The @ found its way into the Roman alphabet thanks to Mediterranean traders, who borrowed it from Arabic script to denote a 25-pound weight measure, something called an arroba. @ is still called an arroba in many Latin languages, with variations such as the Catalan arrova and French arobase.

Of course, many languages, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi (Iran), Finnish, Greek, Indonesian, Japanese, Hebrew, Norwegian and of course English, just say "at", or their linguistic equivalent. But there are often two or more words in any language that refer to @. In English, @ had notoriously few uses before email was invented, but was sometimes used as an abbreviation of "alias" or "also known as" ("Wanted: William H. Bonney @ Billy the Kid").

As a throwback to the qwerty typewriter, some languages refer to @ as a "commercial a" (Estonian, French, Italian, Lithuanian, Russian). In French and Norwegian it is called a "curled a", while in Serbian it is called a "crazy a" (ludo).

But many languages call it like they see it, taking their cues from the shape of the @ symbol, often seeing an ear; in Arabic languages @ is often informally called uthun, in German Ohr, and in Turkish kulak. Swedes are more specific, seeing an elephant's ear, so call @ elefantora.

Turks see a rose (gül); in addition, their word for horse is at, so @ is also known as a "horse".

Other countries call @ their linguistic equivalent of "danish pastry": Catalan ensaimada, Hebrew shtrudel, Swedish kanelbulle, Russian plyushka.

Only the Czechs and Slovaks call it a coiled herring (zavinac).

There are lots of other linguistic references to animals, too. Russians call @ "little dog" (sobachka). Greeks call @, among other things, papaki (duckling).

Plenty of languages see a snail, and so in French @ is escargot, Italian chiocciola, Korean dalphaengi, Indonesian keong, and Hebrew shablul.

The Chinese and the Finns sometimes see a mouse, while the Swedes see a cat with its tail curled around its body. Swedish has kattsvans while the Finns have at least three names for @: kissanhäntä, 'cat tail'; miaumerkki, 'meow sign' and miukumauku, which is sort of like 'meow-meow'.

In Polish, they sometimes just call @ ogon, 'tail'.

And let it not be overlooked that many languages see a monkey in the @ symbol! In Bulgarian @ is majmunsko (a 'monkey a') while other languages just say monkey: Polish malpa, Russian obezyana, Serbian majmun and Slovenian afna. Still others say "monkey tail": Dutch apestaartje, Finnish apinanhäntä, Serbian majmunski rep, Swedish apsvans. In German @ is also monkey, Affenschwanz, or sometimes the specific species Klammeraffe, 'clinging monkey, or 'spider monkey'.

Source: William Z. Shetter @

A symbol, standing for "at". Has always been part of both QWERTY and ASCII, but was virtually unused until the 1990s.
@ is used, primarily, as the divider between user and provider in most Internet technologies-- for example, would refer to the user mcc on the machine This would assumedly refer to an e-mail user, but the same notation would apply for finger, ftp, http, etc.

As the internet first became widely used, @ became truly infamous; as the idiosyncratic marker of an e-mail address, @ was the most visible symbol of the Brave New Connected World. As such @ became commonly used in rather inappropriate places, at times seeming almost to be a synonym for "e", only even less dignified. Any product or service, so the marketing logic went, could immediately look internet-ish and get a stamp of legitimacy if you could somehow connect it to an "@". And so we get SETI@home, Excite@home/@home cable, the "@mark" (a name which Pippin, apple's disastrous attempt at creating a console gaming platform, was christened with just before it died), ad infinitum ad nauseum. No one is quite sure if these products are more end-user-friendly because of these names; what is certain, though, is because @ is an illegal character in domain names (for obvious reasons) and most search engines do not recognize the @ symbol, products with @s in their name are much much more difficult to look up on the internet. (Interestingly, the allegedly internet-friendly C# has the same problem.)

