What Is the Real Name of the #?

octothorpe, hashtag, number sign

On Facebook and Twitter, you tag your friends with the @ symbol and topics with the #. If you see something that says #WordoftheDay, the tweet or post will concern the Word of the Day in some way. But what do you call the # symbol? Where did it come from? Its myriad names and its appearance are intertwined. 

The # symbol is commonly called the pound sign, number sign and more recently the hashtag. It is called the pound sign because the symbol comes from the abbreviation for weight, lb, or “libra pondo” literally “pound by weight” in Latin. When writing lb, it was not uncommon for scribes to cross the letters across the top with a line across the top, like a t. See the example below.

The phrase “number sign” arose in Britain because “pound sign” could easily be confused with the British currency. The # symbol is sometimes spoken as the word “number” as in the word “number two pencil.”


But what is its official name? The octothorpe. What does that mean? It’s actually a made-up word. It was invented in the same laboratories where the telephone came from. The scientists at Bell Laboratories modified the telephone keypad in the early 1960s and added the # symbol to send instructions to the telephone operating system. Since the # symbol didn’t have a name, the technicians made one up. They knew it should be called “octo-” something because it has eight ends around the edge. But how to make “octo” into a noun? What happened next is not entirely clear. According to one report, Bell Lab employee Don MacPherson named it after the Olympian Jim Thorpe. Another former employee claims it was a nonsense word that is a joke. Another unverifiable report is much more etymologically satisfying. The Old Norse word “thorpe” meant “farm or field”, so octothorpe literally means “eight fields.”

The word hash predates these other terms but was not very popular until recently. (Maybe because it reminds us of mediocre diner food.) It first referred to stripes on military jackets as early as 1910. In the 1980s, it came to refer to the # symbol. Since the ascent of social media, hashtag has become the favored word for the # symbol.

Similar symbols appear in many other places. Musicians recognize # as the sharp symbol, denoting a note one half step higher. Copy editors see a symbol meaning “space,” as in “add a space between two sentences.” In computer code, the # symbol means that everything that follows is only comment, not instructions.

Do you use the # often? What other characters would you like us to discuss on the the Dictionary.com blog?

See Also:

  • Why does the dollar sign have two lines? Find out here.
  • What symbol used to be a part of the alphabet, was removed, but is still used every day? Learn about it here.


    • WaltBJ -  March 10, 2015 - 10:53 am

      # as in pigpen; viz. “pigpen code”.

  1. Fred G -  February 22, 2015 - 3:20 am

    Please discuss the @ sign

    • Steve in CHGO -  March 3, 2015 - 11:04 am

      The retrofitting to the Old Norse “eight fields” sounds made-up to me. Show us some research. Besides, it doesn’t fit the object. There are 8 points but NINE fields, like when you play tic-tac-toe.

  2. MAD_SCIENCE_JACK -  February 16, 2015 - 3:50 pm

    Please do not use this for anything other than its original intended purpose, as the people who use it in front of things like #thismakesyoulookretarded, lower the I.Q. of everyone around them and it hurts.

    • Steven -  March 25, 2015 - 8:58 am


  3. Allen Falfa -  February 13, 2015 - 5:08 pm

    I have a problem with this article. it says that the symbol # was created in Bell Labs and was given the name “octothorp” but wait, Written music is much older than the telephone. So what did they use for the sharp before the octothorp symbol was created. This article is another example of Americans stamping everything as American made. Next thing they will say is that they build the pyramids in Egypt.

    • jpmcool -  February 19, 2015 - 6:49 am

      It never says the symbol was created in the lab only the name u should read an article first, before making a ridiculous assumption about a country that has over 300 million people, that like me saying hey eruopean why don’t you go drink some coffe and get welfare while you sit back. See ridiculous yet a common misconception of many eruopeans. They hate us cuz they anus!!!. Hater!!!

    • Kevin R. -  February 19, 2015 - 7:26 pm

      The symbol has been around for a long time. The official name was invented by Bell Laboratories. Also, I don’t think any educated U.S. citizen would claim that we built the pyramids.

    • amaziah -  March 9, 2015 - 1:04 pm

      i agree with you

    • chewie -  March 11, 2015 - 2:06 pm

      I built the pyramids. by hand. in 6 days.

      • Taylor -  March 15, 2015 - 11:07 am

        WTF, really, You must not have a life to come up with that comment “chewie”

      • Balcuna -  March 22, 2015 - 2:11 am

        And I kept passing up ( and up ) cups of tea .

    • Luwen S. -  March 24, 2015 - 11:22 am

      The sharp ♯ and the octothorpe # are different, first of all. The sharp has two vertical lines but no horizontal lines. The octothorpe has two horizontal lines but no vertical lines. And your final comment, while cute, is rather retarded.

  4. David Cunningham -  February 6, 2015 - 5:44 am

    I’ll always call it the pound sign but then again I am not from theses new times just call me old school

    • Kevin O. -  February 15, 2015 - 2:42 pm

      The octothorpe is the copyrighted name for the # button on a standard telephone key pad. All other uses and names are coincidental.

    • Kevin O. -  February 15, 2015 - 3:43 pm

      One more thing: The proper depiction of an Octothorpe symbol differs slightly than that of the common # symbol, as legally documented by the copyright. Therefore rest assured everyone, that you don’t have to include a copyright symbol whenever you use the # !

  5. # lover -  January 28, 2015 - 7:24 pm

    the # should be called a hash tag #inwiththenewoutwiththeold

    • Withered Bonnie -  February 6, 2015 - 7:49 am

      I still call it number sign, but for the sake of the new age: #nevertobereplaced

  6. Paul -  January 7, 2015 - 5:59 pm

    Since my programming days, back in the early 1980′s, i’ve known it as the hash key. Before that I just called it sharp

    • Venkat Raman -  January 24, 2015 - 11:03 pm

      Orthopaedic surgeons frequently use this symbol #, in India , to denote a fracture, ex # of the right Radius

  7. brandon -  January 3, 2015 - 2:49 pm

    the tow side thing

    • brandon -  January 3, 2015 - 2:50 pm

      cool name is in

    • Thambi Thiagarajah -  December 19, 2014 - 10:21 pm

      # is called the “octothorpe”

  8. Raegene -  November 26, 2014 - 10:41 am


    • Raegene -  November 26, 2014 - 10:42 am

      or #TreatmentLife

  9. MARTIN BRU -  November 24, 2014 - 8:05 pm

    i need help understading this

  10. thE REal SLiM SHAdy -  November 24, 2014 - 7:56 pm

    this was informative
    thank yo dictionary.com

  11. Ed Lepps -  November 21, 2014 - 6:47 am

    I learned to refer to it as the BARB key symbol; button at right bottom.

  12. WhatWhatintheWhat -  November 15, 2014 - 11:39 am

    This is interesting, and I’m sincerely glad that people are reading about grammar in their free time. It touches my heart, honest.

    ….buuuuuut. I said what what in the butt.

    • mungee -  November 21, 2014 - 9:54 pm

      One of my best friends and I would always say this phrase: )

  13. Rehan Khawaja -  November 13, 2014 - 10:00 pm


    if # is on the left side, it means pound.

    # 1 cake = One pound cake.

    if # is on the right side, it means number.

    number 1 cake.

    best wishes

    • _______ -  January 26, 2015 - 8:24 pm

      isn’t it the other way around? 1# cake, one pound cake, #1 cake, number one cake? Not sure, but it makes more sense…

      • R. Moreno -  February 21, 2015 - 10:57 am

        So much more sense…

  14. alex -  November 8, 2014 - 2:13 am

    what is the font of the hashtag??

    • kaylee -  November 13, 2014 - 12:27 pm

      oh really

    • Loco -  November 21, 2014 - 11:46 am

      It’s Arial Italic, size 13!!
      Next question please.

      • Andrew -  November 30, 2014 - 11:08 am

        No no no no, where ever did you get that idea? Everyone knows the hashtag font is Times New Roman, 10 point.

  15. Eggbonk -  October 14, 2014 - 12:54 am

    One half,-does this mean that you may have more than one half? Two halves would be a whole. Surely just ‘a half.’

  16. Speaker of English -  October 6, 2014 - 11:43 am

    It all depends on where you place the octothorpe. #2 means “number 2″ (as in pencil) and 2# means 2 pounds (as in lunch meat order). What these lazy rip-offs should have done is make up their own symbol. I would suggest a combination of H and T for hashtag, with the T running through the middle of the H, much like the International Harvester logo, only without the bottom of the I. The U.S. dollar symbol was similar where the U was laid over the S. Later, the bottom of the U was removed to give us the familiar $ sign.

    • J.T. -  March 25, 2015 - 4:21 pm

      Your example of the $ sign is incorrect. The dollar sign really came from a Spanish colonial coin called “real de ocho”, or “piece of eight”. The coin had two pillars with an S-shaped ribbon wrapped around each printed on it. Later, it was morphed into the dollar sign we know today.

