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

  • noun A mark (— or ÷) used in ancient manuscripts to indicate a doubtful or spurious passage.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A mark, so called from its resemblance to a spit, usually made like a dash, thus —, or like an obelisk, thus , and employed in ancient manuscripts to indicate a suspected passage or reading.

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

  • noun (Print.) A mark [thus —, or ÷]; -- so called as resembling a needle. In old MSS. or editions of the classics, it marks suspected passages or readings.

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

  • noun A mark (÷) used to represent division in mathematics. Also used to indicate a written or printed passage, and in ancient manuscripts to mark a word or passage as spurious or doubtful.
  • noun A dagger mark (†) used as a reference mark in printed matter, or to indicate that a person is deceased, often used to indicate a footnote.


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

[Middle English, from Late Latin obelus, from Greek obelos, a spit, obelus.]


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  • A symbol consisting of a line with dots above and below (÷) used to represent the mathematical division operation. Originally, this sign (or a plain line) was used in ancient manuscripts to mark passages that were suspected of being corrupted or spurious. The word comes from the Greek word for a sharpened stick, spit, or pointed pillar--the same root as that of "obelisk." Obelus is sometimes used to refer to another symbol usually known as a dagger.

    September 14, 2007

  • I wish more people used the obelus. Rather than 2/3 :(

    May 1, 2009

  • The task of the editing tribe

    Is chiding the indifferent scribe

    With signs not too obvious,

    Discreet, like the obelus,

    That seem more a hint than a jibe.

    September 26, 2017

  • Oh, excellent, qms. Well done!

    September 26, 2017

  • Thank you, kind ruzuzu.

    September 26, 2017