What is a BIP39 Passphrase? Enhancing the Security of Your Crypto Wallet


In the world of cryptocurrencies, security is of utmost importance. One of the key components in securing your digital assets is protecting your wallet’s seed phrase. But did you know that you can add an extra layer of security to your wallet by using a BIP39 passphrase?

A BIP39 passphrase is an optional phrase that you can add to your seed phrase to create a completely new set of addresses and private keys for your wallet. This means that even if someone gets hold of your seed phrase, they won’t be able to access your funds without also knowing your passphrase.

Understanding and using BIP39 passphrases is crucial for anyone who takes the security of their cryptocurrency holdings seriously. In this article, we’ll dive deep into what BIP39 passphrases are, how they work, and why they’re such an important tool in your crypto security arsenal.

What is a BIP39 Seed Phrase?

Before we can fully grasp the concept of a BIP39 passphrase, we need to understand what a BIP39 seed phrase is. A seed phrase, also known as a mnemonic phrase, is a list of 12 or 24 words that are used to generate the private keys and public addresses associated with your cryptocurrency wallet.

These words are not just any random words – they are selected from a predefined list of 2048 words. The specific order of the words in your seed phrase is what determines the private keys that control access to your wallet.

It’s absolutely essential to keep your seed phrase secure. Anyone who gains access to your seed phrase can control the funds in your wallet. This is why it’s not only important to keep your seed phrase safe but also to create reliable backups.

While you can write your seed phrase on a piece of paper, it’s much more secure to use a durable backup method like engraving it on a metal plate. Products like Coinplate Alpha are specifically designed for this purpose, offering a fireproof and waterproof solution for storing your seed phrase.

In the next section, we’ll explore how adding a passphrase to your seed phrase can take your wallet’s security to the next level.

How a passphrase works – adding a Passphrase to Your BIP39 Seed

A BIP39 passphrase is an optional extra word or phrase that you can add to your seed phrase. It acts as a “25th word” for 24-word seed phrases or a “13th word” for 12-word seed phrases. The passphrase is not selected from the predefined list of 2048 words – it can be any word or phrase you choose.

When you add a passphrase to your seed phrase, it completely changes the derived private keys and public addresses for your wallet. In essence, it creates a new “hidden” wallet with a different set of keys and addresses, while still being tied to your original seed phrase.

Think of it like a secret compartment within a safe. Your seed phrase is the key to the safe, but your passphrase is the key to the secret compartment inside the safe. Even if someone gets hold of your seed phrase, they won’t be able to access the funds in your “hidden” wallet without also knowing your passphrase.

It’s important to note that passphrases are different from seed phrases in a key way. While seed phrases are generated from a predefined list of words, passphrases can be any word or phrase you choose.

Benefits of Using a BIP39 Passphrase

Using a BIP39 passphrase offers several key benefits that significantly enhance the security of your cryptocurrency funds:

  1. Protection against seed phrase theft: In the unfortunate event that your seed phrase is stolen, a passphrase acts as an additional line of defense. Without knowledge of your passphrase, a thief would be unable to access the funds in your wallet, even if they have your seed phrase.
  2. Multiple wallets from a single seed: By using different passphrases with the same seed phrase, you can create multiple “hidden” wallets. This feature is particularly useful for organizing your funds, separating them for different purposes, or maintaining privacy by not revealing your total cryptocurrency holdings.
  3. Plausible deniability: Since the existence of hidden wallets cannot be proven without knowing the associated passphrases, you can maintain plausible deniability about the extent of your cryptocurrency holdings. If you were to reveal your seed phrase under duress, your hidden wallets would remain secure and unknown.

By leveraging these benefits, a BIP39 passphrase becomes an indispensable tool for anyone serious about cryptocurrency security.

Best Practices for BIP39 Passphrases

To maximize the security benefits of BIP39 passphrases, it’s essential to follow these best practices:

