What are the ( ) { } [ ] and ⟨ ⟩? When should we use them and where they come from?

Though these odd symbols( ), [ ], { }, and ⟨ ⟩regularly appear on our books and screens, they all have odd, unexpected origins. The most familiar of these unusual symbols is probably the ( ), called parentheses. One of them ( is called a parenthesis, and as a pair the plural are parentheses. Parenthesis literally means “to put beside” from the Greek roots par-, -en and thesis. Grammatically, they behave kind of like commas and serve to set aside a subordinate part of the sentence or discussion.

(Watch for their use in this blog post!) The use of parentheses in printed English dates back to at least 1572.

Both { } and [ ] are types of brackets. The word bracket is related to the French braguette from the name for codpiece armor, that audacious costumery that bears resemblance to the architectural feature the bracket, among other things. The word bracket still applies to shelf supports that resemble the symbol, ]. The word originally came from the Old Germanic word for pants, breeches.

(Want to know about the most common current use of parentheses: emoticons? Learn about those funny figures here.)

Square brackets ([ ]) are used inside of parentheses to denote something subordinate to the subordinate clause. Here’s an example from the 13th Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style: “During a prolonged visit to Australia, Gleuk and an assistant (James Green, who was later to make his own study of a flightless bird [the kiwi] in New Zealand) spent several difficult months observing the survival behavior of cassowaries and emus.”

{ } have a variety of names; they are called alternately braces, curly brackets or squiggly brackets. Commonly today, they signify hugging in electronic communication. The last confusing symbol, ⟨ ⟩, is called the chevron. The word originally meant rafter in Old French and was likely derived from the Latin slang term caprion, meaning goat. The symbol does somewhat resemble the hind legs of those capering creatures. Today it is most often used in complex math problems. All of these parenthese, brackets and chevrons are also used in computer science and programming in ways that us laypeople may never understand.

Do you use these symbols very often? What other glyphs and typographical symbols confuse you?

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  1. wavell -  October 6, 2015 - 5:36 pm

    I call this { } flower brackets, any objections?

  2. Philip -  April 7, 2014 - 2:09 am

    Certainly the most common use of parentheses is not for emoticons but in the programming language LISP and its children.

    • noost -  January 23, 2015 - 11:13 pm

      I was taught by a nun that {} was used for information that was on paper that was not to be considered part of the actual legal document.

      Free sovereignty sites also show it being used for that reason. They claim putting the brackets around the zip code takes away the federal aspect of the mail thus re-opening (using what few know about) the general post again.

  3. Anonymous -  November 20, 2011 - 12:28 pm

    Contrary to seemingly popular belief, chevrons are not used in mathematical inequalities. Those symbols are actually “inequality symbols”. Chevrons are different characters. Also, in mathematics, square brackets [] are placed outside of round brackets (parentheses), whereas the reverse is true of formal writing. A third level can also be added: “He said that birds (especially the migratory sort [those that fly from the north to the south {or from the south to the north, depending on the time of the year}]) are quite strong.”

    In addition to this, square brackets are used in writing when quotes have been changed: “He went to bed early” could be “[James] went to bed early”.

  4. sherryyu -  November 5, 2011 - 9:50 am

    ive only used them once put used () these a lot of times

  5. Rustgold -  November 3, 2011 - 11:24 pm

    Nice censorship here.

    Too stupid to actually explain the original purpose of the { }, you pretend the question doesn’t exist.
    Please, actually try to explain things if you’re going to make a blog, else it’s simply a waste of everybody’s time reading.

  6. Jivan -  October 28, 2011 - 7:18 pm

    @ chris alejo and Malik

    The dollar sign comes from the letters “US” superimposed on each other. The loop at the bottom of the U disappeared over time, but it should always be written with two vertical strokes, not one, regardless of whether it is referring to the US dollar or any other country’s dollar. Most computer fonts render it with one stroke, as it is here $, but this is incorrect.

    • Grace -  April 9, 2015 - 6:11 pm

      Pls if the dollar sign is not single quoted then how is it to be written?

  7. Anonymous Glennonite -  October 27, 2011 - 11:52 am

    If a kiwi and a dingo got in a fight, the dingo would obviously win.

