[bitcoin-dev] BIP proposal: derived mnemonics

millibitcoin millibitcoins at gmail.com
Tue Jul 26 18:31:36 UTC 2016

(not sure so sent again after subscribing (one use case added))

Dear Bitcoin developers,

Below is provided a draft BIP proposal for a master mnemonic sentence 
from which other mnemonics sentences can be derived in a deterministic 
non-reversible way (on an offline computer). This would make it much 
easier to split funds into smaller fractions and use those in a 
HD-wallet when appropriate (just by inserting 12 or more words), without 
ever putting the master mnemonic at risk on an online computer. But 
there are many more use cases.

A reference implementation, specifically for use with a Trezor, has been 
generated and can be found at: 

I'm not a professional programmer or cryptographer, so the idea and 
reference implementation will probably need a lot of reviewing but I do 
think Bitcoin needs this extension and the corresponding ease of use and 
improved security model.

In the hope you like the idea,


   BIP: ???
   Title: Derived mnemonics from a master mnemonic.
   Author: sumBTC <millibitcoins at gmail.com>
   Status: For Discussion
   Created: 2016-07-24


This BIP??? uses a master mnemonic sentence, as described in BIP39, for 
the deterministic generation of derived mnemonic sentences. The derived 
mnemonics are of the same format as the master mnemonic but can consist 
of a higher or lower number of words.

Binary seeds can then be generated for derived mnemonics (and master 
mnemonic) as described in BIP39. Each of these seeds can be used to 
generate deterministic wallets using BIP-0032 or similar methods.


A mnemonic code or sentence is superior for human interaction as 
described in BIP39 and can, for example, be written on paper or even 
memorized. However, once a mnemonic has been used online, even through 
the use of a hardware wallet, the mnemonic could be compromised. This 
should be considered a bad practice from a security standpoint.

We therefore propose the generation of a master mnemonic offline and 
from this generate (also offline) multiple derived mnemonics in a 
deterministic way for online use. The master mnemonic is never used 
online and the master mnemonic cannot be obtained from the derived 
mnemonics. Examples of use cases are described below.

==Generating the master mnemonic==

The master mnemonic is first derived as a standard mnemonic as described 
in BIP39.

==From master mnemonic to derived mnemonics==

 From the master mnemonic a new string is created:

string = MasterMnemonic + " " + Count + " " + Strength;

Here, MasterMnemonic are the space separated words of the master 
mnemonic. Count = 0, 1, 2 denotes the different derived mnemonics of a 
given strength and Strength = numWords / 3 * 32, where numWords is the 
number of words desired for the derived mnemonic and only integer 
arithmetic is used in the calculation (e.g. for numWords = 14, Strength 
= 128). Both Count and Strength are converted to strings.

This string is then hashed using sha512:

hash = sha512(string);

and turned into a byte array:

for (var i=0; i<strength/8; i++) {
   byteArray[i] = (hash[Math.floor((i%64)/4)] >>> ((i%4)*8)) & 0b11111111;

This byte array is then used to generate a new mnemonic as shown in the 
reference implementation using the method described in BIP39. The core 
of the new code in the reference manual can be found by jumping to 
"start: new code" in the reference software.

A passphrase for the master mnemonic has the same effect on the derived 
mnemoncis (so must be included).

==Reference Implementation==

The reference implementation generates addresses based on BIP44 for a 24 
word master mnemonic and is available from



github (not yet)

==Checking the derived mnemonics using Electrum==

The displayed addresses in each of the reference implementations can be 
easily checked using Electrum in the following manner:

move the directory ~/.electrum to a backup directory.
start Electrum and choose:
Restore a wallet or import keys
Hardware wallet
Restore Electum wallet from device seed words
TREZOR wallet
Insert one of the mnemonics and check that the same addresses are 
generated by Electrum

Check the private keys:
move the directory ~/.electrum to a backup directory.
start Electrum and choose:
Restore a wallet or import keys
Standard wallet
Import one of the private keys and check that the correct address has 
been generated.

Some checks should include a passphrase.

==Examples of Use Cases==

A person with 25 bitcoin splits funds using 5 derived mnemonics and 
sends 5 bitcoins to the first address of each derived mnemonic. He can 
then use a (hardware) HD-wallet and simply insert one of the derived 
mnemonics to put only 5 bitcoins online and at risk at once. All funds 
can be recovered from the master mnemonic.

A person wants to give 10 bitcoin to each of his family members, giving 
each participant a derived mnemonic and sending bitcoin to each of them. 
The donating person can always recover the derived mnemonic if one of 
his family members loses his derived mnemonic.

For his Trezor wallet, someone wants to memorize only a 12 words master 
seed but wants to insert a 24 words derived seed so a key logger on his 
computer has 24! possibilities to check and not 12! (not a possibility 
for the current reference implementation but trivial to add).

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