Perl uses @ to mark any value or variable with the type of list. See Perl 5 Pocket Reference: Data Types.
In text listings of users in IRC channels-- for example the results of a /whois-- it is customary to prefix the names of channel operators with the @ symbol. As a nod to this convention, users on everything2 with gods status have their names suffixed with an @ in the other users nodelet.
@ has also been adopted by Objective C as its dedicated operator for Objective-C-specific language/compiler operations, on the logic that (besides ` and $) @ is the only symbol in ASCII that ANSI C does not use for anything. A complete list of all @ directives follows:
  • Alone, @ is the Objective C stringize operator. Followed by any string, @ creates a static NSString object and returns it. Like, @"Example" anywhere in code would be equivalent to a pointer to an NSString containing "Example". @"" NSStrings are initialized at runtime and sit there in memory waiting to be used, exactly the same way as ordinary static "" strings.
    @"" is pure syntactic sugar, but you must admit it is some lovely syntactic sugar.
  • @interface : see the Objective C node for normal usage, protocol and category
  • @implementation : see the Objective C node
  • @protocol : see protocol
  • @end marks the end of an @interface, @implementation or @protocol definition.
  • @public, @private and @protected are used to set the scope of class instance variables to be either public, private, or protected. Instance variables are protected by default, but if you use any of these three directives in an @interface specification then all interface variables after that will be given the specified scope up until the next instance of @public, @private, @protected or @end.
  • @class class-name can be placed at the top of a .h file to alert the compiler that class-name is a valid class which is defined in another file. It's exactly like extern.
  • @selector : see selector.
  • @encode : Every single class, structure, or other type in objective c has an associated character string in a special code that Objective C uses to describe types and groups of types. You can get a copy of the associated string by saying @encode( class_or_struct_or_type ) Perhaps someone should write the specifics of this up under Objective C Type Encoding. See see p. 124 of the Objective C book.
  • @defs : This one's kind of odd, and what it does is take the name of a class and return a structure definition list. This can be used for one thing: to create a struct with the same internal data structure as a class. (Remember: While Objective C objects are implemented as structs, you can not treat the two interchangeably.) Let's say you had a class named AData. You could say
     struct ADataLikeStruct {
        @defs( AData );
    And you will have defined a struct named ADataLikeStruct with the same data structure as AData. Once you've done this, if you have a pointer to an instance of class AData named myData, and you want to extract the member variable internalData, you can say ( (ADataLikeStruct *) myData )->internalData and it will pull internalData out of memory for you. (You could, of course, do the whole thing with much less trouble by saying [myData internalData], of course..

    Pretty much the only two usages of this are if you want to pass an Objective C object to a C function masquerading as a struct, or if you want to somehow break inside of an object to access a private variable. In ANY case, usage of @defs is frowned upon.

r4v5 says also, @ is the symbol for a human in nethack..
The ASCII value of @ is 64. If you want to search for or hard-link to this node, you must refer to it as "@" rather than just @-- everything2 does not support searching for or linking to the @ symbol.

One of the hypotheses about the earlier origins of the @ symbol is that it comes from old central markets. There @ meant “ at the rate of”, and was used to separate the quantity and the unitary price of goods:
Cotton 100t @ 2£/Kg
100 tons of cotton at the rate of 2 £ per kilogram
But we can dig deeper, does it comes from the latin ad, as a result of an a superimposed to a d with its “tail” curved over the a?

Or maybe its really a simple evolution of a late gothic a , like the Spanish arroba that made into a measurement unit ?

It’s difficult to know but it seems clear that its origins are plebeian and mercantile.

In English-spoken countries there’s little doubt about how to say @, simply “at”. But in other countries where they don’t have a tradition in its use, they have invented some funny ways of saying @:

update: Fellow noder Shark says that he never heard about "rouleau", but instead "arobase" or "at" for emails...

@ brief history

Probably the most obvious and familiar use of this symbol is as an e-mail separator, and as such it has been in use since it was chosen by Ray Tomlinson in 1972. Its use in business, however, is somewhat more established.

Its first recorded use dates back nearly 500 years, when it was used by Florentine merchants to represent an amphora, a measure based on the capacity of the standard terracotta jars that were used at that time to transport grain and liquid. The sign for it was the letter 'a', embellished in the typical manner of Florentine script.

This symbol was later adopted in Northern Europe with the (still-familiar) meaning 'at the price of'. It was due to this usage that it was included on early typewriter keyboards (from around 1880 onwards). Its continued use was reflected in the fact that it was included in the list of standard ASCII characters in the 1960's. Due to its ubiquitous use in e-mail addresses, its use now extends even into languages such as Arabic and Japanese which do not use the Latin alphabet.