  17. yolo1234 -  September 24, 2014 - 7:32 pm

    Hashtag# you suck

  18. bakul kr -  August 8, 2014 - 5:08 am


    • Nipun -  September 13, 2014 - 7:39 pm

      Tell me what means 10# wood?

      • mcfly -  October 8, 2014 - 4:47 pm

        10# wood: means ten pounds of wood or in some areas in the north part of America, it is camp fire wood sold in bundles of ten pounds per bundle give or that what type of wood it is.

  19. […] The # has an involved and, at times, a somewhat unverifiable history. Much like Lord of the Ring’s Gandalf, this symbol goes by many names: pound, sharp, space (for you copy editors) and even the etymologically-challenged octothorpe. […]

  20. Resolute1 -  June 21, 2014 - 3:51 am

    Octoplex would be more precise.

    • dr dale -  July 9, 2014 - 4:03 pm

      A lot of medical / nursing practitioners would immediately think of a “fracture” and also a “number” if they saw the # sign, long before computers came along, and current history taking too… For instance Problem #2: a suspected # left forearm.

    • aj -  July 25, 2014 - 10:25 am

      its a pound sign or a tic-tac-toe board.

      • aj -  July 25, 2014 - 10:27 am

        well it can be used as a number sign.

  21. jacob -  June 6, 2014 - 12:58 pm

    nobody is perfect about that symbol #.

    • Partha -  July 9, 2014 - 2:17 am

      you are absolutely correct

  22. K -  June 3, 2014 - 7:30 am

    I hate hashtags

    • Dante -  July 30, 2014 - 7:28 pm


    • Sara -  September 22, 2014 - 11:28 am

      Oh my gosh, they are so annoying. All of these youngsters running around using ridiculous hashtags and whatnot. I hate opening my phone or laptop up and seeing all of the stupid things they’re putting on their twitters and facebooks.

      • kayben -  October 8, 2014 - 7:12 am

        Work on your sarcasm. You sound like a flouncing tween.

  23. alan -  May 9, 2014 - 12:05 am

    I have been working in Australia for 45 years in the
    Engineering / Construction industry, before all these computer
    jargans came into being.
    Especially “windows” which is something installed in a wall to
    look out of.
    # refered to guage (thickness of metal material.)
    #8 wire = 1/8 th of an inch in diameter. (3.2mm)
    #22 sheet = 1/32nd of an inch (0.8mm)
    The first time I head of Pound = # was phoning an American supplier
    with an automated phone receptioner telling me to use the extention
    number followed by pound.
    I never made contact with that supplier.

    • Cody -  August 31, 2014 - 5:41 am

      Hahaha.. thanks for that windows remark, alan.


      Though I have to refute the jaron and amount of years. Depends on what you’re referring to. I think it also depends on how technical you want to go (debugging, bug, compiler, lexer, scanner all of which should be familiar to programmers and some of which sould be known to most everyone else, too. There’s more examples of course). Then again, as you refer to construction, this is different, but still, computers are a lot older than 45 years and those terms I refer to included. And well, telegraph ? Still though, your windows remark is valid and quite funny too.

      • Ilona -  November 7, 2014 - 10:07 am

        Good grief, Cody!. You pontificate on English grammar, usage, punctuation, etc., and then you write, “There’s more examples of course.” There’s a basic point of grammar children learn in first grade (if not at their mothers’ knees) called subject/verb agreement. So utterly basic! The mind boggles! (Moreover, there should have been a comma before “of course.”)

    • Cody -  August 31, 2014 - 5:43 am

      Hopefully this doesn’t show twice. Anyway, response:

      Hahaha.. thanks for that windows remark, alan.


      Though I have to refute the jargon and amount of years. Depends on what you’re referring to. I think it also depends on how technical you want to go (debugging, bug, compiler, lexer, scanner all of which should be familiar to programmers and some of which sould be known to most everyone else, too. There’s more examples of course). Then again, as you refer to construction, this is different, but still, computers are a lot older than 45 years and those terms I refer to included. And well, telegraph ? Still though, your windows remark is valid and quite funny too.

  24. TalleySueNYC -  May 6, 2014 - 6:16 pm

    ” octothorpe literally means “eight fields.””

    Well, actually, there are NINE fields in an octothorpe–three in each row.

    • Poopiwa -  May 8, 2014 - 7:39 am

      You are wrong you idiot, it means fields of eight,.. Stupid

      • ted -  July 1, 2014 - 7:16 am

        It is eight fields surrounding a central square. This is a cartography symbol

      • _______ -  January 26, 2015 - 8:34 pm

        calm yourself! people are getting so touchy these days…

  25. Habib -  April 11, 2014 - 4:27 pm

    Hashtag is merely a term used by those ghat want to seem like they are up on new terminology. Those folks want to seem like they are modern and in the know. It is really a symbol that means pound or number. Do the research and be real. Stop trying to be cool. Cool by the way is another such word. It really means not warm and not cold but closer to cold than warm. People should stop trying to change language and stop trying to be cool.

    • Robert -  April 30, 2014 - 11:04 am

      And stop being so arrogant, it has NEVER been called pound ANYWHERE EXCEPT the US. It’s stupid to call it pound and it’s good to see the US starting to join the rest of the world. It’s a hash, when you use it as a tag it’s a hash tag. Simple, no?

    • gotcha -  October 19, 2014 - 10:05 pm

      I agrede 100% habib

    • patrick -  November 11, 2014 - 12:05 pm

      i think you are right

  26. larry Pearson -  April 1, 2014 - 4:23 am

    # should be called POUND, not hash-tag – I have seen sophisticated, well-dressed celebrities call it “hash tag” not very dignified!!!!

    • Robert -  April 30, 2014 - 11:05 am

      No we aren’t going to rename the hash to pound just because Americans can’t see beyond their boarders…

      • faith -  May 6, 2014 - 8:27 am

        excuse me thats not true :)

        • Poopiwa -  May 8, 2014 - 7:40 am

          It is true stupid…

          • Bella -  May 12, 2014 - 12:34 pm

            And what evidence do you have?

        • Mary -  May 21, 2014 - 8:23 am

          Yes it’s nt true

        • Ben -  November 1, 2014 - 10:40 am

          It is true. In most parts of the world the £ symbol is called the pound sign. # is a hash

          • Alyssa -  December 18, 2014 - 7:20 pm

            I know none of you probably know me but Ben is right, # is a hash

      • Cody -  August 31, 2014 - 5:51 am


        Better way of putting it:

        Look at the humourous (is it a joke ? I’m not sure!) Americans’ (specifically US) version of the world map compared to the rest of the world (all other countries) version of the map. Now then, if you look at it that way, you could just accept it and realise they won’t change, no matter what. So just move along on it. If you really want to go further, there’s always the Australian ‘slang’ septic tank, right ? Think of it this way:
        -ize versus -ise (you know what is correct but they generally only know the former, do they not ?)
        -ou versus o (e.g., colour, color, humour, humor, …)
        kerb versus curb (same thing)
        tyre versus tire (again)

        and so on.

        I admit I’m notorious for seeing typos, spelling errors, and the works, especially if it is after I originally write it (several times, admittedly!) or it is another person’s works, but do you not mean borders ?

  27. H -  March 31, 2014 - 9:19 pm

    I’m surprised at how uninformed/misinformative this article is, then I realised it was dictionary.com ? Wow.

    The # is not called a ‘hashtag’ by anyone. It is the hash symbol (or whatever you want to call it), the ‘tag’ is the word that follows it.

    And, ‘In computer code, the # symbol means that everything that follows is only comment, not instructions.’ That really depends on the LANGUAGE you are writing in. ‘Computer code’ is ambiguous, the best assumption you could make from that is assembly code, which doesn’t contain a # at all.

  28. Wes -  March 17, 2014 - 1:52 pm

    Ok if the # is being called a hashtag that is because it is a hash mark to tag the message that is following the # symbol. # used in computer programing is called a hash. Things such as pictures are tagged on Facebook so people can keep track of the persons pictures that has been tagged and all of tagged pictures are easily found.

    With that said the # symbol on twitter is what initiates the tag so #idiots would mean IDIOTS is not the tag it is what has been TAGGED so that it can be inventoried and counted to see how popular you IDIOTS are. So the hash symbol is the tag that is going on the tagged item. In this case its you IDIOTS that’s been tagged.

    I prefer #number or #pound key as said by automated phone services above #hashtag or what some misinformed kid said earlier that they thought it was #star key which if he looked at a phone he would see there is a * which is the star key lol

  29. aldrenean -  March 11, 2014 - 10:27 am

    “hashtag has become the favored word for the # symbol.”

    Stop propagating this! “Hashtag” refers to the entire “#yadayada” unit, “hash” is the leading symbol.

  30. thatuglyhaterwhohatesyou -  March 6, 2014 - 10:17 am


  31. Jim -  March 5, 2014 - 1:11 pm

    The # is only used for comments in computer code in some languages. The “C” family of languages, as well as Java, which are the most common languages, use “//” to designate a comment. They also use “/*” and “*/” to enclose comments.

