save your funds even in the worst case where your seed or mnemonic phrase is stolen and even seen by others.

Note: One should keep this extra word i.e. passphrase as something which is very hard to guess or be cracked by brute-force. Also, remember this passphrase always as forgetting it will result in permanent loss of bitcoin or altcoins stored in that wallet.

Note: Not all crypto wallets support passphrase feature.

Conclusion

I cannot stress more on the fact that if you are into crypto, you are self-sovereign in case of your money too. Nobody controls your money here and you are the one solely responsible for securing it.

That is why it is always recommended to follow the best practices for securing your mnemonic phrase and mnemonic passphrase. Here are some of the ways to do the same: How To Keep Your Recovery Seed Safe And Secure.

Also, make the best use of passphrase feature according to your own capacity by using passphrase supporting wallets such as these:

You can also learn about the passphrase feature from our Trezor video as shown below.

If you like this post, don’t forget to share it on Twitter and Facebook.

Here are a few other hand-picked articles for you to read next:

Harsh Agrawal is the Crypto exchanges and bots experts for CoinSutra. He founded CoinSutra in 2016, and one of the industry’s most regarded professional blogger in fintech space.

An award-winning blogger with a track record of 10+ years.  He has a background in both finance and technology and holds professional qualifications in Information technology.

An international speaker and author who loves blockchain and crypto world.

After discovering about decentralized finance and with his background of Information technology, he made his mission to help others learn and get started with it via CoinSutra.

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What Is Mnemonic Phrase & Mnemonic Passphrase? – A Beginner’s Guide

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