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

  • n. Grammar A punctuation mark ( , ) used to indicate a separation of ideas or of elements within the structure of a sentence.
  • n. A pause or separation; a caesura.
  • n. Any of several butterflies of the genus Polygonia, having wings with brownish coloring and irregularly notched edges.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A character or point [,] marking the smallest divisions of a sentence, written or printed.
  • n. A small interval (the difference between a major and minor half step), seldom used except by tuners.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. The part of a dactylic hexameter ending with, or that beginning with, the cesura; also, the cesura itself.
  • n. A clause.
  • n. In rhetoric, a slight pause between two phrases, clauses, or words.
  • n. 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.
  • n. The interval between the larger and the smaller whole steps, represented by the ratio , or 81:80. Also called the Didymic or syntonic comma.
  • n. In punctuation, a point (,) used to indicate the smallest interruptions in continuity of thought or grammatical construction, the marking of which contributes to clearness.
  • n. A spot or mark shaped like such a comma.
  • n. In entomology: A butterfly, Grapta comma-album: so named from a comma-shaped white mark on the under side of the wings.
  • n. [capitalized] [NL.] A genus of lepidopterous insects.

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

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


Latin, from Greek komma, piece cut off, short clause, from koptein, to cut.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin comma, from Ancient Greek κόμμα (komma), from κόπτω (koptō, "I cut") (Wiktionary)



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  • inventor of the comma

    May 30, 2012

  • 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

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

    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

  • "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

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

    March 3, 2007

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

    January 25, 2007