  32. HYO -  March 5, 2014 - 3:30 am

    #’s are used in music to identify keys and their raised notes, stupid people

    • Me -  June 23, 2014 - 3:18 pm

      The sharp sign is a different sign. They just look similar

    • DKW -  December 23, 2014 - 4:50 pm

      Before calling everyone stupid, you might look at a piece of sheet music. A sharp is sloped in the other direction.

  33. t(* -  March 4, 2014 - 6:25 pm


    • aj -  July 25, 2014 - 10:29 am

      its not a hashtag.

  34. Parker Orfield -  February 28, 2014 - 6:31 pm

    Hash and eggs # tag you are it! ( :

    • larkin -  November 4, 2014 - 9:07 am

      hahaha :)

  35. Vinny -  February 14, 2014 - 6:56 pm

    It’s a pound sign. Meaning a measurement of weight. If it was a hashtag it would be a tag attached to a ball of hash.

  36. ken klemp -  February 14, 2014 - 7:00 am

    The dollar sign came from U S, the U with a S overlay, then we got lazy and used two lines instead of a U.

    • J.T. -  March 25, 2015 - 4:18 pm

      This is incorrect. The dollar sign really came from a Spanish colonial coin called “real de ocho”, or “piece of eight”. The coin had two pillars with an S-shaped ribbon wrapped around each printed on it. Later, it was morphed into the dollar sign we know today.

  37. Dean -  February 13, 2014 - 9:33 pm


  38. Bazinga Person -  February 13, 2014 - 1:53 pm


  39. adsf -  February 7, 2014 - 2:57 pm

    interesting read. I’m used to calling it hash, crunch, or shebang (in the case where you have #!).


  40. Sweg -  January 30, 2014 - 8:42 am

    It’s not hashtag, those darn teens and their social sites believe it’s hashtag, it means number!!! I AM NUMBER ONE (#1)!

  41. DeAN -  January 27, 2014 - 2:19 pm

    Wouldnt it technically be called a Hash if #+tag= hashtag? because the word is the tag and the # is the hash! :)

  42. jarod -  January 27, 2014 - 9:13 am


  43. Robert -  January 5, 2014 - 5:16 pm

    It has never been “universally known” as a pound sign unless your universe stops at the US borders. It’s a hash in universally (except the US and Canada (where it’s a number sign)), and a pound sign locally in the US.

  44. Seth -  December 23, 2013 - 2:00 pm

    The hashtag isn’t the # character.

    The hashtag is the word followed by the # character.

    Since the # character is also called a hash, the word after the character is the tag.

    This shows the representation of the average Twitter user’s knowledge. You seriously can’t tell the difference between the # and the word after it? Are you just too lazy to call it by its proper name?

    Either way it’s still sad.

  45. cow -  December 21, 2013 - 4:47 pm


  46. Don -  December 19, 2013 - 9:11 pm

    When I type, #1, it means number 1, not hashtag 1.
    A lot of liberties have been taken with the English language, including special characters in the alphabet. I guess I’m just getting OLD!

  47. too lazy to kneel -  December 12, 2013 - 3:34 pm

    don’t judge me! :) lol

  48. too lazy to kneel -  December 12, 2013 - 3:27 pm


  49. too lazy to kneel -  December 12, 2013 - 3:27 pm

    why is this not submitting!!!!! >:(

  50. too lazy to kneel -  December 12, 2013 - 3:26 pm


  51. too lazy to kneel -  December 12, 2013 - 3:25 pm


  52. 777 -  December 9, 2013 - 8:01 pm

    here again dictionary people,i am here to say,it doesnt say nothing aboutz what modern day hashtag means…you might as well dictionary.com

    oh and like before,i forgot what my very first post was(ima be famous on dictionary.com!!!!!!!!)i used a different name,i said look at the dates on a halloween forum,cuz they went back to 2009 this is rather a much newer forum,but id say dictionary.com always uses old forums and rarely makes new ones they just re-use! oh and i dont believe in using words right or typing right online

  53. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  December 9, 2013 - 2:19 am

    I like your PSM. Maybe I’ll start using it.

    Wow. What’s your source?

  54. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  December 9, 2013 - 2:15 am

    It used to be called a star on telephones. Like, the automatic voice would say, “To do blah blah blah, please press star.” I had no idea what they were talking about. It drove me crazy until my mom explained it. Does # even look like a star to you?

    Anyway, I still don’t know what you do with a hashtag. (They are called hashtags now. If you want to be all up-to-date and stuff.) Do you search a topic on Twitter with # in front of it? That’s what it seems like to me. But hashtags are so ubiquitous, I don’t really know. A kid on my brother’s Little League baseball team always wears this shirt that says “#notbothered.”

    If you are reading this and watch X Factor, please, please vote for Jeff Gutt! We’re down to the Final 6, and I really want him to win! If you don’t like Jeff Gutt, you don’t have to vote for him.

    If you’re reading this and you play WolfQuest, watch (or even make) WolfQuest videos, or at least have heard of WolfQuest, please say so in your comment. I’m looking for other WolfQuesters. Thanks.

    • JayH -  October 20, 2014 - 5:31 pm

      Don’t take it personally, kid, but stick to minecraft, not internet boards. “Star” (*) is a completely different sign from what is called “pound” (#) when dealing with U.S. phones. They are both there—look more carefully next time.

  55. Ken Hobbs -  November 30, 2013 - 1:12 pm

    In the UK it’s been known as the hash sign as far back as i can remember. At least for 30 years or so everyone I know has called it the hash sign. We’re also aware Americans call it the pound sign but I had no idea why, until now. :)

  56. kik -  November 25, 2013 - 1:17 am

    @arima : and what is “£” ?

    I would rather use “pound sign” than “octothrope”, tough. The later is just too ugly, and haven’t that historical legitimacy.

    We could use “pound sign (#)” and “pound character (£)”, but it would still be a convention and doesn’t carry any meaningful difference.

  57. Arima Trinidad -  November 21, 2013 - 11:52 pm


    • Mike -  February 22, 2015 - 2:13 am

      Umm.. Universally?
      Not quite, I’m afraid – showing a bit of ignorance there :)
      It would only ever be called the pound sign by US English speakers – about 330 million out of the 7,250 million people on the planet, or less than 5%.
      Wikipedia would say that “outside of North America the symbol is called hash and the corresponding telephone key is called the “hash key”, and the term “pound sign” usually describes the British currency symbol “£”. But that too would only be english speakers calling it hash.
      Universally means universally not just inside one particular country of less than 5% of the planet :)

  58. Akira -  November 21, 2013 - 9:11 am

    Uh…I thought it was called a hashtag…

  59. Kasara Sinclaire -  November 19, 2013 - 3:10 pm

    could the Word of the Day.com please use words that are relevant today, not words that were relevant with writers in the 18th century. I delete most words that come my way, like, I’m never gonna use that word EVER!

  60. dakota -  October 14, 2013 - 7:18 pm

    it’s for instagram, duh

  61. -_- -  October 3, 2013 - 5:51 pm


  62. #pompous hash -  September 28, 2013 - 9:37 pm

    I just think “hashtag” sounds very douchy and hope people would stop calling it that. If the y want to call it that in the twitter environment, even though I don’t like it I guess I can handle it, but PLEASE do not use the term “hash tag” anywhere else. It sounds super douchy, I feel like I need a shower just writing about it here. I’ve always known it as a pound sign but can accept sharp and number. I feel like whereever or with whom ever startedwanted to be douchy and re name or re introduce it as a hashtag to make themselves feel like they’re “smarter” than all of us dummies. They would have been better off popularizing the sqiggly line “~” and called it a semi-mouch or something like that.

    Ps the”!” Is an exclamation mark. Grade 1 grammer and punctuation class would have taught you that.

  63. Rob Knight -  September 18, 2013 - 4:40 am

    # is not hash it’s “hatch”. Tally-men throughout the ages when loading or discharging ships have written on their tally sheets #1 #2 etc. referring to the hatch number which is being loaded or discharged at the time.
    The vertical and horizontal lines strokes in # refer to the fore and aft and athwart-ship beams that support the wooden hatch covers of the hold. Duh!!!
    It will stay hash though won’t it!! Grrr!!

  64. David -  September 16, 2013 - 6:08 pm

    Never knew that LOL

  65. A.P. Ness -  September 10, 2013 - 8:16 am

    Most Americans never heard the term “hashtag” until recently. My hope is that it soon will be heard no more, or as rarely as possible.

  66. -- Anonymous -  September 6, 2013 - 10:54 am


  67. jim -  September 5, 2013 - 7:02 pm

    never heard it called hashtag before, just hash or hash sign, but I’m seem to be only one who knows its origin
    used for years for noughts and crosses then stolen by phone company

  68. Grant -  August 27, 2013 - 2:45 pm

    I don’t think anyone refers to ‘#’ as “hashtag”. Hashtag is the entire ‘#somethingelse’.

  69. Natalie -  August 8, 2013 - 9:49 am

    To codemonkey: The programming language Python uses # for comments.

