Public Keys Vs. Private Keys Vs. Wallet Addresses Vs. Seed Phrases

Last Modified:
May 1, 2024

Public Key

A public key is a cryptographic code in the form of long strings of randomly generated numbers and letters that represent an address where users can receive and store digital assets. Here is an example:

00DB 13GB BE8F BC8D BAF3 362E 9229 F018 2F47 C742 2652 CB01 0303 0003 3048 0241 00CA 12FB CF8E EC2C EFD8 FD30 99B8 C4FC C684 4813 7D89 DFD9 EB31 99A9 E06A EA95 FC22 5E38 BC8D BAF3 F018 2F47 C742 2652 CB01 8D8A BD9E B9G4 B019 3G58 D843 3754 DB02

When someone wants to send you cryptocurrency, they send it to your public key. This public key then encrypts the transaction, making it unreadable to anyone without the private key to decrypt it. Public keys allow transactions to be sent securely to the correct recipient.

Private Key

A private key is used to decrypt messages or transactions encrypted by the public key. Private keys provide access to the crypto and other assets sent to the public key. They are also used to “sign” and authorize blockchain transactions. 

Private keys are used to sign transactions such as connecting your crypto wallet with blockchain-based platforms.

Private keys must be stored securely and never shared with anyone. If someone learns your private key, they can access the funds in your account.

Private keys consist of long strings of randomly generated letters and numbers such as this:


Wallet Address

A wallet address is like the bank account number of a crypto account. Wallet addresses are essentially shortened versions of the public key that are easier to share with others for the sake of spending and transferring assets like crypto and NFTs. Whenever you make a transaction, the wallet addresses of the sender and receiver can be viewed publicly through blockchain scanners.

Wallet addresses also consist of a long string of letters and numbers (that are shorter than public keys) such as this:


When someone wants to send you bitcoin or other cryptocurrency, you provide them with your wallet address and they send funds to it. Your address can either be copied and pasted or shared via QR Code.

Seed Phrase

A seed phrase is a set of words that must be entered in the correct order to access your crypto wallet. Also called recovery phrases or mnemonic phases, seed phrases are usually used by decentralized, self-custodial wallets, instead of passwords. They usually contains 12, 18, or 24 words.

A seed phrase is derived from the private key; it’s essentially a more user-friendly version of it. But while you can derive a seed phrase from a private key, you cannot do the reverse. Both the seed phrase and private key give access to the whole wallet.

Just like private keys, seed phrases must be kept secret from everyone. You can use your seed phrase to access your wallet on a different device or recover access to a wallet if you forget the password. If you forget your seed phrase, you will lose access to your wallet, and if someone learns your seed phrase, they can access your funds.

Remember to keep your private keys and seed phrases secure to avoid problems in your crypto journey. And check out our guide for tips on storing seed phrases!