Definitions

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

  • n. The symbol (#).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The hash or square symbol (#), used mainly in telephony and computing

Etymologies

Alteration (influenced by octo-) of earlier octalthorpe, the pound key, probably humorous blend of octal, an eight-point pin used in electronic connections (from the eight points of the symbol) and the name of James Edward Oglethorpe.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Origin disputed. Reportedly a jocular coinage by Bell Labs supervisor Don Macpherson in the early 1960s, from octo- ("eight"), with reference to its eight points, + -thorpe (after 1912 Olympic medalist Jim Thorpe, in whom Macpherson was interested). However, Doug Kerr attributes octatherp to a practical joke by engineers John C. Schaak, Herbert T. Uthlaut, and Lauren Asplund upon himself and Howard Eby. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The term octothorpe was coined by engineers at Bell Laboratories in the early 1960s, who wanted a name for one of two non-number function symbols on the first touch-tone keypads the other was the *, which they called a sextile.

    The Guardian World News

  • The octothorpe is the essential symbol in the formation of a hashtag, a marker that allows 140-character tweets to be grouped together by subject

    The Guardian World News

  • Once again, Quinion's World Wide Words explains the history: "octothorpe" was Bell Labs jargon for one of those two function keys on touch-tone telephones that got labeled with symbols instead of numbers.

    Archive 2008-05-01

  • There is also a deep look at the @ symbol's new-found stardom, the octothorpe enjoying a new lease of life renamed as the "hashtag" in Twitter parlance, and the secretive pilcrow.

    Internet picks of the week

  • Robert Bringhurst's The Elements of Typographic Style says the word "guillemet" honors the the sixteenth-century typecutter Guillaume le Bé. octothorpe: #

    Archive 2008-05-01

  • Some of my writing-group partners are no doubt baffled by my apparent love for the octothorpe.

    Archive 2008-05-01

  • The symbol on the “pound” key (#) is called an octothorpe.

    10 Weird Science Facts You Didn’t Know

  • I wonder, however, about the explanation for octothorpe given at the linked page in the entry above.

    languagehat.com: NEOLOGISMS.

  • I wonder on what basis the AHD associates Oglethorpe with octothorpe.

    languagehat.com: NEOLOGISMS.

  • And here's a funny discussion of the etymology of octothorpe.

    languagehat.com: NEOLOGISMS.

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Comments

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  • Barney & Clyde

    June 23, 2014

  • WORD octothorpe


    DEFINITION: See the Wiktionary page for "octothorpe."
    <<  http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/octothorpe  >>
       
    EXAMPLE: ' From the Times Literary Supplement, Sept. 30:

    ' Twitter users may not know it but they are likely to be addicts of the octothorpe , a symbol with a Latin provenance. Now more commonly known as the hashtag, the octothorpe first served as an abbreviation of "libra pondo" ("a pound by weight") in medieval England. The "lb" was written with a tilde just above the mid-height of the letters to signify a contraction, and was thence corrupted into "#" by rushing scribes. "Pound" later became "number" before evolving into a variety of different signifiers, including a copy-editor's space, a chess player's checkmate and a Tweeter's keyword. How it came to be known as the octothorpe is quite another matter.

    ' This story comes from Shady Characters by Keith Houston, a paean to typographical curiosities old and new. Houston's "magnificent cast" includes the asterisk, with its origins in the star-like cuneiform symbol denoting heaven; the humble hyphen -- not to be confused with a bewildering variety of dashes; and a modern upstart, the interrobang, a conflation of the question mark and the exclamation mark, as in "how cool is that?!" Houston's book is filled with passion, whether its author is decrying the neglect of the noble pilcrow, or the sad fate of the percontation point, a reverse question mark invented by the sixteenth-century printer Henry Denham to indicate a rhetorical question. '

    --- Reprinted in the Wall Street Journal. "Notable & Quotable." October 28, 2013. (Page A15).

    October 30, 2013

  • I Have To Go. Look at the time.




    LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(Google?)
    Query?:GOOGLE!

    April 28, 2009

  • A discussion on the origins of this word can be found at World Wide Words here. In Slovene, by the way, this mark is called lojtra, the colloquial word for "ladder" (from German Leiter) – which makes me think that we sometimes call it "the ladder sign" in English, don't we?

    September 26, 2008

  • "Enter your password then press octothorpe!"

    FYI- This word is so scarcely used that even Firefox's spellchecker doesn't even recognize it.

    September 21, 2008

  • This mark has several common names: 'hash', 'hatch', 'pound sign', and 'octothorp' among them. The name "pound sign" is an Americanism that causes some confusion in countries that use the pound for currency.

    It was also noted that the # is a medieval abbreviation for Latin "numerus" - it is a cursive 'n' with a horizontal slash through it, much modified and abstracted.

    One possible derivation of the name "octothorp" was provided by Charles Bigelow:

    ... old English "thorp" meant 'hamlet' or 'village' (I'm not sure of the difference, except maybe hamlet is smaller, as its apparent diminutive suffix would suggest), and is derived from a much older Indo-European word *treb- for 'dwelling', which turns out to mean 'beam' or 'timber' in Latin "trabs", winding up as "trave" in Anglo-Latin, like "architrave" - the beam resting on a column, or "trab-" as in "trabecula" - a small supporting beam or bar. As Voltaire said, etymology is a science in which the vowels count for nothing and the consonants for very little.

    So, maybe "octothorp" means "8-beams", which makes a kind of sense if we take the 8 projections to be the thorps, or trabs or traves. Though it's only a "quadrathorp" if we think that the beams connect.


    Another explanation has it that the octothorp is a "thorp"' surrounded by eight cultivated fields.

    July 23, 2008

  • see hash

    July 23, 2008

  • Thanks! :-D

    December 14, 2007

  • Npydyuan! You've been away for a bit too--welcome back. :-)

    December 13, 2007

  • Ah, let's give old at sign some strudel as a consolation!

    December 13, 2007

  • Poor number sign and tic tac toe didn't even get participant ribbons. And our old buddy at sign wishes he could have a cool name like all his friends.

    January 25, 2007

  • In the pound versus hash war, there was no winner-- octothorpe took the prize.

    January 24, 2007