For the magazine, see Ampersand magazine.

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An ampersand (&), also commonly called an "and sign" is a logogram representing the conjunction "and." The symbol is a ligature of the letters in et, Latin for "and." Its origin is apparent in the second example in the image to the left below; the first example, now more common, is a later development.


Enlarge picture
The roman ampersand at left is stylized, but the italic one at right reveals its origin in the Latin word et.

The word ampersand is a corruption of the phrase "and per se and", meaning "and [the symbol which] by itself [is] and".[1] The Scots and Scottish English name for & is epershand, derived from "et per se and" with the same meaning.

There is a common rumour that the word comes from an inventor named Linus Amper, hence 'Amper's And' [1].


The ampersand symbol has been found on ancient Roman sources dating to the first century A.D. Marcus Tullius Tiro, Cicero's secretary of 36 years, is credited as its inventor.[2] During this period the symbol was a boxy-looking ligature of the capital letters E and T. Over time the figure became more curved and flowing, until it came to resemble something like the figure above on the right, often called the "italic" ampersand.

By the eighth century AD, Western calligraphy was well developed, particularly in forms such as Uncial, Insular script, and Carolingian minuscule. The calligraphers made extensive use of the ampersand because the condensation of a word into a single character made their work easier. During this time the even more condensed ampersand, shown above on the left, was developed. It is often called the "Roman" ampersand.

The ampersand often appeared as a letter at the end of the Latin alphabet, as for example in Byrhtferð's list of letters from 1011.[3]

After the advent of printing in Europe in 1455, printers made extensive use of both the italic and Roman ampersands. Every new typeface and font has included its own style of &. Since the ampersand's roots go back to Roman times, many languages that use a variation of the Latin alphabet make use of it.

Historically, & was regarded as the 27th letter of the English alphabet. Until recent times the alphabets used by children terminated not with Z but with & or related typographic symbols. This may be where the term 'Ampersand' originated, as children reciting the alphabet ended not with "and Z", but instead with "and per se and". George Eliot refers to this when she has Jacob Storey say, "He thought it (Z) had only been put to finish off th' alphabet like; though ampusand would ha' done as well, for what he could see."

Writing the ampersand

The conventional ampersand can be easily drawn by first making the cross stroke a bit farther to the right than where a common letter begins, shifting the pen to the center of this stroke, and then following the loop around.

In everyday handwriting, the ampersand is sometimes simplified to a backwards 3 superimposed by a vertical line, like a $ sign, this too seems to be a contraction of the Latin et. Sometimes it appears as nothing more than a "+" sign, or a t with a loop (a remnant of a lowercase e). This type of ampersand may actually be a rendering of the "+" sign, or of the Tironian "et". These forms are all generally acceptable and recognized, but some might view them as sloppy or casual.

Despite the symbol's declining use, it can still be useful when space is limited. Perhaps due to its increasing rarity, the ampersand is sometimes rendered incorrectly when drawn by hand. The most common error is to render the symbol backwards. Another mistake that is sometimes made is to draw it as a treble clef from musical notation.


The main surviving use of the ampersand is in the formal names of businesses (especially firms and partnerships, particularly law firms, architectural firms, and stockbroker firms (the names of these also nearly always omit the serial comma).

With the growth of mobile phone usage and text messaging, the ampersand is gaining new use in SMS language both as a representation for the word "and" and in rebus form, such as "b&" in place of the word "banned".[4]

The ampersand is also often used when addressing an envelope to a couple: "Mr. & Mrs. Jones" or "John & Silvia".

The ampersand is also used for book and movie titles, such as Harry & Tonto, as well, and in some other proper names. In these cases, & is interchangeable with the word and; the distinction between them is mostly aesthetic. However, in film credits for story, screenplay, etc., & indicates a closer collaboration than and; in screenplays, for example, two authors joined with & collaborated on the script, while two authors joined with and worked on the script at different times and may not have consulted each other at all.[5]

In APA style the ampersand is used when citing sources in text such as (Jones & Jones, 2005).

The phrase et cetera ("and so forth"), usually written as 'etc.' can be abbreviated &c representing the combination et + c(etera). This usage is frequently seen in writings of the 18th and 19th centuries, but is rare in modern usage.

