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Number sign

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Punctuation marks

apostrophe ( ' ) ( )
brackets ( ( ) ) ( [ ] ) ( { } ) ( Template:Unicode )
colon ( : )
comma ( , )
dashes ( Template:Unicode ) ( ) ( ) ( )
ellipsis ( ) ( ... )
exclamation mark ( ! )
full stop/period ( . )
hyphen ( - ) ( Template:Unicode )
interrobang ( Template:Unicode )
question mark ( ? )
quotation marks ( ‘ ’ ) ( “ ” )
semicolon ( ; )
slash/solidus ( / )
space (   ) and interpunct ( )

Other typographer's marks

ampersand ( & )
asterisk ( * ) and asterism ( Template:Unicode )
at ( @ )
backslash ( \ )
bullet ( , more )
dagger ( † ‡ )
degrees ( ° )
number sign ( # )
prime ( )
tilde ( ~ )
underscore ( _ )
vertical bar/pipe ( | )

Number sign is the Unicode preferred name for the glyph or symbol #. The name was chosen from several used in the United States and Canada. This sign's Unicode value is 0023 in hexadecimal and its ASCII value is 23 in hexadecimal.

In the United Kingdom the name is used for the sign No., which is the Unicode sign 2116 in hexadecimal (№); it does not appear in ASCII. Many Canadians follow their example. That is the sign also traditionally used in European countries, even Russia, which does not use the Latin alphabet. But Unicode calls this sign the Numero sign for disambiguation.

The symbol is traditionally called the pound sign in the US. It derives from a series of abbreviations for pound avoirdupois, a unit of weight. At first "lb." was used; later, printers got a special font made up of an "lb" with a line thorough the ascenders so that the "l" would not be mistaken for a "1". Unicode sign 2114 in hexadecimal (℔) is called the "LB Bar Symbol," and it is a cursive development of this symbol. Finally came the reduction to two horizontal and two vertical strokes.

Its traditional commercial use was such that when it followed a number, it was to be read as 'pounds': 5# of sugar. And when it preceded a number, it was to be read as 'number': #2 pencil, which still appears on US pencils. Thus the same character in a printer's type case had two uses.

It has many other names (and uses) in English. (Those in bold are listed as alternative names in the Unicode documentation.)

  • comment sign
  • crosshatch
    • resemblance
  • crunch
    • ?
  • fence, gate, grid, gridlet
    • resemblance
  • hash / hash mark / hash sign
    • the most common name outside the US, including in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
    • Used in the UK and Australia on touch-tone telephones – "Please press the hash key"
    • In the UK the symbol is often used as medical shorthand for 'fracture' [1] (http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/18.14.html)
  • hex
    • from its use to denote hexadecimal values in some markup and programming languages
  • octothorn
    • William Sherk in 500 Years of New Words (1983), p. 272, has the following entry: "Octothorn, The number sign (#); so called because there are eight points, or thorns, sticking out of it ..."
  • octalthorpe / octothorp / octothorpe
  • pig pen
    • resemblance
  • pound / pound sign
    • Used as the symbol for the pound avoirdupois in the U.S. (where lb. would be used in the UK and Canada; note that lb. or lbs. is common in the U.S. as well and is used by the general public more often than #). Never called "pound" in the UK, where the term denotes the pound sterling and its symbol ().
      • Keith Gordon Irwin in, The Romance of Writing, p. 125 says: "The Italian libbra (from the old Latin word libra, 'balance') represented a weight almost exactly equal to the avoirdupois pound of England. The Italian abbreviation of lb with a line drawn across the letters was used for both weights. The business clerk's hurried way of writing the abbreviation appears to have been responsible for the # sign used for pound."
    • Used in the U.S. and Canada on touch-tone telephones – "Please press the pound key"
  • rap
    • when used to refer to Microsoft's programming language, C#.
  • sharp
    • resemblance to the glyph used in music notation; so called in the name of Microsoft's new programming language, C#. However Microsoft says at Frequently Asked Questions About C# (http://msdn.microsoft.com/vcsharp/productinfo/faq/default.aspx):
      It's not the "hash" (or pound) symbol as most people believe. It's actually supposed to be the musical sharp symbol. However, because the sharp symbol is not present on the standard keyboard, it's easier to type the hash ("#") symbol. The name of the language is, of course, pronounced "see sharp".
      Since most fonts don't contain the sharp sign most websites will doubtless continue to use the fallback hash mark. The "music sharp sign" which should be used if available is U+266F (♯).
  • splat
    • colloquial term referring to vague resemblance of # to a squashed spider
    • sometimes used for the asterisk (*), for the same reason
    • sometimes used for the cloverleaf-like Command key on Apple® computer keyboards
  • square
    • often misattributed as the UK name for #, in reference to touch-tone telephones. From the earliest days of # appearing on telephones, it has been called "hash".
    • the International Telecommunications Union specification ITU-T E.161 3.2.2 states: "The # is to be known as a 'square' or the most commonly used equivalent term in other languages."
  • tic-tac-toe (US) / noughts-and-crosses (UK)
    • resemblance to game board
  • widget mark

In Internet chatting, this symbol is used to mark the end of an internet chat session, a convention used to say that the chatter is going to type no more.

In a URL the sign is used between the URL of a webpage and a "name" or "id" which defines a position in that webpage, by means of the attribute in a HTML element. A reference from the page itself can start with the number sign, and dispense with the URL of the page.

The pronunciation of # as "pound" is common in the US which can cause confusion. The British Commonwealth has its own, rather more apposite, use of "pound sign". On British keyboards the UK pound currency symbol often replaces #, with # being elsewhere on the keyboard. The US usage derives from an old-fashioned commercial practice of using a # suffix to tag pound weights on bills of lading. The character is usually called "hash" outside the US.

In other languages

  • Bulgarian: диез, pronounced dies
  • Chinese: "井號" (jǐng ho; literally: "well" sign) as it resembles the hanzi for water well (井; jǐng)
  • Danish: firkant (square), the official name used by telcos for touch-tone key, or havelge (garden gate from the gate in a picket fence)
  • Dutch: hekje (picket fence)
  • Estonian: trellid (grate)
  • Finnish: ruutu (square) or risuaita (brushwood fence)
  • French: dise (sharp sign)
  • German: Raute or Rautenzeichen (Rhombus, the official name used by telcos for the touch-tone key), Lattenzaun (picket fence), Doppelkreuz (double cross)
  • Greek: δίεση (diesis)
  • Hebrew: sulamit (from sulam == "ladder" + -it, feminine ending)
  • Italian: cancelletto (small gate)
  • Japanese: "番号記号" (bangōkigō, "number sign"); "井桁" (igeta, literally the rim of a well, which is traditionally this shape) or "シャープ" (sharp in katakana)
  • Norwegian: firkant (square)
  • Portuguese: cardinal, used in mathematics notation to represent the cardinality of a set
  • Romanian: diez ("sharp sign")
  • Russian: решётка (reshtka), pronounced ree-SHOT-ka (grid)
  • Spanish: almohadilla ("little pillow")
  • Swedish: fyrkant (square) or brdgrd (timberyard)
  • Turkish: Sayı işareti

See also

References (as numbered above)

  1. Weird Words
  2. World Heritage Dictionary

ja:番号記号 ru:Октоторп zh:井號

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