from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In grammar, the omission of one or more letters in a word.
  • noun In writing and printing, the sign (') used to indicate such omission.
  • noun The sign (') used for other purposes, especially, single or double, as a concluding mark of quotation, as in “‘Well done,' said he.” See quotation-mark.
  • noun In rhetoric, a digressive address; the interruption of the course of a speech or writing, in order to address briefly a person or persons (present or absent, real or imaginary) individually or separately; hence, any abrupt interjectional speech. Originally the term was applied only to such an address made to one present.
  • noun In botany, the arrangement of chlorophyl-granules under the action of direct sunlight (light-apostrophe), and in darkness (dark-apostrophe): in the first case upon the lateral walls of the cells, so that their edges are presented to the light; in the latter, upon the lateral and basal cell-walls: used in distinction from epistrophe (which see).

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

  • noun (Rhet.) A figure of speech by which the orator or writer suddenly breaks off from the previous method of his discourse, and addresses, in the second person, some person or thing, absent or present.”
  • noun (Gram.) The contraction of a word by the omission of a letter or letters, which omission is marked by the character ['] placed where the letter or letters would have been.
  • noun The mark ['] used to denote that a word is contracted (as in ne'er for never, can't for can not), and as a sign of the possessive, singular and plural; as, a boy's hat, boys' hats. In the latter use it originally marked the omission of the letter e.

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

  • noun orthography The text character , that serves as a punctuation mark in various languages and as a diacrictical mark in certain rare contexts.
  • noun rhetoric A sudden exclamatory piece of dialogue addressed to someone or something, especially absent.

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

  • noun address to an absent or imaginary person
  • noun the mark (') used to indicate the omission of one or more letters from a printed word


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French apostrophe, or Latin apostrophus, from Ancient Greek ἀπόστροφος (apostrophos, "accent of elision"), a noun use of an adjective from ἀποστρέφω (apostrephō, "I turn away").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin apostrophe, from Ancient Greek ἀποστροφή, from ἀποστρέφω ("I turn away"), from ἀπό + στρέφω ("I turn").


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  • Don't put apostrophe's where they don't belong.

    January 25, 2007

  • A digression in the form of an address to someone not present, or to a personified object or idea

    May 20, 2007

  • Remember always to use an apostrophe (not an open quote mark) when it appears at the beginning of a word, e.g. ’cause (for because) and ’60s rather than ‘cause and ‘60s.

    Alas, the evil microsoft delights in making unsolicited corrections.

    March 30, 2008

  • I'd give up my whole apostrophe to have an id.

    April 21, 2008

  • An apostrophe does not a plural make.

    April 21, 2008

  • Goe's without saying.

    April 21, 2008

  • Except for plurals of letters (e.g., "a's", "b's", not "as", "bs").

    April 21, 2008

  • Is that true, mollusque? I don't remember ever knowing that. So cd's is correct for more than one cd, is it?

    April 22, 2008

  • No, because CD is more than one letter. The plural is CDs.

    April 22, 2008

  • The Apostrophe Protection Society

    May 11, 2008

  • skip, you missed the deliberate irony in that headline!

    I am slightly miffed that no-one's reported on my bestickering, long ago, an apostropheless St Philip's Place (also Birmingham). You heard it here first. Or last.

    February 2, 2009

  • So the plural of datum is dat'a?

    February 2, 2009

  • Sounds like you have a lot more guerilla bestickering ahead, sarra.

    February 2, 2009

  • Of course, I found apostrophe and adumbrate, but there were no links for what I was really looking for: apostrophized and adumbrated. Writers, in addition to being endlessly interested in rhetoric, are often at sea seeking interesting words for the attribution of quotations. I recently encountered, in adjacent paragraphs, one quoted person who adumbrated his quote, followed by a second person who apostrophized his. Wow! I wanted to check this out. Naturally, there are those who would have us substitute “said” for both these words, but never mind those people.

    Then, there’s the fascinating relation between adumbrated and chiaroscuro. All of these connections were made in my head, not on the site. For instance, none of the examples for apostrophe had reference to rhetoric; there were no rhetorical examples. What’s a writer to do? Could you help? Maybe there literary geniuses out there just waiting for such revelations. What? I’m supposed to find those examples and send them to you? We’ll see.

    August 4, 2009

  • Etymologically: apo-strophe, a from-turning (or turning-from, I guess)

    September 7, 2009

  • Speaking of stickers, help is at hand.

    November 7, 2009

  • At last! :-D

    November 8, 2009

  • great link bilby, you deserve an apost trophy.

    November 9, 2009

  • A study of the evolution of the apostrophe is underway.

    Edit: Link isn't working, so here it is:

    February 10, 2010

  • Thanks for the cool article. I just tweeted it.

    February 10, 2010

  • As a few people noted, these examples are of the use of the symbol (') apostrophe and not of the more esoteric definition of a speaker digressing from his or her address into a second person address of an absent, possibly imaginary, person. To that end how about this example of apostrophe: "Perhaps when he planned his address for the 2012 Republican convention, Mr. Eastwood believed his use of apostrophe in addressing an invisible President Obama in an empty chair would both entertain and illustrate his understanding of the President's political positions. What it has done, instead, is ressurect this rhetorical device in a flurry of political satire."

    September 17, 2012