    • Bill Praxia -  July 25, 2015 - 4:27 pm

      If a kiwi and an orca got into a fight, the orca would also win. Kiwis are not known as great fighters though. If I got into a fight with a kiwi (and just to clarify, we’re talking little flightless bird that appears on shoe polish tins [not NZ rugby players {or any human beings at all really}]) I could smash its little face in.

  8. Curly -  October 27, 2011 - 1:24 am

    Well, that didn’t come out quite right. Imagine the words, “one,” and, “three,” above and below “two.”

  9. Curly -  October 27, 2011 - 1:23 am

    I wonder if the curly braces on the keyboard came from the line we draw on the side of text to group it together and label it:

    Label { Two

    That’s my best guess.

  10. Archon -  October 26, 2011 - 8:03 pm


    I believe it’s spelled circonflex, in French, and circumflex in English.

    Perhaps afficionados would be spelled better this way.

  11. MsCraven -  October 26, 2011 - 11:49 am

    The correct pronoun is “we.” The grammatical reason is because it’s a subject, not an object. The way we laypeople can figure it out is- take out the word “laypeople.” Then you can see that “us may ever understand” doesn’t make any sense.

  12. ßöb -  October 26, 2011 - 10:15 am


    • Bill Praxia -  July 25, 2015 - 4:34 pm

      >;@) piggywinks

  13. the epicness that is me -  October 26, 2011 - 9:19 am

    I want to know why curly brackets are used both as punctuation in a sentence, and to set aside a group of things (like, if you have a long list of things that can be broken down into several groups, you start curly brackets at the beginning and end of a section of the list and write what they are at the middle pointy part.

  14. Serge Palain -  October 26, 2011 - 6:34 am

    I use it every day. I am not a writer, I am using it for programming purposes.

  15. Mt -  October 26, 2011 - 6:28 am

    Oops, just read the explanation of “carets.” I misunderstood the first question’s intent- so sorry.

  16. Mt -  October 26, 2011 - 6:21 am

    As for “nobody cares,” to our credit (or discredit as some might think!) some of we (“wordnerds” DO find it fascinating! Perhaps “aficiondados” would sound better than “wordnerds.” :D
    I saw the correction above from “us” to “we” and thought I should test it out! English teachers, what’s the rule there? MT

  17. Mt -  October 26, 2011 - 6:17 am

    I believe ^ is called a “circunflex” in French, when used over a vowel. As far as mathematical or programming concepts, I have no idea! MT

  18. Alexander -  October 26, 2011 - 6:17 am

    So, in writing, the square brackets go inside the parentheses. But in math, it’s the other way around?

  19. Dubee'just thinking -  October 26, 2011 - 5:51 am

    It just came into my mind that the order the above reading is pertaining to (like ([{}])) might be because of laziness. Yes, you read it correctly. LAZINESS

    When writing something(specially in a fast paced environment), people would not want to have a tedious job of erasing and/or replacing something they have already written.

    Suppose that I, having typed the previous sentence, thought that it might be better to put something else inside my parentheses, I’d need to go way back, delete the “(” and replace it with a “[" before writing my additional words. It would have looked like this:

    When writing something[specially in a fast paced environment(where we thrive)], people would not want to have a tedious job of erasing and/or replacing something they have already written.

    If, however, we use the mentioned format ([{}]), it would be easier to edit and would look like this:

    When writing something(specially in a fast paced environment[where we thrive]), people would not want to have a tedious job of erasing and/or replacing something they have already written.

    It’s an easier job, right? And imagine people who write using pen and paper. That’d be somewhat nature-unfriendly. :) Think of the trees!

    Well ironically for this comment of mine, I have used {[()]} since I can remember. Not just in text, but also in my favorite subject: Math. :)

    -Help me better my English! any corrections in my grammar and other stuff are to be taken positively by yours truly. Thanks all!

  20. Miss Niss -  October 26, 2011 - 5:48 am

    I’m just glad to see that there are so many Grammar Nazis out there. I thought it was more of a rarity these days to find people who insist on using proper grammar and punctuation.
    Thanks for confirming that it’s not just me and my family who enjoy correctly punctuating our collective work. :-)

  21. Pinki -  October 26, 2011 - 4:43 am

    Oops, I accidentally submitted my previous comment. My mistake ^.^
    Anyway…as I was saying, in schools, they teach that run-ons are like this sentence: She went to the store she came back home. But what if it does make sense, but it’s a really long sentence? Like: She went to the store, bought some grocery items, and went home, but she was so exhausted for the day that she fell asleep. (I couldn’t think of anything else to write, so it’s a weird sentence ^.^).

