How to Recognize Bitcoin (Public vs Private) Address Formats


Ever wondered how does a Bitcoin address looks like? And how to read the different bitcoin address formats out there?

This article will teach you how to identify and recognize them to tell if they are public wallet addresses or sensitive private keys.

Bitcoin address

Technically speaking, when someone asks for your Bitcoin address, they actually mean your Bitcoin deposit address. This can be taken quickly from your crypto wallet or your crypto exchange.

Bitcoin address starts with the number 1, 3 or bc1 because there are three (3) different formats.


  • Address that starts with ‘1’ belongs to the P2PKH or Legacy Address Format, between 26 – 35 characters long.


  • Address that starts with ‘3’ belongs to the P2SH or Compatibility Address Format, between 26 – 35 characters long.


  • The address that starts with ‘bc1’ belongs to the Bech32 or Segwit Address Format. This was introduced in 2017 and is typically 42 characters long. However, it can go up to 90 characters long.

Bitcoin Private Key

This is your Bitcoin wallet password, and you should not reveal it to anyone. You use this password to unlock your Bitcoin wallet.

A Bitcoin private key is typically 51 or 52 characters long and begins with 5, 6, K or L:



Bitcoin seed

The Bitcoin seed is often referred to as e.g. mnemonic phrase or recovery seed. They all mean the same term as Bitcoin seed.

The ‘seed’ is typically formed using 12, 16, 18, 20 or 24 standalone random words. These are primarily from the English dictionary words. However, they do not form a sentence. They have a numbering order, and the words must strictly follow the order.

Example of a 12 word Bitcoin seed;

1) watch
2) needle
3) glass
4) ball
5) chip
6) paper
7) apple
8) black
9) lotion
10) mask
11) port
12) latex

The Bitcoin seed words are used to generate your Bitcoin private keys. So, if you lost your Bitcoin private keys, you can still rely on the Bitcoin seed words to recover your wallet and re-generate your lost private keys.

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