Ever wonder why the ampersand (&) looks so funky? Well I did. One day I wondered if maybe it was a combination of letters, and I noticed it kinda looks like a combination of 'e' and 't'. This was a long time ago. Then one day I saw some Latin and it had the word et in it, and I knew when I read the translation which one meant and. Of course, I have no factual basis for this assertion, but just look at it! Well, it makes sense to me. Anyway, that's my guess as to why it looks like it does. After all, it means the same as et. And another thing: You ever write those weird ampersands with the 'E' that looks like a backwards 3 with a line drawn through it (or two little vertical dashes so it looks like the line goes behind it)? I think that's another clue. It's definitely got to mean et.

Other info

To write & it in HTML, it's best to use &.
It's ASCII code is 38 (0x26).
In C, the address of a variable foo can be represented as &foo. & is also used in C as a bitwise AND, and two ampersands && represent a logical AND.
(I bet you were just dying to know that...)

Duane Dibbley is right; the & is a fancy e-t ligature. In fact you will often see the word "etc." written as "&c" in old books.

The name for the ampersand character is a contraction of the phrase "and per se and," according to one of the Childcraft books I used to have. This meant "&, standing by itself, means ‘and’" and used to be recited by school children with the letters of the alphabet.

The Take Our Word For It newsletter #10 at http://www.takeourword.com/Issue010.html says that the symbol "was invented in 63 BC by {a Roman named} Marcus Tirus" as a shorthand for "et." Learning Kingdom and About.com have the guy's name as "Tiro" but the same date.

In UNIX-like operating systems, the & instructs the active shell to send the command just executed to the background, which is usally a good thing, giving the user access to the shell immediately, rather than when (or if) the command just called exits.


$really-long-to-run-command &

ode to &

the ampersand per se is
to say and for those who
can't type an a or an n
and for those with a
cramp in their hand
or a band from a land
where an & ain't an and
but an och or a ja or
an et or an und.

Am"per*sand (#), n. [A corruption of and, per se and, i. e., & by itself makes and.]

A word used to describe the character &.



© Webster 1913.

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