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How to Read an Ethereum Transaction

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Although 99Bitcoins has been around for a while, it just occurred to me that we’ve never really covered the basics of Ethereum transactions even though we’ve discussed Ethereum itself. So this post is aimed at all of the Ethereum newbies out there: let’s understand how to read an Ethereum transaction.

The first thing you’re going to need in order to read a transaction is an Ethereum block explorer. A block explorer is a search engine that allows you to search inside the Ethereum blockchain for transactions, addresses, and other interesting information. In this case, we’ll use EtherScan, one of the most popular Ethereum block explorers out there today.

Let’s take a look at a random Ether transaction via EtherScan.

Ether transaction

Now let’s break down the data that are displayed:

TxHash – Also known as the transaction ID, TxHash is a way to look up a specific transaction on the Ethereum blockchain.

Block Height – The block number in which the transaction was included (for an in-depth explanation of blocks, watch this video)

Time Stamp – The time the transaction entered the blockchain (i.e., the time the block was mined)

From/To – The sending and receiving Ethereum addresses

Value – How much Ether was sent and the equivalent USD value

Before we move to the rest of the terms, let’s look at a short explanation of “gas.” Gas in Ethereum is somewhat similar to transaction fees in Bitcoin. Each operation on the Ethereum network requires a fixed amount of gas (adding two numbers costs 3 gas, calculating a hash costs 30 gas, and sending a transaction costs 21,000 gas, for example).

Gas is paid in Ether, but you can’t own gas. It’s just calculated at a fixed gas/ether exchange rate when you send a transaction on the Ethereum blockchain. We’ll talk more about gas in a different article.

Gas Limit – The maximum amount of gas the sender is willing to buy for the transaction

Gas Used by Txn – The actual amount of gas used for the transaction

Gas Price – The price of gas in Ether. Gas’s price is decided by miners. (One GWei is 10^9 Wei or 10^-9 ether).

Actual Tx Cost/Fee – Gas used * gas cost

Cumulative Gas Used – The total amount of gas used when the transaction was executed on the block. This doesn’t have any real meaning for us at this point.

Tx Receipt Status – Was the transaction successful?

Nonce – A sequential number tied to every transaction that represents the number of transactions the sender account has made on the network. So for example, the first transaction an account sends will have a nonce of 0, the second a nonce of 1, and so on.

That’s it! You now know the basics of how to read an Ethereum transaction.

Having delved into futures trading in the past, my intrigue in financial, economic, and political affairs eventually led me to a striking realization: the current debt-based fiat system is fundamentally flawed. This revelation prompted me to explore alternative avenues, including investments in gold and, since early 2013, Bitcoin. While not extensively tech-savvy, I've immersed myself in Bitcoin through dedicated study, persistent questioning, hands-on experience with ecommerce and marketing ventures, and my stint as a journalist. Writing has always been a passion of mine, and presently, I'm focused on crafting informative guides to shed light on the myriad advantages of Bitcoin, aiming to empower others to navigate the dynamic realm of digital currencies.

View all Posts by Alexander Reed

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7 comments on “How to Read an Ethereum Transaction”

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  1. I would like to ask a question on this. When i download the CSV it has a column for the eth sent and also the eth fee. If i send 2 eth and the fee is 0.1 , does that mean i sent 2.0 or 2.0-1?

    1. Nick Marinoff

      It likely means that you sent 2.0 but that part of it went to the fee. Thus, the receiver only got about 1.9, as 0.1 was taken for the fee.

  2. Hi,
    I am not a techie. But Can I able to buy Ethereum like wise a share? If I can, then can I keep it say for example a year and can I able to sell after a year?, question is, is this crypto currencies be used as a method of investments? or I need to do any activities like wise ‘mining’ (though I need to understand about it) even if I buy some crypto currencies?

    1. Hi Vin,

      You can buy any crypto and hold it in your wallet for as long as you wish. No mining is required, that’s entirely optional (and not profitable for most people). As for investment, it’s not certain that the price will be higher in a year. Be aware of the risks and invest accordingly.

  3. Nice article but I need clarification on Gas Limit as a learner

    How is the Gas Limit determined by the sender, is it just an assumption from the sender? And is it possible to have a Gas Limit that isn’t sufficient for transaction to take place and what happens to such a transaction?

    1. Hey Sammy,

      My understanding is that, because Ethereum is Turing-complete, its coded contracts are able to enter an infinite loop which never resolves. The Gas limitation prevents this from happening – a contract can only execute provided it has Gas, which expires as the contract executes.

      Once the Gas limit is reached, the contract will stop executing. If the limit is insufficient, then miners are likely to ignore the transaction and it won’t execute in the first place.

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