  22. Ketutar -  October 25, 2011 - 11:52 pm

    Okay… so where do they come from? You are explaining where their NAMES come from.
    I also use the brackets OUTSIDE the parenthesis, as that was the way I learned it in maths :-D I also thought brackets was a synonyme to parenthesis.

  23. Kevin -  October 25, 2011 - 7:00 pm

    :) :D

  24. Kevin -  October 25, 2011 - 6:59 pm

    thx! that helped me alot =p =D =)

  25. Don Luis -  October 25, 2011 - 4:22 pm

    Yeah! I’m smarter now then I was 30 minutes ago! Love this site!

  26. J Walker -  October 25, 2011 - 4:06 pm

    I realize this article is not about other keyboard symbols, but I would appreciate a clarification from an expert on the subject (not somebody quoting a wiki or a relative) about the symbol on the 6 key, shaped like an upside-down V. Wikipedia says it is a caret, on their page titled “Keyboard layout”. Ask.com says it is a carat, on their page titled “What are the names of keyboard symbols”. Which is correct ? Dictionary.com doesn’t really help, because the only definition provided is for the symbol we use below letters, or below the line between two words, to indicate that an insertion is needed, which is definitely not what you get when you press the 6 key while holding down the Shift key. What really appears in this case is a symbol elevated higher than vowels, like the same symbol called a circumflex accent, used above some vowels in other languages. Is it correctly spelled caret or carat ?

  27. Ana -  October 25, 2011 - 2:58 pm


  28. messi1421 -  October 25, 2011 - 2:07 pm

    ohh wow plus still idk wat they were talking about

  29. phillip -  October 25, 2011 - 2:05 pm

    Raxin, I think that square brackets are common

  30. ytgytvjh -  October 25, 2011 - 2:04 pm

    the site is ggg.com

  31. ytgytvjh -  October 25, 2011 - 2:03 pm

    try this site it is awesome :) :p

  32. ytgytvjh -  October 25, 2011 - 2:01 pm

    i am still confused

  33. Canadian -  October 25, 2011 - 1:19 pm

    Well, guess it wasn’t me who messed them up after all… The comment program changed them to the way they are now.

  34. Canadian -  October 25, 2011 - 1:18 pm

    Sorry, messed up the two first chevrons. They should be more like these : <>

  35. Canadian -  October 25, 2011 - 1:12 pm

    I write a lot in French, and the french quotation marks aren’t actually just 2 chevrons side by side (<>). The proper way is to use these: « … ».

    Similar but not exactly the same.

  36. Cheeseface -  October 25, 2011 - 1:11 pm

    Nobody cares.

  37. alaq -  October 25, 2011 - 1:10 pm

    <3 lol hahahahaha : )

  38. leslie -  October 25, 2011 - 1:08 pm

    wow that is somethig new to learn about in the world lol hahaha :)

  39. Nina -  October 25, 2011 - 12:11 pm

    I just love those things… what would programming be without them?

  40. pancho -  October 25, 2011 - 10:35 am

    ok!!! thanks [ ] { } :><}}

  41. ashley -  October 25, 2011 - 9:21 am

    this is a really cool

  42. Raxin -  October 25, 2011 - 8:49 am

    I’m in the USA. The etymology is interesting, but the author needs to do better research before publishing next time. As revealed by many of the comments, important usage information is sorely missing. My peeve is the missing use of the square brackets (“[“ and “]“) to set apart material not in the original text, such as editors’ or translators’ comments. This is most commonly found inside quoted material but is useful anywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever seen square brackets used “to denote something subordinate to the subordinate clause”.

  43. Anny -  October 25, 2011 - 8:14 am

    I learn a lot from this information
    Thank you~~ ^3^

  44. Edward B. Connolly -  October 25, 2011 - 8:08 am

    The following sentence hurt my eyes: “All of these parenthese, brackets and chevrons are also used in computer science and programming in ways that us laypeople may never understand.”
    Should be “in ways that we laypersons may never understand”.
    The first-person plural form of the pronoun needs to be in the nominative case (“we”) because it is the subject of the predicate “may never understand”.
    The form “us” is accusative case.
    I rest my case!
    Also, we should not use “persons” and “people” interchangeably.

