Derivation Path

Understanding the Bitcoin BIP-32 Derivation Path

what is a bip32 derivation path

In the ever-evolving landscape of finance, Bitcoin’s network has been a game-changer, introducing novel concepts and path-breaking technologies. Among these innovations, the BIP-32 derivation path stands out as a pivotal mechanism in the functioning and management of Bitcoin addresses (?).

In a quest to demystify the world of Bitcoin: Our guide delves into the complexities of the BIP-32 derivation path. We shine a light on its fundamental role in forming multisig addresses, in addition to detailing its contribution towards securing and streamlining Bitcoin transactions.

This path, a key player in hierarchical deterministic wallets (HD wallets), provides a standardised strategy for key generation and management. This guide aims to break down this often complex topic into easily digestible and understandable segments. Paving the way for a better grasp of Bitcoin transactions.

What Is BIP-32 Derivation Path?

derivation path

Understanding BIP-32 and the concept of derivation paths are key to unlocking the potential of Hierarchical Deterministic (HD) wallets within the realm of Bitcoin. BIP-32, an abbreviation for Bitcoin Improvement Proposal 32, is a pivotal standard that lays down the method for creating a multitude of keys from a singular seed (?) in HD wallets. These HD wallets enable users to create and control an almost limitless amount of keys, each stemming from one unique seed phrase. This seed phrase acts as a springboard for the generation of all keys linked to a specific wallet.

The BIP-32 standard shines a light on the method for generating a private key (?) and a chain code from the seed phrase. The private key can then be used to derive a public key (?). Adding an extra layer of functionality, the BIP-32 standard provides the mechanism for creating a master private key (?) (commonly referred to as an x-priv) or a master public key (?)(known as an x-pub) from the amalgamation of the private key and chain code. These master keys are cornerstones in the creation of an almost unlimited set of child keys

Delving deeper into the derivation paths, each derived key in the HD wallet is associated with a unique path, starting from the master key. Understanding and using these paths effectively can ensure efficient and secure management of the multitude of keys in an HD wallet.

Understanding the Derivation Path

understanding the bip32 path

In the Bitcoin sphere, a key term you’ll often encounter is the BIP-32 derivation path. This element essentially guides the creation of diverse child keys from a single master key within a hierarchical structure. It’s the map that outlines the manner in which every key is generated, their numerical count and their specific function in the grand scheme of the Bitcoin system.

Now, the derivation path isn’t randomly constructed. Rather, it adheres to a well-defined format comprising of six distinct sections, each separated by a slash. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the derivation path, we’ll delve into each of these segments. Shedding light on their individual importance:

Every number you see in the derivation path offers a clue about how to create a new key. Understanding this path can help you manage your keys better and is essential to mastering the intricacies of Bitcoin management.

BIP-32 Path – Bitcoin

  1. m / purpose’ / coin_type’ / account’ / change / address_index
    • The lowercase m
       indicates that the key is derived from the master private key (x-priv), while an uppercase M
       signifies derivation from the master public key (x-pub).
    • Purpose
       refers to the BIP used in the derivation path, with the corresponding BIP number displayed.
    • Coin_type
       represents the cryptocurrency type. In the case of Bitcoin, the coin_type is 1, whereas 2 represents Bitcoin Testnet, and 3 corresponds to Litecoin.
    • Account
       signifies the generation or hierarchical level of the key under the master key.
    • Change
       determines whether the derived key is for a receiving address (0) or a change address (1).
    • Address_index
       denotes the count of the key within the specified account generation. The first key is indexed as 0, the second as 1, and so on.

It is important to note that an apostrophe (‘) indicates a hardened derivation. Where hardened keys are derived from the master keys using additional cryptographic techniques for enhanced security.

BIP-45 Path – Multisig

In the context of BIP-45, the derivation path differs slightly. Instead of using coin_type and account segments, the path employs cosigner_index. The cosigner_index represents the rank of the public key among all the signers registered in alphabetical order.

The BIP-45 path format is as follows:

m / purpose’ / cosigner_index / change / address_index

This format is particularly useful when registering public keys from hardware wallets like Trezor or Ledger in a coordinator to create a multisig address. By using the first child keys on each level, the BIP-45 derivation path ensures a smooth integration between the hardware wallets and multisig wallets.

BIP-48 Path – Multisig

The BIP-48 derivation path introduces an additional segment called script_type between the account and change segments. This allows the creation of various address formats. Including Segwit multisig addresses, using the BIP-48 standard.

The BIP-48 path format is as follows:

m / purpose’ / coin_type’ / account’ / script_type’ / change / address_index

By incorporating script_type into the derivation path, BIP-48 expands the possibilities for utilising different address formats within the Bitcoin network.

Importance of the Derivation Path in Multisig Addresses

derivation path multisig

Multisig addresses have surged in popularity, proving their worth through elevated security measures and adaptable functionality. These addresses hinge on the requirement of multiple signers to sign off on a transaction, thereby boosting its security level significantly. One of the pivotal components in creating and handling multisig addresses is the derivation path. This path directs the software when registering public keys from each signer into the coordinator, specifying which subkey or further descendant key is apt for generating and signing the multisig address.

The ‘x-pub’ or ‘extended public key’ is a critical piece of information that points to the address designated for signing. In unison with this, the derivation path pinpoints the exact account and key generation falling within that address. To restore the address successfully, both the extended public key and the derivation path are vital, underlining the necessity for a robust backup plan. By leveraging the derivation path in multisig arrangements, users are empowered to manage their multisig addresses efficiently and securely.

In the world of Bitcoin, understanding the ins and outs of multisig addresses and derivation paths can mean the difference between secure transactions and vulnerable ones. This knowledge not only helps to fortify transaction security but also optimises the management of digital assets. So, whether you’re new to the world of crypto or a seasoned player: understanding the role and relevance of derivation paths in multisig setups is a must for substantial security and absolute control over your digital assets.


In the ever-dynamic Bitcoin landscape, understanding the BIP-32 derivation path is a must for anyone delving into its intricacies, particularly when it comes to multisig configurations. The BIP-32 standard, which is pivotal in generating keys from a seed phrase, works hand in hand with the BIP-32 derivation path. Specifically, the latter determines the exact characteristics and location of every child key derived from the parent keys, hence its significance.

This unique format of the derivation path is central to creating and managing Bitcoin addresses, not only ensuring precision but also enhancing security. More so, when multisig setups come into play, the derivation path shines in its role of facilitating the coordination and authorization of multiple signers, thereby augmenting the security of transactions.

As Bitcoin continues to mature and expand, it’s essential to stay updated on the underlying technologies and standards that underpin it. The BIP-32 derivation path is one perfect example of the complex systems in place that ensure both the secure and efficient operation of the Bitcoin network. So, whether you’re a newcomer to Bitcoin or an experienced user, gaining a deep understanding of the BIP-32 derivation path and its function in key generation and multisig operations can significantly enhance your navigation through the Bitcoin ecosystem.

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