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An ampersand (&) is a logogram representing the conjunction word "and".

The symbol is a ligature of the letters in et, Latin for "and".



The word ampersand is a corruption of the phrase "and per se and", meaning "and [the symbol which] by itself [is] and".[1] The Scots and Scottish English name for & is epershand, derived from "et per se and", with the same meaning.

Traditionally, in English-speaking schools when reciting the alphabet, any letter that could also be used as a word in itself ("A," "I," and, at one point, "O") was preceded by the Latin expression "per se" (Latin for "by itself"). Also, it was common practice to add at the end of the alphabet the "&" sign, pronounced "and". Thus, the recitation of the alphabet would end in: "X, Y, Z and per se and." This last phrase was routinely slurred to "ampersand" and the term crept into common English usage by around 1837.[2]

Through folk etymology, it has been claimed that André-Marie Ampère used the symbol in his widely read publications, and that people began calling the new shape "Ampere's and". [3]


Evolution of the ampersand
The modern ampersand is virtually identical to that of the Carolingian minuscule. The italic ampersand, to the right, is originally a later et-ligature.
Et ligature in Insular script

The ampersand can be traced back to the first century A.D. and the Old Roman cursive, in which the letters E and T occasionally were written together to form a ligature (figure 1). In the later and more flowing New Roman Cursive, ligatures of all kinds were extremely common; figure 2 and 3 from the middle of 4th century are both examples of how the et-ligature could look in this script. However, during the following development of the Latin script that led up to the Carolingian minuscule (9th century), while the use of ligatures in general diminished, the et-ligature continued to be used and gradually became more stylized and less revealing of its origin (figures 4–6).[4]

The modern italic type ampersand is a kind of et-ligature that goes back to the cursive scripts developed during the Renaissance. After the advent of printing in Europe in 1455, printers made extensive use of both the italic and Roman ampersands. Since the ampersand's roots go back to Roman times, many languages that use a variation of the Latin alphabet make use of it.

The ampersand often appeared as a letter at the end of the Latin alphabet, as for example in Byrhtferð's list of letters from 1011.[5] Similarly, & was regarded as the 27th letter of the English alphabet, as used by children (in the USA). An example may be seen in M. B. Moore's 1863 book The Dixie Primer, for the Little Folks.[6] In her 1859 novel Adam Bede, George Eliot refers to this when she makes 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."[7]

The ampersand should not be confused with the Tironian "et", which is a symbol similar to the numeral 7. Both symbols have their roots in the classical antiquity, and both signs were used up through the Middle Ages as a representation for the Latin word "et" ("and"). However, while the ampersand was in origin a common ligature in the everyday script, the Tironian "et" was part of a highly specialised stenographic shorthand.[8]

Writing the ampersand

A simplified, handwritten ampersand

In everyday handwriting, the ampersand is sometimes simplified as an ε superimposed by a vertical line.

Alternatively, it is sometimes written as a t or a + sign with an added loop. This type of ampersand may actually be a rendering of the + sign or of the Tironian "et".

Both forms are generally accepted, but some might view them as sloppy or casual.


The ampersand is now rarely used when writing paragraphs. The main surviving use of the ampersand is in the formal names of businesses (especially firms and partnerships, particularly law firms, architectural firms, and stockbroker firms). When the ampersand forms part of a registered name (e.g. Brown & Watson), it should not be replaced with and.

With the growth of mobile phone usage and text messaging, the ampersand is gaining new use in SMS language both as a representation for the word "and" and in rebus form, such as "pl&" in place of the word "planned".[9]

The ampersand is also often used when addressing an envelope to a couple: "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" or "John & Jane".

The ampersand is also used for book and movie 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. The ampersand is used by the Writers Guild of America to denote when two writers collaborated on a specific script, rather than rewrote another writers' work. In screenplays, two authors joined with & collaborated on the script, while two authors joined with and worked on the script at different times and may not have consulted each other at all.[10] In the latter case, they both contributed enough significant material to the screenplay to receive credit but did not work together (more than likely one was hired to rewrite the previous writer's script).

Many of the first Role Playing Games used the & in their titles: Tunnels & Trolls, Bunnies & Burrows, and most famously Dungeons & Dragons, which is commonly abbreviated as D&D.

In APA style the ampersand is used when citing sources in text such as (Jones & Jones, 2005).

The phrase et cetera ("and so forth"), usually written as etc. can be abbreviated &c. representing the combination et + c(etera).

The ampersand can be used to indicate that the "and" in a listed item is a part of the item's name and not a separator (e.g. "Rock, pop, rhythm & blues, and hip hop").


In the twentieth century, following the development of formal logic, the ampersand became a commonly used logical notation for the binary operator or sentential connective AND. This usage was adopted in computing.

Programming languages

There are two common uses for the "&" symbol as a binary operator in programming languages: as the logical AND operator, and as the string or array concatenation operator. There are also various idiosyncratic uses of & by various languages, for example as a short form of the verb PRINT in BASIC-PLUS on the DEC PDP-11.

Many languages with syntax derived from C differentiate between:

  • & for bitwise AND, which also functions as the non-short-circuit logical AND since C represents false/true as zero/nonzero integers, but (4 & 2) is zero (false), whereas (4 && 2) is one (true);
  • && for short-circuit logical AND.

In C and C++, "&" is also used as an unary prefix operator, denoting the address in memory of the argument, e.g. &x, &func, &a[3]. (This is called "referencing".) In C++, unary prefix & in a formal parameter of a function denotes pass-by-reference.

Ampersand is the string concatenation operator in Ada, AppleScript, HyperTalk, FileMaker scripting language and many BASIC dialects. In Ada, it applies to all one-dimensional arrays, not just strings.

