Typography 101: The Asterisk

History of Symbols: The Asterisk

The word asterisk comes from the Greek word ‘asteriskos’ meaning little star and is considered one of the oldest punctuation sign.

Its primary use is to call attention to a footnote or annotation; it can also be used to indicate an omission or to censor profanities. When preceding a date, it can indicate a person’s birth. The asterisk is used in some programming languages to separate working code from comments.

The original form of the asterisk (※) has been simplified into a star shape with eight points (*)

Dinkus and asterism

Three asterisks in a row are called a dinkus and indicate a section break in text or can be used to censor an expletive ‘F***’.

A group of three asterisks in a triangular formation ⁂ is referred to as an asterism—like a pattern of stars lighting up the night sky. Used to divide subchapters or extended periods of text.

Reference Sources


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