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Cardano Developer Vocabulary

Even seasoned developers can find the plethora of new terms associated with Blockchain development intimidating and at times plain confusing or cryptic. To address these pain points we have created the Cardano Developer Vocabulary, a concise glossary to explain the most important yet commonly mistaken terms grouped by major concepts.


Moments in time across Cardano are generally specified using incrementing integers. For example to-the-second precise units called Slots and five-day windows known as Epochs. Last but not least these moments reside within Eras, which are simply text labels for significant Cardano network milestones. For example, 2021-11-03T09:00:00Z in ISO 8601 format is Slot 44363709, in Epoch 300 of the Alonzo Era.


At the current configuration a slot is a unit of time increasing at a rate of one every second. Slots are used to define precise moments in time such as those used in time-locked multisig policies, an expiration for transactions, the current tip of the chain or points in time when a stake pool should produce blocks.


An epoch is currently configured as a five-day window (i.e. 432,000 slots) and key activities occur at the start of every new epoch. For example the snapshot of all the ADA staked across the network is captured to determine the future block schedule, rewards are distributed to stake addresses for previous epochs, and protocol parameter updates are promoted. Some epoch transitions can even herald major network upgrade events (HFCs) through era transitions.

Data Formats

Cardano uses data serialisation and encoding formats that aren’t typically used across the software industry (e.g. popular formats such as JSON, ProtoBuf, CSV, etc.) but are chosen due to their compact size, computational efficiency and compatibility with cryptographic functions.


C oncise B inary O bject R epresentation is a binary serialisation format (similar to BSON, ProtoBuf, FlatBuffers) that plays nice with cryptographic signing and encryption. It is used to serialise most of the data between Cardano components.


C oncise D ata D efinition L anguage defines a human-readable schema for CBOR types. This is similar to JSON Schema or ProtoBuf structures in a .proto file and can be used to define cross-boundary protocol contracts.


BECH32 (not to be confused with BIP32 in the Improvement Proposals section below) is a human-readable encoding format with standardised prefixes such as addr1 or asset1. It is used across Cardano for end-user facing objects such as keys, addresses and native assets.


cardano-cli also generates and accepts JSON-formatted key and certificate files with the fields text, description and cborHex. As the cborHex field’s name suggests, it is a hex (i.e. Base16) representation of the key or certificate’s CBOR binary.


As with most Blockchains, two main cryptographic primitives are used, hash functions and public key or asymmetric cryptography. Specific algorithms are used below.


Cardano uses the Blake2b as a fast hashing algorithm to generate hash digests (unique fixed-length fingerprints) of commonly used objects in Cardano. In particular Blake2b-160 for native asset IDs, Blake2b-224 for keys or scripts, Blake2b-256 for transactions and Blake2b-512 for wallet checksums.


As mentioned in our page Wallet Basics: Keys and Addresses , Cardano uses Ed25519 private signing and public verification key pairs heavily for the digital signatures validating transactions and blocks.

Improvement Proposals

The Blockchain industry is built on top of innovative standards (BIP/EIP/CIP/etc.) that arose out of documented improvement proposals from different ecosystems.


Standards that came from Bitcoin Improvement Proposals or Ethereum Improvement Proposals. Notable ones include BIP32, BIP39 and BIP44 that laid the foundation for cross-chain wallets through recovery phrases, root keys and hierarchical structured child keys/addresses. It is also worthwhile knowing EIPs such as EIP20 and EIP721 which define the ERC20 and ERC721 token standards for tokens and non-fungible tokens in Ethereum.


Standards that came from Cardano. Notable ones are CIP25 for the NFT Metadata standard and CIP5 for common BECH32 prefixes (described above in Data Formats) . See the full list here.

🚧 More content coming soon. Still confused about some other terms? We would love your feedback on Discord

Learn about Cardano’s Native Tokens

Now you can learn how to mint tokens on Cardano. Continue to Introduction to Tokens ➡️