The cypher has existed since the earliest years of breaking. Roger K recalls,
Circles would form around battles . The practice of competitive dance in a circle of onlookers has a long history accompanying the African diaspora .
The word "cypher" (or "cipher") is derived from the Five-Percent Nation, where it referred especially to "the circles of people in which their lessons are propagated" . Cypher has an older meaning of "0." Schloss notes that "it is often referred to as 'the' cypher, rather than 'a' cypher, which suggests that all cyphers are, in some abstract way, connected. B-boys and b-girls view the cypher with an almost mystical reverence, befitting its status as the most authentic, challenging, and raw environment for b-boying" .