  45. gabisensei -  October 25, 2011 - 6:54 am

    This column is so incredibly informative. I learn from it every day.

    However, “in ways that us laypeople may never understand” needs to be
    “we laypeople.”

  46. Brian Eargle -  October 25, 2011 - 6:36 am

    This web page completely removed my angle-bracketed phrase. That action is compatible with my interpretation of angle brackets as “unparentheses”, which enclose a thought which is logically external to the sentence.

    My example should have read as follows:

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” (Jesus Christ is *left angle bracket*the following clause in braces is only my opinion*right angle bracket* the {not “the” in the exclusive sense of “the one and only,” but in keeping with a sense of “first”, “original”, “primary”, or “prima facie”} Son of God)…

  47. Brian Eargle -  October 25, 2011 - 6:25 am

    So “(“, then “[", then "{" is the correct order in parenthetical expressions?

    I was taught to use "(", then "{", then "break up the run-on sentence into more recognizable logical pieces."

    I was taught, as was icefay, that square brackets, "[ ]“, surround an alteration to a quote, rather than a parenthetical phrase.

    Slashes, “/ /”, used in programming to demarcate a comment, sometimes appear in English sentences as parenthetical punctuation marks.

    Pearl Playdinn, “^” is a caret, a mark made in written or printed matter to show the place where something is to be inserted (definition: http://www.dictionary.reference.com).

    I do not know how angle brackets, “”, are used in an English sentence, but where they are used, they must signify something. May I suggest that they distinguish or enclose a word or phrase that is logically external to the physically adjacent phrase, sentence, or thought – “unparentheses”, if you will.

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” (Jesus Christ is the {not “the” in the exclusive sense of “the one and only,” but in keeping with a sense of “first”, “original”, “primary”, or “prima facie”} Son of God) that whoever believes in Him (as many as received Him) should receive “power (i.e., authority {exousia}, ‘the right’) to become the [adopted] sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”

  48. Rick Foddrill -  October 25, 2011 - 6:10 am

    As usual you didnt explain some part of your Word mystery which keeps me guessing… Come ON! Really!?!? For a Dictionary page you don’t define things very well. Braces What are they used for and where did they come from? FINISH THE STORY dont just put in a piece of the puzzle write the whole dang thing in here! Just goes to show that even Word wiz’s dont proof read their own things. Please check to see from now on that if you pose a question in the headline that you answer in the main body of the answer.

  49. Malik -  October 25, 2011 - 4:45 am

    I meant “These” things don’t make sense.

  50. Malik -  October 25, 2011 - 4:44 am

    I’d like to know where the *asterisk* comes from. And the %percent% sign. And what’s with the whole line through the s to represent the $dollar sign$? Theses things don’t make sense, at least to me. And please, don’t go hating on my comments! I’m just expressing my thoughts!

  51. Rachel -  October 25, 2011 - 3:00 am

    what are these symbols for ???
    ¬ | ~
    and where does an ampersand come from?

  52. Delta -  October 25, 2011 - 2:21 am

    Hmmm…….I often see these clauses | in maths, especially |abs x|. Are there more use to them? What’s the formal word to pronounce them anyways?

  53. Clear -  October 25, 2011 - 1:42 am

    I hate maths.

  54. King Viz -  October 25, 2011 - 1:36 am

    I have mainly seen the square parentheses used for editorial remarks, as in, where a text has been edited you might get [...], especially midway through a quote, where something has been left out because the writer or editor feels it is irrelevant to the meaning of the overall piece.

    Or, when something is quoted as was said, despite its incorrectness, where you might see [sic].

    I’ve never seen the squaries used for anything else in my life except in maths, and I’ve never seen them nested within other types of parentheses. I think, like asterisks and other footnote marks, it’s up to the writer to decide which to use, and that they really are just to distinguish one subordinate from another.

    I’ve also never in my life seen chevrons used in place of brackets. It doesn’t make sense to use them like this (to my mind), as they have two other main uses and are also most commonly part of html and other software languages, where you might also find {} (the one and only place I’ve ever seen them used seriously – to set apart the programmer’s comments from the actual program [so the software doesn't try to actually run the comment as though it was code]).