  70. Gumby2104 -  July 29, 2013 - 8:42 am

    “Ryan” gets the prize: “Shift 3″

  71. Andrew -  July 17, 2013 - 12:08 am

    On the drawings of the reinforced concrete structures # means the diameter of the rebars (especially the ribbed ones) instead of “o with a stroke” Ø which is a standard diameter mark.

    If someone ask me, I found the # mark especially useful in my personal timetable, serving as a for “postscript comment”, for example:
    - call to Agness / ask about the hangings colour # bright yellow
    - visit John at 2 pm # failed – out of office till Friday
    - buy tickets # done

  72. Amy -  July 16, 2013 - 11:30 am

    I’m an editor, and as a copyediting symbol, the # means “space” (e.g., add a space, delete a space, etc.)

  73. Alexandria -  July 15, 2013 - 11:35 am

    #OldPeopleJustDontGetIt #Gtfo #RealSpit

  74. Bob McBob -  July 10, 2013 - 5:19 pm


  75. Norgloom -  July 7, 2013 - 9:52 pm

    I like traintrack. It’s a visual thing.

  76. Did Facebook Really Need Hashtags? » | -  July 1, 2013 - 4:52 am

    [...] Congratulations, hash symbol. You’ve come a long, long way. Remember when we used to call you a pound sign or a number sign? Remember when people used to confuse you with the musical symbol for sharp? Remember when Bell Labs technicians gave you the made-up name “octothorpe“? [...]

  77. Yepi Games -  June 26, 2013 - 12:55 am

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  78. Yepi -  June 25, 2013 - 6:36 pm

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  79. Roland -  June 21, 2013 - 6:20 pm

    I think we should call it the TTT symbol. It would stand for “Tic Tac Toe”.

    • Annie -  February 5, 2015 - 10:03 am


  80. Yepi 6 -  June 20, 2013 - 8:08 am

    I rarely leave comments, but after looking at a bunch of
    remarks here What should you call the # symbol? | The Hot Word | Hot & Trending Words Daily Blog at Dictionary.
    com. I actually do have a couple of questions for you if you tend not
    to mind. Could it be only me or does it seem like some of
    these responses appear like they are written by brain dead
    people? :-P And, if you are writing at other social sites, I’d like to follow anything fresh you have to post. Would you post a list of every one of your social community sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

  81. Yepi 3 -  June 20, 2013 - 7:41 am

    I want to to thank you for this great read!! I absolutely enjoyed every bit of
    it. I’ve got you bookmarked to look at new things you post…

  82. [...] Congratulations, hash symbol. You’ve come a long, long way. Remember when we used to call you a pound sign or a number sign? Remember when people used to confuse you with the musical symbol for sharp? Remember when Bell Labs technicians gave you the made-up name “octothorpe“? [...]

  83. [...] Congratulations, hash symbol. You’ve come a long, long way. Remember when we used to call you a pound sign or a number sign? Remember when people used to confuse you with the musical symbol for sharp? Remember when Bell Labs technicians gave you the made-up name “octothorpe“? [...]

  84. Israel -  June 1, 2013 - 1:34 am

    Hashtags hv got intertwined with lives that ts really hard to look for its meaning and origins

  85. Israel -  June 1, 2013 - 1:31 am

    Hashtag is now been a universal phenomenon happening with every Tweet or any other message happening over the netcast channels.True people have paid very little attention about the origins and the current application,however good to know the background of the symbol.

  86. trick photography book review -  May 2, 2013 - 4:55 pm

    I all the time used to study paragraph in news papers but now as I am a user of web therefore from now I am using net
    for articles or reviews, thanks to web.

  87. Yepi -  April 29, 2013 - 8:38 am

    Hey! I realize this is somewhat off-topic however I had to ask.
    Does running a well-established website like yours require a large amount of work?
    I’m brand new to blogging but I do write in my journal everyday. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my personal experience and thoughts online.
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    Appreciate it!

  88. Pound -  April 24, 2013 - 4:56 pm

    apostrophe ( ’ ‘ )
    brackets ( [ ], ( ), { }, ⟨ ⟩ )
    colon ( : )
    comma ( , ، 、 )
    dash ( ‒, –, —, ― )
    ellipsis ( …, …, . . . )
    exclamation mark ( ! )
    full stop/period ( . )
    guillemets ( « » )
    hyphen ( ‐ )
    hyphen-minus ( – )
    question mark ( ? )
    quotation marks ( ‘ ’, “ ”, ‘ ‘, ” ” )
    semicolon ( ; )
    slash/stroke/solidus ( /, ⁄ )
    Word dividers
    interpunct ( · )
    space ( ) ( ) ( )
    General typography
    ampersand ( & )
    asterisk ( * )
    at sign ( @ )
    backslash ( \ )
    bullet ( • )
    caret ( ^ )
    dagger ( †, ‡ )
    degree ( ° )
    ditto mark ( 〃 )
    inverted exclamation mark ( ¡ )
    inverted question mark ( ¿ )
    number sign/pound/hash ( # )
    numero sign ( № )
    obelus ( ÷ )
    ordinal indicator ( º, ª )
    percent, per mil ( %, ‰ )
    basis point ( ‱ )
    pilcrow ( ¶ )
    prime ( ′, ″, ‴ )
    section sign ( § )
    tilde ( ~ )
    underscore/understrike ( _ )
    vertical bar/broken bar/pipe ( ¦, | )
    Intellectual property
    copyright symbol ( © )
    registered trademark ( ® )
    service mark ( ℠ )
    sound recording copyright ( ℗ )
    trademark ( ™ )
    currency (generic) ( ¤ )
    currency (specific)
    ( ₳ ฿ ₵ ¢ ₡ ₢ ₠ $ ₫ ৳ ₯ € ƒ ₣ ₲ ₴ ₭ ₺ ℳ ₥ ₦ ₧ ₱ ₰ £ ₹ ₨ ₪ ₸ ₮ ₩ ¥ ៛ )
    Uncommon typography
    asterism ( ⁂ )
    index/fist ( ☞ )
    interrobang ( ‽ )
    irony punctuation ( ؟ )
    lozenge ( ◊ )
    reference mark ( ※ )
    tie ( ⁀ )

    • larkin -  November 4, 2014 - 9:10 am

      zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz :(

  89. Pound -  April 24, 2013 - 4:51 pm

    Number sign

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Not to be confused with the Chinese character 井 (well-field system), the sharp sign (♯), the viewdata square (⌗), or the numero sign (№).

    Number sign is a name for the symbol #, which is used for a variety of purposes, including the designation of a number (for example, “#1″ stands for “number one”). The symbol is defined in Unicode as U+0023 # number sign (HTML: # as in ASCII).

    In Commonwealth English, the symbol is usually called the hash and the corresponding telephone key is called the hash key. In American English, the symbol is usually called the pound sign (outside the US, this term often describes instead the British currency symbol “£”) and the telephone key is called the pound key.[1] In Canadian English, this key is most frequently called the pound key, in reference to telephone buttons,[citation needed] but in technology is always referred to as hash.

    It is asserted[by whom?] sometimes that in many parts of the world, including most of the Commonwealth nations, Russia, and most of Europe, number sign refers to the numero sign (№). But this is not true.[citation needed]

    The symbol is easily confused with the musical symbol called sharp (♯). In both symbols, there are two pairs of parallel lines. The key difference is that the number sign has true horizontal strokes while the sharp sign has two slanted parallel lines which must rise from left to right, in order to avoid being confused with the musical staff lines. Both signs may have true vertical lines; however, they are compulsory in the sharp sign, but optional in the number sign (#) depending on typeface or handwriting style.

    Origin and usage and naming conventions in North America

    Mainstream use in the US is as follows: when it precedes a number, it is read as “number”, as in “a #2 pencil” (spoken aloud as: “a number-two pencil”). A theory claims that back in early 1900, the Teletype Corporation was the first to use # to mean “number”.[2]

    Historically, the pound name derives from a series of abbreviations for pound, the unit of weight. At first “lb.” was used; however, printers later designed a font containing a special symbol of an “lb” with a line through the verticals so that the lowercase letter “l” would not be mistaken for the numeral “1″. Unicode character U+2114 ℔ l b bar symbol (HTML: ℔) is a cursive development of this symbol. Ultimately, the symbol was reduced for clarity as an overlay of two horizontal strokes “=” across two forward-slash-like strokes “//”.[1][verification needed] Keith Gordon Irwin, in The Romance of Writing, p. 125, says “The Italian libbra (from the old Latin word libra, ‘balance’) represented a weight almost exactly equal to the avoirdupois pound of England. The Italian abbreviation of lb with a line drawn across the letters [℔] was used for both weights.[2]

    In Canada the symbol is commonly called the number sign. Major telephone-equipment manufacturers, such as Nortel, have an option in their programming to denote Canadian English, which in turn instructs the system to say “number sign” to callers instead of “pound sign”.