The ampersand as a letter

The ampersand represents a vowel in the orthography for the Marshallese language.


In the twentieth century, following the development of formal logic, the ampersand became a commonly used logical notation for the binary operator or sentential connective AND. This usage was adopted in computing.

Programming languages

There are two common uses for the "&" symbol as a binary operator in programming languages: as the logical AND operator, and as the string or array concatenation operator. There are also various idiosyncratic uses of & by various languages.

Many languages with syntax derived from C differentiate between:
  • & for bitwise AND, which also functions as the non-short-circuit logical AND since C represents false/true as zero/nonzero integers
  • && for short-circuit logical AND
In C and C++, "&" is also used as a unary prefix operator, denoting the address in memory of the argument, e.g. &x, &func, &a[3]. (This is called "referencing".) In C++, unary prefix & in a formal parameter of a function denotes pass-by-reference.

Ampersand is the string concatenation operator in Ada and many BASIC dialects. In Ada, it applies to all one-dimensional arrays, not just strings.

In some BASIC dialects, unary suffix & denotes a variable is of type long, or 32 bits in length. In BBC BASIC, unary prefix ampersand marks an integer literal written in hexadecimal.

In MySQL the '&' has dual roles. As a logical AND in addition it serves a bitwise operator of an intersection between elements.

When found at the end of a Unix shell command, the ampersand indicates that the indicated command is to be processed in the background. Two ampersands means that the next command should only be evaluated if the current one exits with a zero status.

In SGML, XML, and HTML, the ampersand is used to introduce an SGML entity. The HTML and XML encoding for the ampersand character is the entity '&amp;'.[6] This creates what is known as the ampersand problem. For instance, when putting URLs or other material containing ampersands into XML format files such as RSS files the amp; has to be added to the & or they are considered not well formed and computers will be unable to read the files correctly. When working with large quantities of text this can be very problematic.

In Windows menus, labels and other captions, the ampersand is used to denote the keyboard shortcut for that option (Alt + that letter, which appears underlined).

The ampersand is occasionally used as a prefix to denote a hexadecimal (base 16) number, such as &FF for decimal 255.

Ampersand usage in Perl

Perl uses the ampersand as a sigil to refer to subroutines:
  • In Perl 4 and earlier, it was effectively required to call user-defined subroutines[7]
  • In Perl 5, it can still be used to modify the way user-defined subroutines are called[8]
  • In Perl 6, the ampersand sigil is only used when referring to a subroutine as a reference, never when calling it[9]
Much like C, Perl also uses a single ampersand to do a bitwise AND operation on integers and strings, and a double ampersand as a short-circuit logical AND operation.[10]


The ampersand is represented by Unicode code point and ASCII character 38, or hexadecimal 0x0026.

In keyboard layouts, it is often shift-6, shift-7 or shift-8.

Web standards

The generic URL (Uniform Resource Locator) syntax allows for a query string to be appended to a file name in a web address so that additional information can be passed to a script; the question mark, or query mark, ?, is used to indicate the start of a query string. A query string is usually made up of a number of different field/value pairs, each separated by the ampersand symbol, &. For example, But see also "Ampersands in URI attribute values".

See also


1. ^ The ampersand. Adobe Fonts.
2. ^ The History of Court Reporting. National Court Reporters Association.
3. ^ Everson, Michael; Sigurðsson, Baldur; Málstöð, Íslensk (1994-06-07). On the status of the Latin letter þorn and of its sorting order. Evertype.
4. ^ SMS terms & SMS glossary & SMS definitions & SMS abbreviation. Environmental Studies.
5. ^ Frequently Asked Questions. Writers Guild of America.
6. ^ HTML Compatibility Guidelines. World Wide Web Consortium.
7. ^ PERL -- Subroutines.
8. ^ What is the point of the & / ampersand sigil for function refs?. PerlMonks.
9. ^ Exegesis 6.
10. ^ perlop - Perl operators and precedence.

External links

Ampersand is a monthly Polish newsmagazine written, edited, and published by students of Wyższa Szkoła Biznesu, National-Louis University. The name comes from the sign &, which describes the linking nature between different cultures and different perceptions of the
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Full Stop is an album released in 2000 by Annabelle Chvostek.

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  7. "La La La"
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