    The best way to use them is to create text insects: }Ï{

  55. Name Rater -  October 24, 2011 - 11:13 pm

    The comments over here have a lot of suggestions to make this article more expansive (even though the article is mostly about the symbol’s origin). But amazing job. I learned something new.

  56. coolio -  October 24, 2011 - 10:47 pm

    :{D to Agent J!:)

  57. coolio -  October 24, 2011 - 10:44 pm

    I love dictionary.com I use it a lot!!! It’s intresting how intresting these things can be!

  58. coolio -  October 24, 2011 - 10:42 pm

    :D this is very intresting!!!!

  59. coolio -  October 24, 2011 - 10:41 pm


  60. Annette -  October 24, 2011 - 10:38 pm

    Which type of bracket would be the 2nd subordinate in the subordinate clause, if the square bracket is used for the 1st subordinate?

  61. Hannah:) -  October 24, 2011 - 10:21 pm

    Thats cool! I only ever use () and {} but never [] I will put this on my blog:)

  62. joven llabore -  October 24, 2011 - 8:53 pm

    wow… i like it.. so mind-enlightening.. i always use those three symbols but i don’t know where they come from.. thanks a lot

  63. Archon -  October 24, 2011 - 8:16 pm

    @ Sam

    ..and it should be WE laypeople, not us!

    @ Wolfie

    It’s a caret, not a carrot.

  64. George B. -  October 24, 2011 - 7:13 pm

    One more use for chevrons and parentheses: in accounting = -x = (x), that is to say that and () are used to indicate negative number just the same way as minus sign.

  65. Don Luis -  October 24, 2011 - 6:20 pm

    Wow! You guys really got me looking at the keyboard.
    Very informative and interesting.

  66. dad -  October 24, 2011 - 5:14 pm


  67. dad -  October 24, 2011 - 5:13 pm

    : {) mustache man

  68. chris alejo -  October 24, 2011 - 5:00 pm

    very cool article! where does the dollar symbol ($) come from?

  69. Ashley B. -  October 24, 2011 - 4:42 pm

    Yes, we all know that these symbols [] {} () ~ ` were put on the computers keyboard for a reason; in the 1870s, Christopher Latham Sholes made the first QWERTY keyboard. Whoever edited it after that, either wanted the keyboard to look pretty, or he put those symbols on for a reason.
    I liked the keyboard when it only had letters A-Z, numbers 2-9, a dash and a period. Now, there’s all of these crazy symbols, but who really needs them? :D

  70. Agent J -  October 24, 2011 - 3:52 pm

    Wow. I never heard of chevrons…. This symbol, { can be a moustache. Look :{D my friend told me about that LOL

  71. Robert -  October 24, 2011 - 2:08 pm

    In media articles and literature, when quoting someone and adding a word to their quote (because they didn’t describe it in full when saying it), the [ ] are used. Dave said that “When John [Doe] went to the [Westside] pub, he discovered the key piece of evidence.”

  72. leflore -  October 24, 2011 - 12:28 pm

    ok… its still a little confusing though.


  73. PARENTHESES#MORE | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  October 24, 2011 - 11:23 am

    [...] ‘Parentheses’ or ‘Thesis’ — #More than brackets — Grated by us Doggerel Hacketts, — With no lasting knowledge of Strunk’s  Elements of Style, — Including White’s addition — did not help our erudition, with some illogical condition — that we’ll never understand — with little ever planned, –  since we’re all jumbled in some typographical, ungrammatical, Anatomically Correct >> Symbolic Pile. –>>L.T.Rhyme This entry was posted in DEMOCRAZY, DICTCOMHOTWORD, JJROUSSEAU, L.T.Rhyme by admin. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  74. wolfie -  October 24, 2011 - 11:13 am

    AS to Pearl’s comment at 8:28 this morning: That little symbol is called a “carrot.” It’s used when editing a document to show where a word was left out and that a word needs to be inserted for the sentence to make sense.