In some BASIC dialects, unary suffix & denotes a variable is of type long, or 32 bits in length. In BBC BASIC, unary prefix ampersand marks an integer literal written in hexadecimal; it served a similar function in the Monitor built into ROM on the Commodore 128, but indicated octal instead, a convention that spread throughout the Commodore community and is now used in the VICE emulator.

In MySQL the '&' has dual roles. As a logical AND in addition it serves a bitwise operator of an intersection between elements.

When found at the end of a Unix shell command, the ampersand indicates that the indicated command is to be processed in the background. Two ampersands means that the next command should only be evaluated if the current one exits with a zero status.

In SGML, XML, and HTML, the ampersand is used to introduce an SGML entity. The HTML and XML encoding for the ampersand character is the entity '&'[11] (pronounced "amper-amp"). This creates what is known as the ampersand problem. For instance, when putting URLs or other material containing ampersands into XML format files such as RSS files the amp; has to be added to the & or they are considered not well formed and computers will be unable to read the files correctly.

In markup language TeX the ampersand is used to mark tabs. The ampersand itself can be applied in TeX with \&.

In Microsoft Windows menus, labels and other captions, the ampersand is used to denote the keyboard shortcut for that option (Alt + that letter, which appears underlined). This convention is used in Windows Forms[12].

The ampersand is occasionally used as a prefix to denote a hexadecimal (base 16) number, such as &FF for decimal 255.

In FORTRAN, the ampersand allows you to force the compiler to treat two lines as one. This is accomplished by placed the ampersand at the end of the first line and at the beginning of the second line.

Usage in Perl

Perl uses the ampersand as a sigil to refer to subroutines:

  • In Perl 4 and earlier, it was effectively required to call user-defined subroutines[13]
  • In Perl 5, it can still be used to modify the way user-defined subroutines are called[14]
  • In Perl 6, the ampersand sigil is only used when referring to a subroutine as an object, never when calling it[15]

Much like C, Perl also uses a single ampersand to do a bitwise AND operation on integers and strings, and a double ampersand as a short-circuit logical AND operation.[16]

Unix shells

Some Unix shells use the ampersand as a metacharacter:

Some Unix shells use the ampersand to execute a process in the background.

  • In Bash, the ampersand can separate words, control the command history, redirect output to stdout/stderr, duplicate file descriptors, perform logical operations, control jobs, and participate in Regular expressions.[17]


The ampersand is represented by Unicode code point and ASCII character 38, or hexadecimal 0x0026.

In keyboard layouts, it is often shift-6, shift-7 or shift-8.

Web standards

The generic URL (Uniform Resource Locator) syntax allows for a query string to be appended to a file name in a web address so that additional information can be passed to a script; the question mark, or query mark, ?, is used to indicate the start of a query string. A query string is usually made up of a number of different name–value pairs, each separated by the ampersand symbol, &. For example, But see also "Ampersands in URI attribute values".

See also


  1. ^ "The ampersand". Adobe Fonts. 
  2. ^ "The ampersand". word-detective. 
  3. ^ For examples of this misunderstanding, see Jessie Bedford, Elizabeth Godfrey: English Children in the Olden Time, page 22. Methuen & co, 1907, p. 22; Harry Alfred Long: Personal and Family Names, page 98. Hamilton, Adams & co, 1883.
  4. ^ Jan Tschichold: "Formenwandlung der et-Zeichen."
  5. ^ Everson, Michael; Sigurðsson, Baldur; Málstöð, Íslensk (1994-06-07). "On the status of the Latin letter þorn and of its sorting order". Evertype. 
  6. ^ "The Dixie Primer, for the Little Folks". Branson, Farrar & Co., Raleigh NC. 
  7. ^ George Eliot: Adam Bede. Chapter XXI. online at Project Gutenberg
  8. ^ "Ampersand". The Online Etymological Dictionary. 
  9. ^ "SMS terms & SMS glossary & SMS definitions & SMS abbreviation". Environmental Studies. 
  10. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Writers Guild of America. 
  11. ^ "HTML Compatibility Guidelines". World Wide Web Consortium. 
  12. ^ How to: Create Access Keys for Windows Forms Controls, from
  13. ^ "PERL -- Subroutines". 
  14. ^ "What is the point of the & / ampersand sigil for function refs?". PerlMonks. 
  15. ^ "Exegesis 6". 
  16. ^ "perlop - Perl operators and precedence". 
  17. ^ "UNIX Manual page: bash - GNU Bourne-Again SHell" (manpage). 2006-09-28. Retrieved June 20, 2009. 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

AMPERSAND (a corruption of the mixed English and Latin phrase, "and per se and," of which there are many dialect forms, as "ampussyand," or "amperseand"), the name of the sign & or &, which is a combination of the letters e, t, of the Lat. et= and. The sign is now usually called "short and." In oldfashioned primers and nursery books the name and sign were always added at the end of the alphabet.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to ampersand article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




The "Roman" ampersand on the left is stylised, but the "italic" one on the right is clearly similar to "et".

A contraction of "and per se and", meaning "and (the character) '&' by itself", which is how the symbol (&) was originally referred to in English. This formulation is due to the fact that in schools, when reciting the alphabet, any letter that could also be used as a word in itself ("A," "I," "&" and, at one point, "O") was preceded by the Latin expression per se (Latin for "by itself"). Also, it was common practice to add at the end of the alphabet the "&" sign, pronounced "and". Thus the end of the recitation would be: "X, Y, Z and per se and." This last phrase was routinely slurred to "ampersand" and the term crept into common English usage by around 1837.





ampersand (plural ampersands)

  1. The symbol "&".
    The ampersand character in many logics acts as an operator connecting two propositions.


See also


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