Altcoin Meaning & Definition

Key Takeaways

  • Altcoin stands for 'Alternative Coin' to Bitcoin.
  • Altcoins can provide different features, functionalities, and use-cases compared to Bitcoin.
  • Some altcoins aim to improve on Bitcoin's limitations or provide entirely new functionalities.

The term Altcoin is an abbreviation of “Alternative Coin” to Bitcoin.

It represents all cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin. Since Bitcoin’s inception, thousands of altcoins have been created, each with its unique features and use-cases.

Altcoins can be seen as experiments that take the basic principles of Bitcoin and change certain aspects such as:

  • transaction speed
  • hashing algorithms
  • consensus mechanisms

They can be categorized broadly into coins and tokens.

In essence, while Bitcoin remains the most well-known cryptocurrency, altcoins play a crucial role in the broader ecosystem, offering more versatility and choice to users, developers, and investors.

What Are Altcoins?

Altcoins are all the cryptocurrencies that came after Bitcoin. Their name, “alternative coins”, denotes that they are an alternative to Bitcoin. While many altcoins are built on the basic framework provided by Bitcoin, others are created from scratch and have very different frameworks.

Some altcoins offer a more versatile programming language, others offer more privacy compared to Bitcoin, and others offer entirely new capabilities such as smart contracts, tokenization, or even serve as platforms for building new cryptocurrencies.

Different Types of Altcoins

There are several ways to categorize altcoins:

  • Forks of Bitcoin: These are coins that have been “forked” from Bitcoin, meaning they use a similar codebase. Examples include Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV.

  • Coins with Different Consensus Mechanisms: These coins might use Proof-of-Stake (PoS), Delegated Proof-of-Stake (DPoS), or other consensus mechanisms. Examples include Cardano and EOS.

  • Platform Tokens: These are blockchain-based platforms that allow other projects to build new coins and applications. Ethereum is the best-known example.

  • Stablecoins: Cryptocurrencies that aim to have a 1:1 peg with a particular fiat currency, such as the US dollar. Examples include USDT and USDC.

Why Do Altcoins Exist?

The main reason for the existence of altcoins is to address perceived limitations in Bitcoin and to experiment with new features, functionalities, and use-cases.

Each altcoin tends to have its own niche, purpose, or use-case.

Advantages and Challenges of Altcoins


  • Offers more functionalities than Bitcoin.
  • Enables more rapid innovation and experimentation.
  • Can cater to specific use-cases that Bitcoin can’t address.


  • They might lack the security and decentralization that Bitcoin offers.
  • Some might be accused of being “scams” or lack a clear use-case.
  • They might not have the same level of recognition or trust as Bitcoin.

Here are a few notable altcoins in the cryptocurrency space:

  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Ripple (XRP)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Chainlink (LINK)
  • Polkadot (DOT)
Article Sources

BuyBitcoinWorldWide writers are subject-matter experts and base their articles on firsthand information, like interviews with experts, white papers or original studies and experience. We also use trusted research and studies from other well-known sources. You can learn more about our editorial guidelines.

  1. Wikipedia - Altcoin,

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