    Also, as to the square brackets, lawyers use them in a quotation to show that the lawyer has used some of the language in the quotation has been changed. For example, assume this is a quotation from a legal document:
    “John Doe has no grounds to make a claim for slander.”
    If the lawyer wants to keep the meaning of the sentence the same, but want to change the words slightly, she/he can write:
    “[The plaintiff] has no grounds to make a claim for slander.”
    This is not an exact quote so the lawyer has to show where he/she changed the words so as not to mislead the reader about what the original quotation really said.

  75. Taylor -  October 24, 2011 - 10:23 am

    I love to use this symbol, | to separate parts of an email’s subject line or even in resumes, but I don’t know what it’s called.

  76. Bill -  October 24, 2011 - 10:20 am

    In your explanation of the chevron symbol, you state “Today it is most often used in complex math problems.” This is NOT correct. It is used in very simple mathematical statements. Specifically means “more than”. For example, 4>2 means “four [is] greater than 2″. Quite simple!

  77. sam -  October 24, 2011 - 9:44 am

    In the next to the last paragraph,

    All of these parenthese, brackets and chevrons are also used in computer science and programming in ways that us laypeople may never understand.

    Is “parenthese” a typo? I don’t find that word in the dictionary?

  78. Camille -  October 24, 2011 - 9:39 am

    I was taught that brackets were used outside of the parentheses; i.e., John told Mart that birds [often those that fly long distances (north to south) in winter] are much stronger than one might think.

  79. Bill Kerr -  October 24, 2011 - 9:39 am

    I’ve always used these symbols in the reverse order from what is described here: parentheses at the innermost level, square brackets next, squiggly brackets outside that. Like this {…[...(...)...]…}. Have I been doing it wrong for 50 years?

    Thanks (I think).

  80. Kristin -  October 24, 2011 - 9:29 am

    The chevron characters are not showing up for me… they just appear as little boxes.

  81. Robert Berger -  October 24, 2011 - 9:19 am

    Oddity – the chevrons on this page displayed in my browser as double empty boxes. Perhaps you used a font that my computer lacks?

  82. K and R -  October 24, 2011 - 8:55 am

    Thanks for the info! :)

  83. Kaytee -  October 24, 2011 - 8:50 am

    oups! It seems emoticons are enabled here…

    I meant to end it rather looking like this:

    “I find that many different work seem to use them differently and I come to wonder how many of us actually master these (–, -, :, ;, (), [], {}) ?”

  84. Kaytee -  October 24, 2011 - 8:48 am

    Wow, I had a hard time discerning most of these, now I understand more. Although, a question rose inside my mind…

    What about the hyphen that is also used to similarly inside parentheses as square brackets? Of course, it is also used outside of parentheses, and I believe may have similar functions, but then again, I am confused by them. It would be nice to have a post related to these pieces of grammar that separates chunks of sentences into something more easy to understand when the sentence itself becomes a tad bit more complicated structurally. Of course, I would exclude your well known commas and periods.

    I find that many different work seem to use them differently and I come to wonder how many of us actually master these (–, -, (), [], , {}, ;, :)?

  85. pimorton -  October 24, 2011 - 8:41 am

    I’ve never been confused by these punctuation marks, but I find the origins of their names fascinating.

  86. vikhaari -  October 24, 2011 - 8:40 am

    I notice that up top in blue it notes 0 (zero) comments, while down, just a little, in DARK RED notes 1. This is what I, or others like me get HERE….

  87. vikhaari -  October 24, 2011 - 8:38 am

    Forgive me yet again. I notice up top in blue it is writtern no comments, while down in dark RED 1 comment as I posted. I don’t want to waste your valuable time by noting this is what I (and others like me) get here….

  88. vikhaari -  October 24, 2011 - 8:34 am

    It’s another day another blog posted on 23 of the October 2011as seen (by me for the first time) at 9: 17 am following October 24, 2011, and no comments yet.
    Forgive me something’s fishy! …going on…. And what’s the motive? However, when I am to post, I bet it would have a number having anything but 1. Sorry for the unnecessary diversions/distractions and kindly notice how far some could go taking any routes and/or many means to exert their influence…
    To come back to the topic….
    Yes is the answer to the question below, and without knowing, understanding or even realizing properly (), [], {}… what is for what.
    When little back home…learnt they are all brackets:–
    (), {}, [] first, second & third respectively; didn’t know anything about this before 2000 when one day came across on a particular section of very fast roadway, noting chevrons (as mentioned up in this article); wondered what were they? Next what are chevrons? Later I noticed both but not as clear as today after having reading the article that made it all clear–an eye opener– at least for me, and other symbols.
    You see it is for nothing I like Dictionary.com–here I learns so much! I enjoyed the etymology, the source of today too!
    Thank you Dictionary.com

  89. R Brumby -  October 24, 2011 - 8:29 am

    Very informative. However, there’s no breakdown of brace-bracket usage: I remember them from mathematical equations, but what would be their traditional job in text?