  90. Ebi -  April 20, 2013 - 4:49 am

    The symbol is called hash, not hashtag. Hashtag refers to tags on posts like described and hashtags is called hashtags because they are tags and the hash symbol is used to indicate that it is a tag.

  91. Ron -  April 20, 2013 - 3:03 am

    in romanian – diez :)

  92. roger -  April 11, 2013 - 6:43 pm

    This # in origin, is called a “clojure”.

  93. The Hashtag is Invading -  March 24, 2013 - 5:49 pm

    [...] has a unique history in the name “octothorpe.”  It seems that Bell Laboratories’ scientists made up the name for [...]

  94. gelana -  January 6, 2013 - 8:16 pm

    “octothorpe” literally means “eight fields.”…
    # has eight points and nine fields, if you care to count.

  95. joanna -  January 3, 2013 - 4:04 am

    I’ve never heard it being called ‘pound sign’ or ‘number sign’ here in the UK. Hashtag has always been the name for it.

    Octothorpe doesn’t really sound right…

  96. mishasibirsk -  December 25, 2012 - 9:46 am

    “telephone keypads”… also, remote controls.

  97. mishasibirsk -  December 25, 2012 - 9:44 am

    I only recently discovered, reading Chinese for Dummies, that Canadusans call it a pound sign, although I spent two years (forty ago) at a school run by an order of freres largely of that provenance. (I think I have a repressed memory of this term trying to force its way into my consciousness.) Along with others here from my parts of the world, I recall it as a key with a meaning “ordinal number,” but not really a name that anyone used. I vaguely recall it rising from the slime, as “hash,” together with telephone keypads – before mobiles – especially in connection with automated answering systems and internal company phone arrays…a formidable team together “star.”

    BTW, some people here are referring to “programmers”… just programmers, not computer programmers. I had been telling the Russians that “programmist” doesn’t quite correspond to “programmer,” as there are programmers who programme other things than computers; better to use the full title. Perhaps I should stop insisting on that?

  98. W.J.R. Haly -  December 22, 2012 - 9:04 am

    Re “hashtag”…
    Has anyone considered the “hash” portion to be a mutation/molestation of “hatch”, as when one does “cross-hatch(ing)” in art?
    Used to indicate shading, one makes a series of rapid, parallel lines first vertically, then horizontally. Depending on the density of the cross-hatching, you can simulate darker or lighter shading/shadowing.
    Isolate just a small area of cross hatching, say two lines vertically and two lines horizontally at their intersections, and you have something that forms the classic octothorpe… a “hatch” mark looking suspiciously like a “hash” tag.
    Yes, the “octo” represents “eight”, but that “fields” thing for “thorpe” (as to referencing the symbol) definitely cannot work, because the symbol divides into NINE parts. We’d be calling it a “nonathorpe” or “nonothorpe” if THAT was the defining criteria.
    And, PS to Dictionary.com, in your paragraph about the symbol, you typed “pound sigh” at one point, instead of “pound sign”… with an “n” there on the end, instead of your “h”.
    The visuals both were mildly disturbing and bizarrely hilarious, simultaneously. Your proofreader gets a “C-minus” for letting THAT one by.

    • JayH -  October 20, 2014 - 5:38 pm

      I am embarrassed to admit I hadn’t thought of that until reading your post. Thank you for pointing that out! “Hatch,” indeed—I rather think I prefer that.

  99. 2332 -  December 21, 2012 - 4:50 pm

    it could always be a sharp sign for music people, but for whatever works for someone, that’s what they will use. Pound, number sign, hash, sharp, hashtag, whatever. I guess since we discussed so much we’ll all use all of them.

  100. Rlequino -  November 15, 2012 - 2:08 pm

    In The Netherlands the # was called “hekje”, which is “gate” or “fence” in English, so it had a descriptive name. It’s now quickly changing to hash tag, as the Dutch don’t care too much about their own language.

  101. brian -  October 13, 2012 - 5:23 pm

    wow i never knew there was a name for the sharp, number, pound sign. if dictionary.com could explain the % then id be very happy

  102. Ryan -  October 13, 2012 - 1:47 am

    I call it “Shift 3.”

    • larkin -  November 4, 2014 - 9:11 am


  103. jonathan -  September 18, 2012 - 9:46 am

    why does people say that when you mad at someone that means you like them .

  104. Olivia -  August 12, 2012 - 5:22 pm

    the @ symbol. it drives me crazy why the heck theres a cirle they cant they just like overlap the a and t?!?!?!? seriously!!!!!!!!

    thank u dictionary peeps, i now feel this (this: #) much smarter!

  105. yayRayShell -  August 6, 2012 - 11:23 am

    Please explain the percent sign. It looks like a 0 over a 0. >%

  106. Dawna -  July 29, 2012 - 10:00 pm

    This I did not know!

  107. Ida -  July 28, 2012 - 6:21 am

    @Joe Liuzzi Facebook doesn’t use hashtags cause they are behind in technology! haha jk

  108. James -  July 23, 2012 - 11:50 pm

    “Since the ascent of social media, hashtag has become the favored word for the # symbol.” – Actually, the hashtag refers to the /whole/ tag – the hash sign plus the keyword. No one actually calls ‘#’ a hashtag.

    “Musicians recognize # as the sharp symbol, denoting a note one half step higher.” – The sharp symbol is often confused with the hash sign, but actually it is a different (though similar) character altogether. The sharp sign has slanted horizontal lines and perfectly vertical lines.

    “In computer code, the # symbol means that everything that follows is only comment, not instructions.” – In some languages, yes. In others, however, and in assembly language, the # represents that what follows is to be taken as a number, and not as a variable or memory location.

  109. Interesting -  July 23, 2012 - 10:00 am

    Never new the # had a name. I’ve always just thought of it as the number sign or pound. “Octothorpe” that an awesome word. I need to remember that from now on.

  110. Ezekiel Rage -  July 22, 2012 - 12:02 pm

    I prefer to call it “Sharp,” as in C#, the object-oriented programming language.

  111. h.a. -  July 15, 2012 - 9:48 pm

    People keep repeating the comments.(not word for word)

    • JayH -  October 20, 2014 - 5:40 pm

      Yes, please read before you post, and actually reply to the comment you are commenting on rather than posting at the top! Basic Internet board etiquette, folks. ;)

  112. Random fact: #sausage #hotdog « heyslowdown -  July 11, 2012 - 6:00 am

    [...] also called it number sign, pound sign, etc. well, enlighten yourself while reading it more here at dictionary’s hot word Rate this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

  113. Rivka -  July 11, 2012 - 5:51 am

    if memory serves, # is also used to denote a comment in IBM Assembly language.

  114. Neil660 -  July 10, 2012 - 6:50 am

    Ha! I see Dictionary.com is still hashing out last month’s Hot Word!! Come on guys! Change the channel!!!

  115. andy -  July 9, 2012 - 11:33 pm

    Hmmm. Hash.

  116. Joe -  July 9, 2012 - 11:18 am

    What’s going on dictionary.com? Did you fire all your writers? Let’s get something new written and out there. This # story wasn’t interesting to begin with.

  117. Alice -  July 9, 2012 - 8:36 am

    I’d like to see an article discussing the asterisk (*), if it hasn’t already been done. That’s a very common symbol that many people don’t know the name of.

    If the suggestion doesn’t have to be a symbol then it could also be interesting to write about the uvula, since most people I know simply call it “the dangly thing in the back of your throat.”

    “A lot” could also be a good one, since it’s commonly misspelled as “alot”.

  118. Bridget -  July 9, 2012 - 7:51 am

    This is all fascinating. Who finds these answers and where? Intriguing!

  119. Bill Davis -  July 8, 2012 - 2:05 am

    What you call it would depend upon the context:

    In America, at least…
    Keyboard (or before numbers): number sign
    Phone pad: pound sign
    Music: sharp
    …on and on

    On Twitter, it has become known as a hashtag, when used as a tag for search terms in Tweets. This is a common and growing usage. While Facebook does not formally use hashtags, people are starting to use them in comments and status updates, as a spillover from Twitter. Young people are even SAYING “hashtag” before a word in the latest fad (not so much slang as the blurring of forms of communication, just as when we say “period” or make “double quote marks” in the air with our fingers when talking.)

  120. Joe -  July 7, 2012 - 7:37 am

    It’s about time for a new article, don’t ya think? Enough ready with this, who cares?

  121. Mike -  July 5, 2012 - 2:58 pm

    Unless the guys at Bell Labs actually invented the symbol itself, the fact that they decided to call it an “octothorpe” is about as meaningful as if I decided to call it a “whackadoo”.

    @codemonkey – the ‘#’ symbol is commonly used to designate a comment in scripting languages like Perl.

    @oleg – The use of “//” or “/* … */” for comments is common to many computer languages, but not universal.

    @hearaoi – Seems likely that “ponsin” was a case of “pound sign” getting mangled up at some point by someone talking with their mouth full or something.

    @Ian Mallet – What does the “(evil)” remark in your post mean?

