even if only the first three characters are significant/considered, the english wordlists differ quite a bit, in terms of population(2048 words vs 1626) as well as content(other language versions probably do too?). Any reason why?
  I am comparing electrum's english.txt to monero's english.h
Does this mean that mymonero-simplewallet wouldn't accept a Bitcoin-style seed phrase I generated inside electrum(and not inside monero)?
 Neither seed type would be accepted in the current implementation of monero-wallet-cli (--restore-deterministic-wallet) anyway because (the latter) only accepts 25-word seeds. But I tried converting 13word (official)electrum seeds using Luigi's address tool but those are failing too :(

  • It's a different convention, and a different way of going from words to 256-bit seed. There have been similar questions: monero.stackexchange.com/questions/2297/…
    – JollyMort
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 14:58
  • 1
    I might be getting that discussion wrong, but wasn't it around Electrum vs. BIP39 compatibility? In other words implying(?) Monero is already Electrum-like, which is what I am debating, no ? To clarify, I am not asking about key derivation from seed, my question is specific to the word list in use.
    – kumarz
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 15:07
  • 1
    Monero English is different (It's a contemporary poetry wordlist). There's another: github.com/monero-project/monero/blob/master/src/mnemonics/… Anyway, I'm curious too, but on mobile ATM so can't really dive into this.
    – JollyMort
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 15:25
  • thanks(no rush :) ), I am keen to find out why coz I'm not feeling the logic behind having to use a different library when its all there already(in Electrum code). Yes, the link you pointed at (verifies the language used and)refers to the one I posted(for english).
    – kumarz
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 15:33

1 Answer 1


Any reason why?

TL;DR: It's a different convention. Monero is not a fork of Bitcoin, so most things were worked out from scratch.

Does this mean that mymonero-simplewallet wouldn't accept a Bitcoin-style seed phrase I generated inside electrum(and not inside monero)?


Neither seed type would be accepted in the current implementation of monero-wallet-cli (--restore-deterministic-wallet) anyway because (the latter) only accepts 25-word seeds. But I tried converting 13word (official)electrum seeds using Luigi's address tool but those are failing too :(

That's to be expected because it's a different convention. It's not only the matter of wordlist and length, but the whole checksum and key derivation process.

If you really want to have one mnemonic for both Bitcoin and Monero, you'd have to hash the Electrum mnemonic with something to get a 256-bit integer, and continue from there, or invent some other method.

Simplest way is to input your Electrum seed into "custom entropy" box on Monero offline wallet generator. If you go this way, save a copy of that page somewhere for future reference. Given the same input, it will always create the same Monero wallet with the corresponding Monero mnemonic. This will run the string through 10000 rounds of Keccak-256 and use the result as your seed and private key. Looking at the source of the site, your seed will be derived using:

seed = cnUtil.sc_reduce32(poor_mans_kdf(user_entropy));

function poor_mans_kdf(str)
  var hex = cnBase58.bintohex(cnBase58.strtobin(str));
  for (var n = 0; n < 10000; ++n)
    hex = keccak_256(cnBase58.hextobin(hex));
  return hex;

Note that sc_reduce32 actually performs a = a mod l operation, where l is defined in CryptoNote whitepaper. This is to make the seed a point on the elliptic curve and a valid private key.

Any reason why?

Long answer

Looking at Electrum documentation, we find the following:

Electrum was the first Bitcoin wallet to derive private keys from a seed phrase made of English words. Early versions of Electrum (before 2.0) used a bidirectional encoding between seed phrase and entropy. This type of encoding requires a fixed wordlist. This means that future versions of Electrum must ship with the exact same wordlist, in order to be able to read old seed phrases.

BIP39 was introduced two years after Electrum. BIP39 seeds include a checksum, in order to help users figure out typing errors. However, BIP39 suffers the same shortcomings as early Electrum seed phrases:


Electrum currently use the same wordlist as BIP39 (2048 words). A typical seed has 12 words, which results in 132 bits of entropy in the choice of the seed.

In Electrum, the seed is used as the root for deriving individual Bitcoin keys (addresses). Since Monero only needs one address, the seed is used to derive the private key of the address, and that's all it's used for. Actually, seed == private spend key, and the private view key is derived from it. Public counterparts of those are what makes a Monero address.

Electrum is trying to achieve the following: have the mnemonic seed generate the same HD wallet, without having to know the dictionary used to create it. The size of dictionary was chosen to give exactly 11-bits of entropy to each word in the mnemonic, resulting in total of 132-bits for 12 words.

Monero is not a fork of Bitcoin and neither is Monero wallet software a fork of Electrum, so it did not inherit this.

Monero uses another philosophy. A seed mnemonic is just an encoding of a 256-bit integer seed. It's 2-way. You can always calculate back and forth BUT you need to have the dictionary to recover the wallet. This has a benefit that you can convert an English seed into Japanese, or any other language and get the same result. This allows far more flexibility but the "drawback" is that you have to keep the dictionary around. I'd argue you always need to keep something around (with Electrum, it would be the technical specification of the method used) anyway, so what's the point of wanting to get rid of the dictionary?

The number of words is such that there's approx. same number of combinations of 24 words as there is 256-bit numbers. The words were chosen to prevent mix-up, and also for all to have unique 3-letter prefix. We see that 24^1626 is approximately equal to 2^256 so it's possible to encode 256 bits to 24 words (25th is the checksum).

For more details:

  • 1
    many thanks for such a succinct answer! I am working on a python implementation(bit like pycoin/pybitcointools for monero) and was thinking of adding a simpChinese wordlist(there isn't one in monero currently) by slicing the electrum list into 1626 words, but suppose now that won't work: are there any plans to add chinese ? I will use code in github.com/moneromooo-monero/monero-wallet-generator/blob/… to follow the seed generation there instead, for now(using the webGUI doesn't fly well with automating it)
    – kumarz
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 20:28
  • 1
    That's cool. You could do it like that, but I'm not sure whether that list has an unique prefix. You could start by getting rid of those with the same prefix, and if resulting list is >1626 words, narrow it down further. I suggest use Japanese as an example. Order of words is important as the encoding works by taking the index of a word in the dict. and using it further down for calc. Submit a PR (after testing it) to the main repo to let everyone use it ;)
    – JollyMort
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 22:35
  • 0 I too have this same problem. I have a 12 word seed, passphrase, mnemonic or whatever you call it, that is of the old electrum wordlist, but the 12 word seed is extended three more words. this is interesting. monero.stackexchange.com/questions/3559/… So according to some, extended seeds weren't available until bip39 debuted. I'm not sure that's true. Don't ever be afraid to question the facts on the internet. If anyone knows how to open an electrum seed from the old wordlist with three words extended phrase, plea Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 23:15

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