  90. thiago.kzao -  October 24, 2011 - 8:08 am

    Interesting.. thx

  91. Jose Flora -  October 24, 2011 - 7:55 am

    Thanks! When you do not use these different brackets daily you oftentimes forget the proper usage. KUDOS!

  92. James Lane -  October 24, 2011 - 7:51 am

    I have never known what this thing should be used for. ~ (the Shift + key directly below the Esc key.)

    I also think that people would enjoy reading about the way the ampersand was derrived (&). Being that it is historically a graphic representation of the latin word “et” meaning and. The “et” is often times more apparent graphically in some fonts than it is in others, but they all have the same origin.


  93. psdbs -  October 24, 2011 - 7:50 am

    Thank you for explaing the “brackets”……….never knew how to use them!

  94. hightailed -  October 24, 2011 - 6:44 am

    wow i never thought about that (thinks about it)…………….

  95. chico -  October 24, 2011 - 6:41 am

    never would have thought of that!

  96. Rodney A. Barefield -  October 24, 2011 - 6:33 am

    Very enlightening.

  97. Archfilejockey -  October 24, 2011 - 6:19 am

    We use all of those ‘obsure’ symbols quite a bit.

  98. Archfilejockey -  October 24, 2011 - 6:18 am

    Great mention of Computer Science and Programming, we all of those ‘obsure’ symbols quite a bit. Keep up the good work guys, love the articles.

  99. Dania -  October 24, 2011 - 5:59 am


  100. JJRousseau -  October 24, 2011 - 5:42 am

    Oui! Circles and Arrows.

  101. Pearl Playdinn -  October 24, 2011 - 5:25 am

    how about : ^
    does that even HAVE a name?

  102. Jon Covert -  October 24, 2011 - 5:25 am

    In the first paragraph, you need to put that parenthesis symbol in parentheses for that sentence to work, or change “them” to “the” or “those,” but put “)” in quotations–like I just did.

  103. yoen -  October 24, 2011 - 5:06 am

    #include &ltstdio.h&gt
    char x[ ];
    main( ){}

    C (programming language) has it all.
    –forgot to escape the ‘gt’ and ‘lt’

  104. yoen -  October 24, 2011 - 4:54 am

    char x[ ];
    main( ){}

    C (programming language) has it all.

  105. Georg -  October 24, 2011 - 4:53 am

    The most common use of curly braces I am aware of is in set theory in math. They embrace elements of a set that are delimited by commas. For instance, A = {1,3,5,…} signifies the set of positive odd numbers.

  106. Neal Nelson -  October 24, 2011 - 4:34 am

    In English (as spoken in England, as opposed to American), we just call () brackets. [] are square brackets and {} are curly brackets.

  107. Analou -  October 24, 2011 - 4:24 am

    this is great! thanks!

  108. jo -  October 24, 2011 - 4:16 am

    wow that was interesting

  109. A-18-K -  October 24, 2011 - 4:08 am

    I use parentheses and brackets fairly often, for I write a lot of letters. I wish people would use more symbols and punctuation in general. I mean, now when people type something out it’s all mixed together and without capitalization, making it so confusing…and it looks like a child or fifth grade drop out wrote it. It’s not really because they don’t know how to do it right, they just don’t take the time to. Once someone wrote me by email, and it was just a run of lower case letters with a rare period. When I wrote him back, I guess he saw that I meant business when it came to writing correctly; next time he wrote it was all prim and proper. I was happy just me writing back could help him like that. :) But there’s also those who overuse punctuation, especially exclamation points. Or, every time they stop to think they do this……and it’s crazy…..all those….dots….silly people. :P :)

  110. Lucy -  October 24, 2011 - 3:38 am

    What about the n dash – and the m dash –

  111. Nicole Wright -  October 24, 2011 - 1:53 am

    i usually use [[]] in place of () because that’s the way, uh huh uh huh, i like it, uh huh uh huh;DD

  112. Mathews -  October 24, 2011 - 1:49 am

    I find difficult when to use the following signs: ^, `,~,

  113. Hannah -  October 24, 2011 - 1:37 am

    Interesting! I often use () but I never use the others. :D :) :] :}

  114. Emilia -  October 23, 2011 - 11:52 pm

    Is a very nice article. But when and where do we need to add those signs in a sentence?

