According to the docs, ADA is an asset and a token, but they also indicate that tokens are on-chain versions of some off-chain asset. They also compare ADA and tokens in ways to imply that they are not the same kind of thing.

So, what is it? what is it called?

2 Answers 2


The terms cryptocurrency, token and asset are not mutually exclusive.

However, there are specific definitions that show a subtle difference between these three terms:


Cryptocurrency is a digital asset that circulates on the internet as a medium of exchange. It employs blockchain technology — a distributed ledger of transactions that is publicly available — and is secured by advanced cryptography. This revolutionary asset architecture allows for certainty that cryptocurrency coins and tokens cannot be double-spent even in the absence of a centralized intermediary. The first cryptocurrency to achieve mainstream success was Bitcoin which paved the way for the proliferation of many other cryptocurrencies.


Within the context of blockchain technology, a token generally refers to a unit of value for a programmable asset that is managed by a smart contract and an underlying distributed ledger. Tokens are the primary means of transferring and storing value on a blockchain network [...]. Tokens can also be designed to be either fungible or non-fungible, depending on a network's specific needs. And while many tokens are primarily used for simple transactions, an increasing number of blockchain projects are designing tokens encoded with a variety of wide-ranging use cases, primarily in regards to on-chain governance and network maintenance.


An asset is anything of monetary value that can be owned or purchased. Within the context of investing, assets can refer to a variety of financial and physical instruments, from stocks to real estate to gold to dollars. A bitcoin is a particular form of crypto or digital asset.

  • these are definitions used in blockchain generally. Im asking specifically for cardano. the docs dont appear to be using the same definitions. Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 16:11
  • Hi @wolverineks! Cardano does not exist in isolation from reality. Everything that is inherent in other blockchains and networks, to a certain extent, is inherent in Cardano.
    – user4023
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 19:24

Ada is a digital token on the Cardano blockchain. Its currency symbol is the empty string - "".

It is similar to any other token that can be minted on the Cardano blockchain. However, there is a key difference.

A token are represented by a currency symbol which is the hash of the minting policy that is used to create it.

A minting policy describes how a token can be minted and burned, and no policy can mint or burn Ada, hence the empty string, which no policy can hash to.

  • "Ada is a digital token" so, you're saying that ada is not an asset? Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 2:12
  • I think the terms are not mutually exclusive @wolverineks. Ada is a digital token, the native currency of Cardano, and it is an asset specified by those two properties I just named. Tokens can also represent off chain assets; this valuable property is part of what makes those tokens assets-- that is, a valuable thing to own (rough def. of 'asset'). I could be wrong if I'm unfamiliar with some specific technical meanings of the terms, but that is how it appears to me, prima facie. Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 5:16
  • * are all tokens digital? iow, are there non-digital tokens on cardano? * are all tokens currencies on cardano? * are there non-native currencies? * tokens can represent an asset, but do they have to? Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 16:12
  • I would probably go down the route of calling ADA a financial instrument. From a technical perspective, IT IS a token with no currency symbol. Thus, IT IS a native token, it just can't be minted or burnt (unless you take the PoB paper published by IOG and implement it - I have spent some time reading that paper and it seemed to me as though you could only accomplish PoB with P2PKH addresses - maybe if you flipped some bits in Byron addresses? - but you could just create an address and destroy/rm the private key and throw away the key derivation phrase, if you REALLY wanted to burn some ADA).
    – Dilworth
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 0:33

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