  1. Choose something memorable but hard to guess: Your passphrase should strike a balance between being unique and complex enough to resist guessing attempts, while still being memorable enough for you to recall when needed. Avoid using common phrases, quotes, or personal information that could be easily guessed by others or brute-force hacked..
  2. Avoid using the same passphrase for multiple wallets/seeds: Each passphrase should be unique to the specific wallet and seed phrase it’s associated with. Reusing passphrases across multiple wallets or seed phrases significantly increases the risk of a security breach, as a compromised passphrase could grant access to multiple wallets.
  3. Consider how to securely back up and pass on the passphrase if needed: While you could theoretically rely on your memory, you may want to consider a secure backup strategy. This could involve creating a direct backup, a cryptic hint that only you would understand, sharing parts of the passphrase with trusted family members. Either way it is preferable to use a durable backup like Coinplate Alpha.
    • If you decide to create a physical backup of your passphrase or a hint to it, using a durable method is crucial. Products like Coinplate Alpha provide a fireproof and waterproof solution for securely storing sensitive information like passphrases, ensuring their longevity and resilience against any imaginable hazards.
    • Metal backups offer significant advantages over paper or digital storage methods. They are much more resilient against fire, water, and other environmental threats that could easily destroy paper or digital backups, providing long-term protection for your passphrases. They also offer a truly offline backup that can’t be hacked.
  4. Understand the risks – forgetting the passphrase means losing access to funds: It’s crucial to understand that forgetting/losing your passphrase will result in permanently losing access to the associated wallet and the funds it contains. There is no way to recover a forgotten passphrase, emphasizing the importance of choosing a passphrase that you can remember and having a secure backup strategy in place.
  5. Techniques for creating strong and memorable passphrases: Some effective techniques for creating strong and memorable passphrases include combining words from different languages, using a mix of seemingly unrelated words, or creating an acronym from a memorable phrase. The key is to create something that is unique, complex, and easily memorable to you, but difficult for others to guess.

By adhering to these best practices, you can ensure that your BIP39 passphrases provide the highest level of security for your cryptocurrency funds.

Implementing BIP39 Passphrases in Your Wallet

Step-by-step guide on how to set up a passphrase in popular hardware wallets:

  • Open your wallet’s settings and look for an option to enable or set up a passphrase. This may be labeled as a “25th word”, “extension word”, or simply “passphrase”. It might require resetting your wallet.
  • Follow the prompts to enter your chosen passphrase. You may be asked to enter it twice to confirm.
  • Once the passphrase is set, your wallet will display a new set of addresses and private keys associated with the passphrase.

Additional tips on using passphrases in your wallet:

  1. Importance of enabling passphrase protection: Enabling passphrase protection is a critical step in securing your wallet. Without a passphrase, your funds are only as secure as your seed phrase. By adding a passphrase, you create an additional layer of security that protects your funds even if your seed phrase is compromised.
  2. Considerations for using passphrases across different devices: If you use your wallet on multiple devices, you’ll need to enter your passphrase on each device to access the associated wallet. Make sure to only enter your passphrase on trusted devices to maintain the security of your funds.
  3. Reminder to create secure backups of your passphrase: After setting up your passphrase, it’s crucial to create a secure backup using a durable method like Coinplate Alpha. This ensures that you can access your wallet even if you lose access to your primary device.


In conclusion, a BIP39 passphrase is an optional phrase that you can add to your seed phrase to create a new set of addresses and private keys for your cryptocurrency wallet. By using a passphrase, you add an extra layer of security to your wallet, protecting your funds even if your seed phrase is compromised.

We strongly encourage all cryptocurrency users to consider using passphrases to enhance the security of their wallets, especially in case of large value of coins. However, it’s essential to use them carefully and to have a secure backup plan in place. Remember, forgetting your passphrase means permanently losing access to the associated wallet and funds.

When creating a backup of your passphrase, we recommend using a durable metal backup like Coinplate Alpha. Metal backups offer superior protection against environmental hazards compared to paper or digital storage methods.

Ultimately, BIP39 passphrases play a crucial role in the broader context of cryptocurrency security. By using passphrases and following best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of theft and unauthorized access to your funds, ensuring the long-term safety of your cryptocurrency investments.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are BIP39 passphrases case-sensitive?
    Yes, BIP39 passphrases are case-sensitive. Make sure to enter your passphrase exactly as you set it up, including any uppercase or lowercase letters. Passphrases usually can also include special characters and numbers.
  2. Can I change my passphrase later on?
    Yes, you can change your passphrase at any time. However, keep in mind that changing your passphrase will create a new set of addresses and private keys, essentially creating a new wallet. You’ll need to transfer your funds from the old wallet to the new one.
  3. How can I regain access if I forget my passphrase?
    Unfortunately, if you forget your passphrase, there is no way to regain access to the associated wallet and funds. The passphrase is not stored anywhere and cannot be recovered. This is why it’s crucial to choose a memorable passphrase and to have a secure backup strategy.
  4. Is there a limit to how long my passphrase can be?
    No, there is no technical limit to the length of your passphrase. However, for the sake of memorability and practicality, it’s generally recommended to keep your passphrase relatively short, while still maintaining a high level of complexity and uniqueness. Furthermore, each wallet can have it’s own length limit so make sure to check if that’s the case. For example Ledger wallets allow 100 characters while Trezor 50 characters. Overly long and complicated passphrases don’t offer much added security, so usually 15-25 characters are more than enough.
  5. Do I need to use a passphrase or is it optional?
    Using a BIP39 passphrase is entirely optional. It’s an additional security measure that you can choose to implement based on your personal security needs and risk tolerance. However, for users with significant cryptocurrency holdings, using a passphrase is strongly recommended to provide an extra layer of protection for your funds.
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