  115. Bree Mottram -  October 23, 2011 - 11:19 pm

    This meaning was very useful to my project!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

  116. Kelly -  October 23, 2011 - 11:14 pm

    But how are the squiggles and the goat legs supposed to be used in writing and/or what do they mean? (other than greater than/less than [in math] and hugs!)

  117. KaHaR -  October 23, 2011 - 11:04 pm

    “What are the ( ) { } [ ] and ⟨ ⟩? When should we use them and where they come from?”

    This article does not mention the use for curly braces ({, }).

  118. Carlitos -  October 23, 2011 - 10:32 pm

    Why is it called a chevron when it is clearly not, as far as geometry is concerned?

    Also, it would seem that () would make the best codpiece armor as [] or even {} would seem to be fairly uncofortable!

  119. kathleen -  October 23, 2011 - 10:31 pm

    Pleasant Day.
    Thank you all very much I am learning a lot from this page.

  120. Doug -  October 23, 2011 - 10:02 pm

    { instantly brought to mind the grand staff for piano.

    A confusing thing on the keyboard for me is the “|” symbol above the “Enter” key. I only use it for the emoticon :|.

  121. Tobias Mook -  October 23, 2011 - 9:05 pm

    I use the * and † a lot. I’d love to hear where they came from :)

  122. Christopher Schwinger -  October 23, 2011 - 8:56 pm

    I like to use brackets, but not in the function described in the article. I like to use them to explain something in a quote.

  123. icefay -  October 23, 2011 - 8:37 pm

    I thought that square brackets ([ ]) were used when alterations were made to clarify a quotation. For example “she was upset by it”, would become “she was upset by [the accident]“

  124. Jackson Bollock -  October 23, 2011 - 8:29 pm

    Right, well then. That was all a little bit pointless. And to reiterate a comment on a previous blog, what’s with all the hyperlinks to ordinary words? Please restrict this ridiculous practice. Just the technical words would suffice.

  125. Nick -  October 23, 2011 - 7:52 pm

    What about |?

  126. Melissa -  October 23, 2011 - 6:58 pm

    I didn’t know about where the brackets and braces came from- interesting stuff!

    I use the parentheses constantly (it’s gotten to a point where my English teachers point it out, haha) and and square brackets when I’m typing academic papers.

  127. kkk -  October 23, 2011 - 6:53 pm

    :) :)

  128. kkk -  October 23, 2011 - 6:53 pm


  129. Tom -  October 23, 2011 - 6:51 pm

    The semi-colon is a punctuation mark I have yet to understand

  130. Michael Lee -  October 23, 2011 - 6:28 pm

    I apologize for the apostrophe misuse in my previous comment, haha. I should have said “its.”

  131. Michael Lee -  October 23, 2011 - 6:26 pm

    Very interesting. :) The most common usage of the square brackets (it’s use within quotations) was left out, though.

  132. Lizzie -  October 23, 2011 - 6:26 pm

    Interestingly, while you put brackets inside of parentheses in writing, that is not true in math. While there is no rule that I know of that says you cannot put brackets in front of braces, American school children are taught that braces are the outermost form of grouping, then brackets then parentheses like so: {[()]}
    In math, these symbols are merely grouping symbols. Braces have several functions, but are still essentially grouping symbols.
    I surprised that it wasn’t mentioned that the chevrons (which don’t show up on my computer as anything but little boxes – I assume that they’re the symbols that look like our “greater than” and “less than” symbols – ) are what certain other languages (like French) use as our quotation marks.

    The word origins are interesting – I use these symbols all the time as a mathematician and (though I love etymologies) I never thought about where they came from!

  133. Maddie -  October 23, 2011 - 6:13 pm

    brackets and parentheses always confuses me… :-/


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