    @Jack London – the ‘#’ character is not the same thing as a sharp symbol from musical notation, although they are indeed very similar.

  122. David JM -  July 5, 2012 - 6:47 am

    Some transatlantic misunderstandings here!

    As others point out, lb. was the measure of weight used in the UK, pronounced “pound”, and £ is the symbol for the unit of UK currency pronounced “pound”. £ is a stylised letter L with the line used to indicate an abbreviation. The symbol itself is the “pound sign”. To distinguish between weight and money, one would say “pound weight” or “pound sterling”.

    Apparently a pound weight was the weight of one pound of silver. The abbreviation is from Latin libra pondo, (pound weight) hence lb.

    “Hash” and “number” for the # sign are new to English English, as far as I know, and my knowledge of it before about five years ago was that it was the notation for “sharp” in music. “Crosshatch” is the only word I knew for the symbol when not in a music context.

    “Octothorpe” is therefore an invented word for something for which words already exist – forget it, I say!

    As others note, the conflation of # and £ probably results from US keyboards lacking the £; my UK keyboard has the $, though.

  123. Rarin2go -  July 4, 2012 - 1:22 am

    There are eight fields that surround the farm house, barns and other support convenient and adjacent to each field. Now, that does make sense, don’t you think?

  124. David -  July 3, 2012 - 8:41 am

    It’s called splat where I come from.

  125. Hreyes -  July 1, 2012 - 9:13 pm

    If octothorpe refers to the number of fields, than it should be called nonothorpe, as there are nine fields, with eight points.

  126. Prestell -  July 1, 2012 - 2:38 pm

    In Brazil, we call it “little fence” (cerquinha).
    It reminds curral.

  127. Marc -  July 1, 2012 - 7:44 am

    Besides, isn’t is a nonothorpe? I count 9 fields.

  128. Chuck -  July 1, 2012 - 7:43 am

    On the more general subject of symbols, I’ve been irritated at modern computer & sign folk for their insistence that ‘icons are intuitive and thu easier.’ For starters, this would imply that pictographic languages would be somehow ‘less confusing’ (as each icon would have only one meaning.)

    In fact, pictographic based languages such as ancient Egyption, Chinese, Japanese, etc. are much more difficult and much less precise than any of the alphabet/word based languages (though they too often have multiple meanings, there are usually far fewer per word than per icon.)

    For those of us with poor eyesight, icons are no major improvement over words, as they are often harder to identify. And few of them are ‘intuitive’ until explained. (e.g. ‘ I/0′ used to label ‘on/off’ switches was unfamiliar to me the first time I ran across the big red switch labeled with it on the side of a computer…I flipped it to see what it did — yes, I found out as I shut down the company’s computer system, thankfully it was hours before the work day started :)

    Words are constantly created and reassigned new or additional meanings, as their function is to provide a short-hand to encapsulate ideas. English will steal, shorten, mangle or otherwise alter any word or phrase from any language to define a thought.

    German tends strongly to create new words from sentences and phrases by removing spaces between the words–but usually leaving the words intact, leading to extremely long words, which aren’t a great deal of help in encapsulating the thought.

    It can be very difficult to think truly novel thoughts in iconographic languages–and even harder to pass them on to others.

    Before computers came along, a lot of the symbols such as #, ! & such had no real need for individual names–you used them in context, and their meanings were clear, since you seldom talked about them outside of a specific reference, and usually they were written symbols representing a word, it wasn’t a problem.

    But it becomes a problem when trying to dictate or explain by voice alone. ‘Exclamation point’ is fine when they’re infrequent, but becomes cumbersome when used very frequently. ‘Bang’ is shorter, and carries similar connotations. The same applies to other symbols named as two words , the second being ‘sign’ or ‘symbol.’

    One reason that the use of such symbols exploded with computerization is that memory was once extremely expensive (not that long ago!) When I started working with computers in the early 1970′s, every single byte was expensive, and coding concentrated heavily upon using as little memory as possible. memory was also physically large. In 1977 I ran across an old drum memory unit in a surplus store in Tucson. This unit store 1k bits and consisted of a 3′ diameter 6′ long solid aluminum cylinder.

    As we were building micro-computers at that time, $1,000 per kbits was the going rate (~$5,000 per in current dollars.) (That’s $40,000/kbyte or $40,000,000 per megabyte or $40,000,000,000 per GB.)

    Since each byte could represent 2^8 different symbol, and the alphabet & numbers only used <2^7 there were a lot of extra unused binaries available but not defined.

    Similar constraints have influenced the widespread use of symbols in txting, chats, emails (as has the fact that few programmers were good typists, and typing on a 2"x3" keyboard can be irritating for fingers 3/8"x3/8" at the tip, and the fact that spelling properly isn't a widespread skill — hey, 'proper' spelling is only a couple hundred years old!

    To look at the difficulties of icons, look at the plaques sent with the Voyager space probes…carefully designed to be 'universally' readable, much of the plaque is indecipherable to the average person.

    E=MC^2 is shorthand for a very large and complex idea, which would be extremely cumbersome without the short condensation.

    The common keyboard symbols ~`@#$%^&*()_-+={}[]|\:;"'?/ were redefined largely because they were on the keyboards of normal typewriters–mostly a matter of availability.

    There are thousands of shorthand symbols used in different fields, often a symbol will be ‘borrowed’ from another field and redefined because it is easier than creating and introducing a new symbol…this is true of words too, as a word is also a symbol.

    Icons and words both can have specific meanings, and both can be modified to alter the meanings, but in all cases the meanings are not intuitive and need to be learned within a culture. And in both the context is very important.

    The amazing thing is that we can communicate complex thought at all!

    • gotcha -  October 19, 2014 - 11:24 pm

      Thank you Chuck. I like your thinking and communication!

  129. ruby -  July 1, 2012 - 4:05 am

    I’ve often wondered why the US call it a pound sign when the pound sign is £. But now I understand. it is pound weight not pound currency :-)

  130. Gen -  July 1, 2012 - 12:59 am

    Its been hash as long as the world’s been round, and doesn’t need its name changed.

    And at the programmers here, shame on you! PHP, Perl, Bash, C shell and Ruby all used hash to comment out a line to start with, and hash is listed as the line commenter in their standard.

  131. r. wilson -  June 29, 2012 - 12:30 pm

    This is only a test.

  132. Simon -  June 28, 2012 - 2:02 am

    as far as I can remember been called “hash” in the UK, without any ties to inferior culinary dishes! The UK currency symbol, the pound “£” sign, is also derived from the Latin for pound (in weight) Libra, which was represented with a capital L in the roman empire. I’ve never heard it called the number sign in the UK, but is used for shorthand for the word “number”, ie #1 “number 1″

  133. supamichi -  June 27, 2012 - 4:52 pm

    I’ve always heard it referred to as the pound, be it on a tele-service line or just word of mouth. Maybe that’s just a Canadian thing.

    @Eyewitness: I was a little bit put off by your shallow attempt at causing a digression among this blog. Notwithstanding that abhorrent display of narcissistic pontification, as no one has remarked on (nor probably even considered) your PSM (should be “Pompous-Social-Meandering”, or prehaps “Please-Shoot-Me” as “IHNBTD- I Have Nothing Better To Do”), I am thoroughly assuaged by the fact that you have been otherwise ignored. Damn me for succumbing to your trollish ways…

  134. Eyewitness -  June 27, 2012 - 4:47 pm

    Of course, I think all of you are brilliant. I must say I am taken with the coinages “polytrope” and “misanthrope” [sic. misanthorpe, misantrope] but you inspire me: In honor of Mrs. Malaprop and gentrification of the digital age in general, perhaps we could settle on “malatrope” or “malathorpe” or even “Malaproctoprop.” Best wishes to all.

  135. Ray -  June 27, 2012 - 1:15 pm

    Curiouser and curiouser, Nobody suggested, “hashmark,” (cf we have questionmarks and exclamationmarks…).

  136. Ray -  June 27, 2012 - 1:08 pm

    || All the browsers, MSIE 9, Firefox, are confused by the homepage
    || here: The sockdologer-popup insists on popping-up contiguously…
    || I had to go through a hotword link to get a clean webpage.

  137. william -  June 27, 2012 - 12:53 pm

    silence fools..its clearly the start of a game of ‘naughts and crosses’…..tut …. (shakes head)

  138. Whats a name? -  June 27, 2012 - 11:55 am

    That is something everyone should know.

  139. JackLondon -  June 27, 2012 - 11:50 am

    The guys at Bell did not invent this sign # ???? Hello ?! It is used in music to mark a sharp note… I guess that predates the fact that some guy decided to use it on a phone ?!!

  140. yahoo -  June 27, 2012 - 11:34 am

    does any body know Ian Mallet just said???????

