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 ( | )


A commercial at, @, also called an at symbol, an at sign, or just at, is a symbolic abbreviation for the word at. It is assigned to Unicode code point U+0040 (ASCII character 64). Its formal name comes from its commercial use in invoices, as in, "7 widgets @ £2 ea. = £14". It is also known as: about; ampersat or asperand (compare ampersand); amphora; ape; arobase; atgry; cabbage; cat; cinnabun or cinnamon bun; commercial symbol; cyclone; each; mercantile symbol; rose; schnable; scroll or scroll-a; snail; strudel; these; vortex; whirlpool; or whorl. Some of these are based on specialized usage, others are visual descriptions, and atgry (plural atgrynge) is a recurring joke proposed on Usenet as the answer to a longstanding linguistic riddle [1] (http://www.commonplacebook.com/humor/usenet/faq.shtm).


Modern uses

The symbol's most familiar modern use is in e-mail addresses (sent by SMTP), as in jdoe@example.com ("the user named jdoe working at the computer named example in the com domain"). Ray Tomlinson is credited with the introduction of this use in 1972. This idea of user@host is seen in many other tools and protocols as well for example typing ssh jdoe@www.example.com would try to establish a ssh connection to the box with the hostname www.example.com using the username jdoe.

In the programming language Perl, the symbol prefixes variables which contain arrays, as opposed to scalar values (indicated with '$') and hash tables / associative arrays ('%'). If the code were to be treated as a sentence, this prefix would be the equivalent of a determiner, so "@animals" might be read as "these animals".

In the IRC protocol, @ is the symbol for a channel operator. IRC also uses the user@host form (often preceded by nick!) for identifying and banning users. In this case the user@ part was originally an ident response and the host part was a reverse dns name from the user's IP. However, most modern IRC networks provide some mechanism for users to hide their real reverse dns hostname and/or for admins/privileged users to pick one arbitrarily.

The @ character is also used for typing in some Romance languages as a politically correct substitute for the masculine "o" in mixed gender groups and in cases where the gender is unknown. For example, the Spanish word "amigos," which could either mean male and female "friends" or all male "friends" would be replaced with "amig@s." The character is intended to resemble a mix of the masculine letter "o" and the feminine "a". The usefulness of this is debated; in Spanish the masculine grammatical gender may include both males and females, while the feminine gender is exclusive to females, and there is no neuter gender. Some advocates of gender-neutral language-modification feel that using the male grammatical gender as a generic gender is sexist against women. Many Spanish speakers feel that this use of the "@" is degrading to their language, and some allege that it is an example of cultural imperialism. This construction is generally only used in informal writing.


A commonly accepted theory is that the symbol is derived from the Latin preposition "ad" (which means "to" rather than "at"). The @ is supposed to be a ligature developed by transcribing monks. However no document showing this usage has been presented.

A more recent idea concerning the history of the @ symbol has been proposed by Giorgio Stabile, a professor of history in Rome. He claims to have traced the symbol back to the Italian Renaissance in a Venetian mercantile document signed by Francesco Lapi on May 4, 1536. The document talks about commerces with Pizarro and in particular the price of an @ of wine in Peru. The symbol is still called arroba in Spanish and Portuguese, and it represents a unit of weight with the same name (1 arroba = 25 U. S. pounds), an old (Antonio Nebrjia, Salamanca, 1492) Spanish/Latin dictionary translates arroba with amphora. Under this view, the symbol was used to represent one amphora, which was a unit of weight or volume based upon the capacity of the standard terracotta jar. The symbol came into use with the modern meaning "at the price of" in northern Europe.

"Commercial at" in other languages

  • In Dutch, it is called apenstaartje ("little monkey-tail").
  • In Spain, Portugal and Brazil, it denotes a weight of about 25 pounds. The weight and the symbol are called arroba. (In Brazil, cattle is still priced by the arroba -- now rounded to 15 kg)
  • The French name is arobase or a commercial, and sometimes escargot ("snail"). Other names include queue de singe (monkey-tail) and a dans le rond (a in the circle).
  • In Modern Hebrew, it is colloquially known as Shtrudel (שטרודל). The normative term, invented by the Academy of the Hebrew Language, is kruhit (כרוכית), which is a Hebrew word for Shtrudel.
  • In Italian it is chiocciola ("snail") or chiocciolina ("little snail").
  • In German, it is Klammeraffe, meaning "clinging monkey", or kaufmännisches A, meaning "commercial A".
  • In Danish, it is either grisehale ("pig's tail") or snabel-a ("(animal's) trunk-a").
  • In Finnish, it was originally called taksamerkki ("fee sign") or yksikköhinnan merkki ("unit price sign"), but these names are long obsolete and now rarely understood. Nowadays, it is officially ät-merkki, according to the national standardization institute SFS; frequently also spelled "at-merkki". Other names include kissanhäntä, ("cat's tail") and miukumauku ("the miaow sign").
  • In Korean, it is golbaeng-i (골뱅이), a dialectal form of daseulgi (다슬기), a small freshwater snail with no tentacles.
  • In Lithuanian, it is eta (equivalent to English at but with Lithuanian ending)
  • In Mandarin Chinese, it is xiao laoshu (小老鼠), meaning "tiny mouse", or laoshu hao (老鼠號, "mouse sign").
  • In Persian it is at (using the English pronunciation).
  • In Polish, officially it is called atka, but commonly małpa (monkey) or małpka (little monkey).
  • In Romanian, it is Coadă de maimuţă (monkey-tail) or "a-rond"
  • In Russian, sobachka (собачка) (doggy)
  • In Swedish, it is called snabel-a ("(elephant's) trunk-a")
  • In Slovenian, it is called afna (little monkey)
  • In Hungarian, it is called kukac (worm or maggot).
  • In Czech and Slovak, it is called zavináč (rolled pickled herring).
  • In Norwegian, it is officially called krøllalfa ("curly alpha" or "alpha twirl"). (The alternate alfakrøll is also common.)
  • In Catalan it is called arrova or ensaïmada, the roll brioche tipical from Majorca.
  • In Japanese it is called "at mark" (アットマーク) a combination of English words, known as wasei-eigo.
  • In Turkish it is at (using the English pronunciation).
  • In Greek it is called παπάκι (small duck).
  • In Esperanto, it is called ĉe-signo ("at"), po-signo ("each" -- refers only to the mathematical use) or heliko ("snail").


This article was originally based on material from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, which is licensed under the GFDL.

External links

cs:Zavináč da:Snabel-a de:At-Zeichen eo:@ es:Arroba (símbolo) fa:@ fi:@ fr:Arrobe hu:Kukac (jel) ja:アットマーク ko:@ lb:At-Zeechen nl:Apenstaartje nl:At-teken no:@ sr:@ sv:snabel-a


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