from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Grammar A punctuation mark ( , ) used to indicate a separation of ideas or of elements within the structure of a sentence.
  • noun A pause or separation; a caesura.
  • noun Any of several nymphalid butterflies of the genus Polygonia having wings with irregularly notched edges and a small comma-shaped marking on the underside of the hind wing.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In ancient Grammar and rhetoric, a group of a few words only; a phrase or short clause, forming part of a colon or longer clause.
  • noun In ancient prosody: A fragment or smaller section of a colon; a group of a few words or feet not constituting a complete metrical series.
  • noun The part of a dactylic hexameter ending with, or that beginning with, the cesura; also, the cesura itself.
  • noun A clause.
  • noun In rhetoric, a slight pause between two phrases, clauses, or words.
  • noun In musical acoustics: The interval between the octave of a given tone and the tone produced by taking six successive whole steps from the given tone, represented by the ratios , or 531441:524288. Also called the Pythagorean comma, or comma maxima.
  • noun The interval between the larger and the smaller whole steps, represented by the ratio , or 81:80. Also called the Didymic or syntonic comma.
  • noun In punctuation, a point (,) used to indicate the smallest interruptions in continuity of thought or grammatical construction, the marking of which contributes to clearness.
  • noun A spot or mark shaped like such a comma.
  • noun In entomology: A butterfly, Grapta comma-album: so named from a comma-shaped white mark on the under side of the wings.
  • noun [capitalized] [NL.] A genus of lepidopterous insects.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A character or point [,] marking the smallest divisions of a sentence, written or printed.
  • noun (Mus.) A small interval (the difference between a major and minor half step), seldom used except by tuners.
  • noun (Physiol.) a variety of bacillus shaped like a comma, found in the intestines of patients suffering from cholera. It is considered by some as having a special relation to the disease; -- called also cholera bacillus.
  • noun (Zoöl.) an American butterfly (Grapta comma), having a white comma-shaped marking on the under side of the wings.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Punctuation mark (,) (usually indicating a pause between parts of a sentence or between elements in a list).
  • noun by extension A diacritical mark used below certain letters in Romanian.
  • noun A European and North American butterfly, Polygonia c-album, of the family Nymphalidae.
  • noun music a small or very small interval between two enharmonic notes tuned in different ways.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a punctuation mark (,) used to indicate the separation of elements within the grammatical structure of a sentence
  • noun anglewing butterfly with a comma-shaped mark on the underside of each hind wing


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Latin, from Greek komma, piece cut off, short clause, from koptein, to cut.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin comma, from Ancient Greek κόμμα (komma), from κόπτω (koptō, "I cut")


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  • Don't use commas, that aren't necessary.

    January 25, 2007

  • Reading Hemingway's "The Dangerous Summer," and there is a severe lack of comma usage; it's driving me crazy.

    March 3, 2007

  • "Advocates of both gun rights and gun control are making a tactical mistake by focusing on the commas of the Second Amendment. After all, couldn’t one just as easily obsess about the founders’ odd use of capitalization?" -- Adam Freedman, "Clause and Effect," NYT, 12/16/07; also in "The Right to Keep and Bear Adjuncts," Language Log, 12/17/07

    January 16, 2008

  • The spirit of the law is greater than the letter of the law, I say. Then again, I'm a kooky libertarian. ;-)

    January 16, 2008

  • It isn't only kooky libertarians who believe that, uselessness. :-)

    January 16, 2008

  • This short book contains us

    Tomorrow when I return its pages

    A lamp will lament

    A bed will sing

    Its letters from longing will turn green

    Its commas be on the verge of flight

    - Nizar Qabbani, 'A Brief Love Letter'.

    August 8, 2009

  • inventor of the comma

    May 30, 2012