  141. yahoo -  June 27, 2012 - 11:32 am

    oooooooooooooooooooooooooo so that iz what that means

  142. yahoo -  June 27, 2012 - 11:31 am

    ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo so thats what that means!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  143. yahoo -  June 27, 2012 - 11:30 am

    does any body know what is up with all these stupid senseless comments i mean come on guys think of some different other than lolololololololololololololololololol ok jesus christ

  144. Mini Wembo -  June 27, 2012 - 11:04 am


  145. Tim Chambers -  June 27, 2012 - 10:20 am

    “Hash” will do fine. The OED cites first usage in 1973 in U.S. Patent 3,920,926: “The pad provides keys for numerals 0 to 9, while..the octothorp (#) key generates a command to send the contents of the memory into the telephone line.” Note there is no trailing ‘e’.

    I especially like hashtag over octothorptag for this reason: The OED (3a) defines “hash” as “A mixture of mangled and incongruous fragments; a medley; a spoiled mixture; a mess, jumble.”

    Re. the fact that Facebook doesn’t support hashtags. That’s another reason I prefer Google+.

    See my post for more about the octothorp and hashtags: http://j.mp/NC7vnR

  146. fabgirl -  June 27, 2012 - 9:40 am

    Why do we dot lowercase ”i”s

  147. Char -  June 27, 2012 - 8:38 am

    In medical documenation # refers to a fracture……

  148. klipsch -  June 27, 2012 - 8:27 am


  149. Ian Mallett -  June 27, 2012 - 8:04 am

    As others have pointed out, the “#” sign in computer programming doesn’t necessarily denote a comment. See basic list:

    Python, Perl: “#”
    C/C++/Java (evil): “//” or “/*…*/”
    MATLAB: “%”
    FORTRAN: “C” (IV) or “!” (90)
    Lua: “–”
    Lisp (e.g., Scheme): “;”

    Additionally, many languages (e.g., C languages, Python) allow strings to be added to code, but not assigned to anything, so they aren’t used–effectively a comment.

  150. Cleanjeans -  June 27, 2012 - 7:44 am

    Hash from the French hacher “chop up,” which in turn is from Old French hache “ax” (see hatchet)

  151. Hearaoi -  June 27, 2012 - 7:43 am

    In the 80s I needed a name for #. I knew it was called pound sign and number sign, but was troubled by the extra ‘helper’ word, sign. And since there were two phrases, there might well be a universal term. I asked a colleague. He said with no uncertainty, ‘That’s a ponsin.’ The spelling’s mine; the pronunciation is his.

  152. Cleanjeans -  June 27, 2012 - 7:38 am

    Hashtag sounds very British.

  153. Joe -  June 27, 2012 - 7:09 am

    Got me intrested in the origins of the percent sign too.
    “The percent sign evolved by gradual contraction of the phrase per cento. The “per” was often abbreviated as “p.” and eventually disappeared entirely. The “cento” was contracted to two circles separated by a horizontal line from which the modern “%” is derived.” (Smith, D.E. (1951∨1958). History of Mathematics.)

  154. Adamus Adonis -  June 27, 2012 - 6:03 am

    Myself and pretty much everyone I know has called it “hash” as long as I can remember. I don’t think it is correct to attribute this name to social networking nor imply Octothorpe is the actual name.

  155. Sandy -  June 27, 2012 - 4:23 am

    So far as I know, in England and Australia, it has always been know as the hash, but is used to represent the word number though never called that.

  156. Jackie -  June 27, 2012 - 4:09 am

    In Singapore, # is commonly known as “hex”. For example, in addresses, we say hex-zero-two-dash-two-three for “#02-23″. In web design, HTML Colour Code is also called the Hex Colour Code, where #000000 is black and #FFFFFF is white. I always thought hashtag is basically tagging with a hex in all things mashable. Of course, hashtag rolls off the tongue better than hextag.

  157. Stu -  June 27, 2012 - 3:27 am

    # on its own is not a hashtag. I would describe it as the Hash Symbol, or Hash, but it is only when conjoined with a word does it create a full hashtag.

    Try it – search Twitter for # and see if you have a logical grouping of results in a common theme.

  158. rajeshkw -  June 27, 2012 - 12:06 am

    can anyone explain why do symbols of English and Devnagari(indian languages like Hindi,Marathi,Sanskrit) are the same?

  159. David -  June 26, 2012 - 11:42 pm

    People in Cambodia call it “troung chrouk” which means pigpen. They use bamboo to build their animal pens and I guess this looks like the wall or something.

  160. benT -  June 26, 2012 - 8:54 pm

    since my earliest days in ICT ie:1970s, it has been called ‘hash’ which of course made some conversations difficult in those times with hashish being a prized commodity.

  161. Zaxopify -  June 26, 2012 - 6:10 pm

    Lets call it the Pound-o-Hash.

  162. Zaxopify -  June 26, 2012 - 6:09 pm

    Number Sign.

  163. artee11 -  June 26, 2012 - 4:41 pm

    so that’s where it came from..

  164. Dave -  June 26, 2012 - 4:15 pm

    Doesn’t “hashtag” refer to the the whole tag that begins with the # or hash symbol? If so then twitter is actually calling it a hash.

    Unix scripts (and the /etc/hosts file) use it as a comment.

  165. Korean Girl -  June 26, 2012 - 2:54 pm

    In Korea we call those “Sharp”
    Because if you study music you will know what I mean.
    If you don’t the link below explains what it is.

    I personally think everyone should call it sharp. It’s simple and easy. :)

  166. parker -  June 26, 2012 - 2:51 pm


  167. jay -  June 26, 2012 - 2:43 pm

    In Singapore, perhaps other countries in this region too, # is referred to as “hex”,don’t know the origin

  168. Marcus -  June 26, 2012 - 2:23 pm

    So what about the origion of the word hash? When you make mistake people have said ‘well you have made a hash of that’ Then there is coding something before sending it using a hash table.

    I have also heard the # refered to as the gate symbol as it looks like a gate. It is also the sharp symbol used in music.

    To call it an Octothorp is just too geekish and does not roll off the tounge and besides the miasma of the name is already fairly established. So adding the suffix -tag simply means that in the long run it will become hash again.

  169. artfullyme -  June 26, 2012 - 2:18 pm

    I like the term “sharp” even though I’ve used all the other terms at one time or another. If I hear the term “a sharp” I immediately think of the sharp sign. Say the word “hash” and I immediately think “sling,” so it (hash) has no appeal, but that’s just artfully me.

  170. Anna Sol -  June 26, 2012 - 2:14 pm

    In Spanish the # symbol is also called the “gato” symbol i.e. the “cat” symbol.
    It is because the Tic Tac Toe game in Spanish is called “El juego del Gato”

  171. boteman -  June 26, 2012 - 2:08 pm

    I’ve heard British telephone intercept recordings instructing the caller to “press square”, so add that to the list.

  172. Commenter -  June 26, 2012 - 2:02 pm

    But, personally, I prefer ‘number sign’. :)

  173. Commenter -  June 26, 2012 - 1:59 pm

    Would ‘metatrope’ have that meaning?…

    How about ‘omnitrope’ or ‘pan-trope’? Or perhaps better yet, ‘polytrope’?

  174. alex -  June 26, 2012 - 1:26 pm


  175. alex -  June 26, 2012 - 1:26 pm

    :) :) :) :) :):) :):):):):):):):):):):):):)

  176. alex -  June 26, 2012 - 1:25 pm

    that is weird and we do use that on facebook

  177. alex -  June 26, 2012 - 1:24 pm

    this is weird o tink

  178. MCDANDC -  June 26, 2012 - 1:16 pm

    Phone entries use of ‘#’ refers to the “pound” sign

  179. Larry -  June 26, 2012 - 12:50 pm

    As Z is the mark of Zorro; # could end up being the mark of the Octomom. What a horrible thought!

  180. Tim Kramar -  June 26, 2012 - 12:31 pm

    So what is the name of the @ symbol?

  181. Dene Bebbington -  June 26, 2012 - 12:13 pm

    I work in IT and have never heard someone called the hash symbol a hashtag unless they’re talking about Twitter.

  182. J -  June 26, 2012 - 11:40 am

    @joe, correct, but idots on facebook do…

  183. LOL -  June 26, 2012 - 11:33 am

    You’ve got my vote, Eyewitness!

    But — gasp! — wouldn’t “octotrope” or “metatrope” fall into the same category the article’s author has delineated for “octothorpe”? Can the world _really_ afford another “made-up” word??! Hold the line! Insist on only naturally occurring words: you know, those tripped over in the wild and collected in dictionaries . . .

  184. QA -  June 26, 2012 - 10:54 am

    The “learn about it here” link in the 6th paragraph is not linking to anything.

  185. LukeJavan -  June 26, 2012 - 9:25 am

    What symbol no longer used: Learn about it here:

  186. John Oberholtzer -  June 26, 2012 - 9:20 am

    I think we should call it Stan.

  187. DeniseAlexis -  June 26, 2012 - 9:19 am

    I say congratulations for the # sign for making it “in the limelight.” It was only mostly used for numbers before, now it is being frequently used with alphabets. Some did not even know what this symbol is exactly called and what it’s for. It was only refferred to as a “number sign” in general. I for one did not care and was only concerned to use it with 1, 2, 3 and so on.

