Missing image
The "roman" ampersand on the left is stylised, but the "italic" one on the right is clearly similar to 'et'.

An ampersand (&) is a logogram representing the word and. It is a ligature of the letters in et, which is Latin for and. The symbol's origin is apparent in the second example to the right; the first example, now more common, is a later development. It was traditionally regarded as the last character of the English alphabet — hence the name, which derives from school recitations of the alphabet which ended "...X, Y, Z, and per se and": that is to say, "...X, Y, Z, and, in itself (i.e. the symbol for), and". The Scottish name for it is epershand derives from "et per se and" with the same meaning.



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 ( | )

The ampersand symbol has been found on ancient Roman sources dating to the first century AD. During this period the symbol was a boxy-looking ligature of the capital letters E T. Over time the figure became more curved and flowing, until it came to resemble something like the figure above on the right, often called the "italic" ampersand.

By the eighth century AD, Western calligraphy was well developed, particularly in a form called Carolingian minuscule. The calligraphers made extensive use of the ampersand because the condensation of a word into a single character made their work easier. During this time the even more condensed ampersand, shown above on the left, was developed. It is often called the "roman" ampersand.

After the advent of printing in Europe in 1455, printers made extensive use of both the italic and roman ampersands. Every new typeface and font has included its own style of &. Since the ampersand's roots go back to Roman times, many languages that use a variation of the Latin alphabet make use of it.

Historically, & was regarded as the 27th letter of the English alphabet. Until recent times the alphabets used by children terminated not with Z but with & or related typographic symbols. George Eliot refers to this when she has Jacob Storey say, "He thought it (Z) had only been put to finish off th' alphabet like; though ampusand would ha' done as well, for what he could see."


Although in the days before typewriters the ampersand was widely used in everyday handwriting to save time and space, it is no longer currently used in the main body of a piece of writing. There it has become more acceptable to write out the word and (Although it still remains firmly above the 7 key on all standard keyboards and typewriters).

The main surviving use of the ampersand is in the formal names of firms, such as the partnerships of lawyers or stockbrokers, e.g., Smith, Jones & Williams. Note that a comma is omitted just before the ampersand, even in American English. This brings it into line with French practice; such a title needs no translation. A common explanation as to why the plus sign is not used instead is that a partnership is a relationship, and therefore more than simply adding one person onto another. However, when two firms amalgamated into that called Gulf + Western, the ampersand was conspicuously declined.

In the twentieth century, following the development of formal logic, the ampersand became the most commonly used logical notation for the sentential connective AND. This usage was adopted by computer programmers: see below.

The ampersand is also used for titles, such as Harry & Tonto, as well, and in some other proper names. In these cases, & is interchangeable with the word and; the distinction between them is mostly aesthetic. However, in film credits for story, screenplay, etc., & indicates a closer collaboration than and; in screenplays, for example, two authors joined with & collaborated on the script, while two authors joined with and wrote the script at different times and likely never consulted each other at all. An example of a proper name in which the ampersand is occasionally found is The United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland sometimes found as the heading of a section of international comparisons.

The conventional ampersand can be easily drawn by first making the cross stroke a bit farther to the right than where a common letter begins, shifting the pen to the center of the stroke, and then following the loop around.

In everyday handwriting, the ampersand is sometimes simplified to a curvy E superimposed by a vertical line, like a $ sign. Sometimes it is nothing more than a + (plus sign) with a loop; the loop is the remnant of a lowercase e.

The phrase et cetera ("and so forth") can be abbreviated &c. This is because the ampersand originally stood for the Latin et.

The ampersand represents a vowel in the orthography for the Marshallese language.


The ampersand corresponds to Unicode and ASCII character 38, or hexadecimal 0x0026. On many U.S. computer keyboards, the ampersand is found above the 7.

In some computer programming languages, the & sign is often used to indicate logical AND. Many computer languages with syntax derived from C differentiate between:

In the C/C++ programming languages, the & symbol, in addition to logical AND, as described above, is used at the front of a variable name to refer to the memory address in memory of that variable. (This is called "referencing"). Also, in C++, function arguments can be expected as references using the & symbol.

In the BASIC programming language the & is used in two ways. It is often used to indicate a variable is of type long, or 32 bits in length. It is also used between two strings (variables or constants) to concatenate them.

When found at the end of a Unix shell command line, the ampersand indicates that the indicated command is to be processed in the background.

In SGML, XML, and HTML, the ampersand is used to introduce an SGML entity. The HTML encoding for the ampersand character is the entity '&'.

External link

  • "The Ampersand" (, an article written for Adobe Systems by Max Caflisch, a significant source for this

eo:& fr:Esperluette ja:アンパサンド nl:Ampersand pl:Et pt:& ru:Амперсанд sv:Et-tecken da:&


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