We all know what it means and how to use it, but what is it called? In English, it's most often referred to as 'at', but other languages have far more colorful ways of identifying it.

Monkeys! :
Swedish and Finnish : apinanhanta : 'monkey's tail'
German : Klammeraffe : 'spider monkey'
Dutch : apestaartje : 'little monkey's tail'
Serbian : majmun : 'monkey'

Snails :
French : escargot : 'snail' (perhaps this should be in the 'Food' category?)
Italian : chiocciola : 'snail'
Hebrew : shablul : 'snail'
Korean : dalphaengi : 'snail'

Other animals :
Norwegian : grisehale : 'pig's tail'
Danish and Swedish : snabel : 'letter a with an elephant's trunk'
Finnish : kissanhäntä : 'cat's tail'
Hungarian : kukac : 'worm'
Russian : sobaka : 'dog' (many thanks to MrFurious for kindly pointing this out)

Food :
Czech : zavinàc : 'rollmop' (a rolled-up pickled herring, which looks similar to sushi roll)
Hebrew : strudel : named after the Viennese rolled apple dessert
Swedish : kanelbulle : 'cinnamon bun' (another rolled-up dessert)

Various :
Spanish and Portuguese : arroba : probably from 'amphora' (see above)
English : at or commercial at
French : arobas or a commercial
(Update: 12/20/02. Stavr0 says the 'official' French name is now "arrobe", although everyone already calls it "arobas")

Cute :
Finnish : miukumauku : 'the miaow sign'

Source : 'Where it's at',

Nowadays, the @ character symbolizes the Internet. Many web-related businesses have included this character, or variants of it (eg. IBM's e-commerce) in their name or logo. But way before the email age this glyph was very successful because it's a simple and graphically attractive non-alphanumeric character convenient for abbreviations. The etymology of this character is not clear and opinion is divided on the subject : this discussion often sets off flame wars on bulletin boards. As evidence tends to prove it, the character was used in many different civilizations that didn't have any relation. This is probably why things get so mixed up.

The most accepted answer to the question of @'s origin is that it's a contraction of the Latin proposition 'ad', written in cursive. This maybe explains why it is used in many countries as a synonym for "at" : 2 books @ $1, 3 years @ 3.5%...

           -WWMM-     -WWMMW-                    
           BMWW-         -WMM-                   
           jj              -MM-                  
               -WWWMM      --   WM-              
             -WMMWWMM-     WW   -MW              
            -MMW-   MM    -MW    WW              
            WM-     MM-   WM-    WW              
            WW      MMW  -MW     WW              
            WW     -MMW  WM-     WW              
            WM-    WMMM- WW      WW              
            -MMW- -MW-MMBMW     -MW              
             -WMMWMM- -WBMMW- -WMM-              
               -WWW-     -WMMWMMW-               
But the glyph is also the symbol of an old Spanish weight unit called Arroba. Because Spain's history is closely related to Arab history, it is alleged that this name comes from the Arabic word "ar'roub" which means 1/4, and an arroba is 25 (Spanish) pounds. Many circled characters, mainly numbers (1, 5, 6), are found in eastern countries from India to Borneo. In Sri Lanka, the number 6 is written upside down, which is pretty close to the character @. Let us not forget that the Arabs introduced numbers in Europe.

In fact, @ has been used for various units in many civilizations : Spanish Arroba weight unit, French XVIII Aune length unit, Italian XVI Amphora capacity unit... It was more and more used by traders, and because traders were the first to massively use typewriters, the character @ was eventually introduced on the keyboards.

This character is non-alphabetic, rather easy to draw and attractive which explains the countless different names it has been given (from the French snail to the Czech rollmop). In 1972, Ray Tomlinson chose it as a separator for email addresses because it was unlikely to be used in user names or machine names, and gave its modern usage.

The ISO 10646 name for the @ glyph is 'AROBE'. It is character ANSI, ASCII and UNICODE #64.

ISO 1064


The ITU has added the @ to the morse code, the first time it's been done in several decades.

The new symbol is called COMMAT and transmitted as prosign ¯AC¯ which means transmit the code for A followed by the code for C with no pause. For those wondering, AT (.--) does not work because dot-dash-dash corresponds to W.

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