  188. Yankiemog -  June 26, 2012 - 8:33 am


  189. Yepi -  June 26, 2012 - 8:09 am

    Yes, I tried all of these things before, and yes they all work. Some of them you have heard of before, but some of them you may have never thought of. Here is my quick guide on how to make some quick cash online.

  190. cookie -  June 26, 2012 - 8:02 am

    Am I the only one who thinks of it a ‘pound’ sign?

  191. Ole TBoy -  June 26, 2012 - 7:37 am

    “Hashtag” is new to me, but I like it. Sounds like what it is and that is always good.

  192. OCTOTHORPE#3 | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  June 26, 2012 - 7:35 am

    [...] ‘Octothorpe#3′. What’s your sign? — Symbolically or otherwise, pounded down  — numerically into some hash tag yours or mine. — Put a box around — or parallelogram — It with X N Os  — You’re joking right? — Not contextually sound — Quickly moving to and fro. — A round goes still evolving,  — the Milky Way Tonight? — No, Fracking Problem solving: –  Tic-Tac-Toe. –L.T.Rhyme [...]

  193. marly huiras -  June 26, 2012 - 6:45 am

    A new word, often technical, becomes a word through continuous use. It evolves as more people use it. Since it seems hashtag has higher use and visibility, that is probably what the symbol # name will become.

    Notify the lexicographers and word police immediately!

  194. Lama 2000 -  June 26, 2012 - 6:32 am

    My name is bob Mackenzie just kidding its Yash and I am new to dictionary .com it is a wonderful website. I love the way they describe the number symbols History!

  195. Steven Seagal -  June 26, 2012 - 6:06 am

    Programmers call it a hash. It’s been used for many years on Unix operating systems on the first line of scripts as part of a #! (called a hash-bang or shebang). Its purpose is to list the binary that should be used to execute the script, e.g. a Ruby script might have


    or a Python script might start with


    which allow the script to be called directly, rather than having to invoke it with the interpreter (e.g. `./myscript` instead of `ruby myscript`).

  196. Senthil -  June 26, 2012 - 6:02 am

    Nothing in facebook

  197. Grimalkyne -  June 26, 2012 - 5:20 am

    In computer code, the # symbol means that everything that follows is only comment, not instructions.

    It might mean “Treat the rest of this line as a comment” to some compilers, but there are plenty that don’t recognise it (Java, C, C++ VB.Net…)

  198. Oleg -  June 26, 2012 - 4:29 am

    Also, in programming, // or /* means comment… # could mean compiler command…

  199. Lexi -  June 26, 2012 - 3:41 am

    How about “widget”? Octothorpe is too long and will immediately be abbreviated. “Number sign” and “pound” are too specific for it’s current multitasking job.

  200. Neal Nelson -  June 26, 2012 - 2:59 am

    It’s always been the hash in England, because we already have a pound: £

    And in the unix world it’s often followed by a bang: #!. Daft terminology, but there you go.

  201. k.g.parthasarathy -  June 26, 2012 - 2:51 am

    It is very interesting. The small symbol has a big history. It is being used for several purposes and now became very popular.

  202. Muggins -  June 26, 2012 - 2:18 am

    It’s been known as the hash (sign/symbol) for as long as I can remember in the UK. As far as I know the “pound sign” term was only ever used in the USA.
    The word “hash” doesn’t immediately make me think of “mediocre diner food” either, but rather something else…

  203. jarochobosse -  June 26, 2012 - 1:18 am

    In far distant history of musical notation you will find an intirely different story.
    At one point in the pre tonal era G was considered the tonic (the fundamental) and the note called B in English was used in two different pitches: one higher, producing a major-like tonality, andd one lower, sounding like minor. These two were called b durum and b molle, respectively.
    In the cloister hand writing of the time the b molle was represented with a regular ‘lower case b’, and b durum with a b with the ‘belly’ in square form!

    This angular ‘b’ developed into # as well as the ‘natural’ sign in modern musical notation (and in the handwritten ‘manuscripts’ the rationalized b durum sign kept its upper right hand 90° angel, but lost its lower one, resulting in something that looked like an ‘h’ – thus leading to the B note erroneously being named H in German music language).

  204. jarochobosse -  June 26, 2012 - 1:14 am

    In far distant history of musical notation you will find an entirely different story.
    At one point in the pre tonal era G was considered the tonic (the fundamental) and the note called B in English was an H (a mistake!) in the crucial European nomenclature. This H/B was used in two different pitches: one higher, producing a major-like tonality, and one lower, producing a minor-like tonality. These two were called b durum and b molle, respectively. In the cloister hand writing of the time the b mole was a regular ‘lower case b’, and b durum a b with the ‘belly’ in square form!
    This angular ‘b’ developed into # as well as the ‘natural’ sign in modern musical notation (and in the handwritten ‘manuscripts’ the rationalized b durum sign kept its upper right hand 90° angel, but lost its lower one, resulting in something that looked like an ‘h’ – thus leading to the B note erroneously being named H in German music language).

  205. jarochobosse -  June 26, 2012 - 1:09 am

    In far distant history of musical notation you will find an intirely different story.
    At one point in the pre tonal era G was considered the tonic (the fundamental) and the note called B in English was an H (a mistake!) in the crucial European nomenclature. This H/B was used in two different pitches: one higher, producing a major-like tonality, andd one lower, sounding like minor. These two were called B durum and B mole, respectively [or rather b durum and b molle]. In the cloister hand writing of the time the b mole was a regular ‘lower case b’, and b durum a b with the ‘belly’ in square form!
    This angular ‘b’ developed into # as well as the ‘natural’ sign in modern musical notation (and in the handwritten ‘manuscripts’ the rationalized b durum sign kept its upper right hand 90° angel, but lost its lower one, resulting in something that looked like an ‘h’ – thus leading to the B note erroneously being named H in German music language).

  206. Marsh -  June 25, 2012 - 10:55 pm

    This was a good read as usual. Could we discuss the “%” (percentage) symbol too? I’ve always considered it as a beautiful looking symbol :)

  207. Me -  June 25, 2012 - 6:59 pm

    it’s the x and o’s sign!

  208. Ray -  June 25, 2012 - 6:13 pm

    But it has nine, fields, in the modern sense… Eight in the old feudal context of fields or rustic villages (thorpes) surrounding the royal fortress….


    Kenner used it for secret code writing, with points….

    And correction: Computers -today- use // or % for comments…

    And, # approximates ++ (overlapped), e.g. C# vs. C++ languages…

  209. Laura Nass -  June 25, 2012 - 3:41 pm

    ` reverse apostrophe?
    | vertical bar?

    You might want to give the many names for !, including “bang”.
    Also *, including “splat” and “star”.

    What about the upside-down punctuation used in Spanish for ? and ! uh… ?
    Lots of characters that I can’t ask about because they’re not in ASCII. Paragraph symbol? The huge, tall S used in old English? The German character that looks like a goofy B but represents “SS”? The horizontal bar that sits above a vowel to denote a long vowel? A single dot, or a small circle that sits above a letter?

    I could come up with more if I spent more time on it… but that’s enough for now :) Thanks!

  210. codemonkey -  June 25, 2012 - 3:35 pm

    I’m not aware of a computer language that uses # as a comment, which is not to say that your statement is wrong. In C, # is used as a preprocessor directive, allowing blocks of code to be conditionally included in or excluded from the compiled output. Potentially useful, but open to abuse. A program I worked on once had blocks of code bracketed by #ifdef BRAINDEAD … #endif. I thought I could safely ignore that code. Wrong!

  211. Tupah AT -  June 25, 2012 - 3:34 pm

    I’d say call it simply ‘number sign’! For one, it’s s so easy to remember. :)

  212. Eyewitness -  June 25, 2012 - 2:32 pm

    By the way, the ‘eight fields’ etymology of ‘octotrope’ falls somewhat short of convincing argument. The symbol has eight points around the perimeter, but it describes [literally, is a pictograph of] NINE fields. Sorry, colleagues at Dictionary.com, but this bit of academe, charming though it may be coming from you all, is a bit thin on the PSM*.

    * Pedantic Scale of Mendacity, my own personal neologism, which I hereby place in the public domain for banter among all linguists great and small, or should I say linguists great and greater …

  213. Eyewitness -  June 25, 2012 - 2:13 pm

    On further consideration but in line with the same reasoning perhaps, it should be renamed a ‘metatrope,’ which is to say, “all things to all stimulii / all causalities” or “all meanings to all demands.”

  214. Eyewitness -  June 25, 2012 - 2:08 pm

    As the octothorpe admittedly has myriad uses, and probably more will follow as digital technologies [including social media] expand, I propose its name should be changed to ‘octotrope,’ which refers to its itinerant properties as an adaptable, alphabetic ‘widget’ [viz, the universal something].

  215. Joe Liuzzi -  June 25, 2012 - 2:06 pm

    Facebook doesn’t use hashtags.

  216. Nisha -  June 25, 2012 - 1:39 pm



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