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The at sign, @, is normally read aloud as "at"; it is also commonly called the at symbol or commercial at. In contemporary use, it is most commonly used in email addresses and social media platform "handles".

Originally it was an and commercial abbreviation meaning "at a rate of" (e.g. 7 widgets @ 2 = £14).See, for example, Browns Index to Photocomposition Typography (p. 37), Greenwood Publishing, 1983, Although not included on the keyboard of the earliest commercially successful typewriters, it was on at least one 1889 model "The @-symbol, part 2 of 2", Shady Characters ⌂ The secret life of punctuation and the very successful Underwood models from the "Underwood No. 5" in 1900 onward; and is now universally included on computer keyboards.

The fact that there is no single word in English for the symbol has prompted some writers to use the French arobase "Short Cuts", Daniel Soar, Vol. 31 No. 10 · 28 May 2009 page 18, London Review of Books or Spanish and Portuguese arroba, or to coin new words such as asperand, "New York's Moma claims @ as a design classic", Jemima Kiss, 28 March 2010, The Observer ampersat "… Tim Gowens offered the highly logical "ampersat" …", 05 February 1996, The Independent and strudel, but none of these has achieved wide usage.

The mark is encoded as , or @ in HTML5.


Theories of origin
[[File:19-manasses-chronicle.jpg|180px|thumb|lefrbit|@ symbol used as the initial "a" for the "amin" (amen) formula in the Bulgarian
of the Manasses Chronicle (c. 1345).]][[File:Ariza1448-2.jpg|180px|thumb|left|The [[Aragonese people|Aragonese]] @ symbol used in the 1448 ''"taula de Ariza"'' registry to denote a wheat shipment from Castile to the Kingdom of Aragon.]][[File:1674 liten.jpg|180px|thumb|left|@ used to signify French "à" ("at") from a 1674 protocol from a [[Sweden|Swedish]] court (''[[Arboga]] rådhusrätt och magistrat'')]]
     
The earliest yet discovered reference to the @ symbol is a religious one; it features in a Bulgarian translation of a chronicle written by Constantinos Manasses in 1345. Held today in the Vatican Apostolic Library, it features the @ symbol in place of the capital letter "A" in the word Amen. Why it was used in this context is still a mystery.

In terms of the commercial character of the at sign, there are several theories pending verification.

  • One theory is that the symbol developed as a mercantile shorthand symbol of "each at," the symbol resembling a small "a" inside a small "e," to distinguish it from the different "at" (symbolized by the mere letter "a") or "per." For example, the cost of "12 apples @ $1" would be $12, whereas the cost of "12 apples at $1" would be $1, a crucial and necessary distinction.
  • Another theory is that medieval monks abbreviated the Latin word ad (at, toward, by, about) next to a . One reason for the abbreviation saving space and ink. Since thousands of pages of biblical manuscripts were copied onto expensive papyrus or hides, and the words at, toward, by and about repeated millions of times throughout the pages, a considerable amount of resources could be spared this way. A theory concerning this graphic puts forward the idea that the form derives from the Latin word ad,, using the older form of lower case d : ∂, also used in well into the 20th century and known to mathematicians and engineering students as the partial derivative symbol).
  • It has been theorized that it was originally an abbreviation of the Greek preposition ανά (transliterated ana), meaning at the rate of or per.
  • Another theory is that it derives from the "à" meaning "at" in the "each" sense, i.e. "2 widgets à 5.50 = £11.00", comes the shorthand notation in commercial and to the 1990s, when the email usage overtook the accountancy usage. It is also used like this in Modern French, Swedish or Czech; in this view, the at-symbol is a stylised form of à, which avoids raising the writing hand from the page in drawing the symbol. The compromise between @ and à in French handwriting is found in street market signs.


History
Whatever the origin of the @ symbol, the history of its usage is more well-known: it has long been used in and Portuguese as an abbreviation of , a unit of weight equivalent to 25 pounds, and derived from the expression of "a quarter" (الربع pronounced ar-rubʿ). An Italian academic claims to have traced the @ symbol to the 16th century, in a mercantile document sent by Francesco Lapi from to on May 4, 1536. The document is about commerce with Pizarro, in particular the price of an @ of wine in . In Italian, the symbol was interpreted to mean ( anfora). Currently, the word arroba means both the at-symbol and a unit of weight. In Italian, the symbol represents one amphora, a unit of weight and volume based upon the capacity of the standard amphora jar.

Until now the first historical document containing a symbol resembling a @ as a commercial one is the Spanish "Taula de Ariza", a registry to denote a wheat shipment from Castile to Aragon in 1448. Even though the oldest fully developed modern @ sign is the one found on the above-mentioned Florentine letter.


Modern use

Commercial usage
In contemporary English usage, @ is a commercial symbol, called at site or at rate meaning at and at the rate of. It has rarely been used in financial documents or grocers' price tags, and is not used in standard .Bringhurst, Robert (2002). The Elements of Typographic Style (version 2.5), p.272. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks. .

In 2012, "@" was registered as a trademark with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office.German Patent and Trademark Office, registration number 302012038338. A cancellation request was filed in 2013, and the cancellation was ultimately confirmed by the German Federal Patent Court in 2017.Bundespatentgericht, decision of 22 February 2017, no. 26 W (pat) 44/14 ( online).


Contemporary usage
A common contemporary use of @ is in (using the SMTP system), as in jdoe@example.com (the user jdoe located at the domain example.com). ' is credited with introducing this usage in 1971. This idea of the symbol representing located at in the form user@host is also seen in other tools and protocols; for example, the command ssh jdoe@example.net tries to establish an connection to the computer with the example.net using the username jdoe.

On web pages, organizations often obscure email addresses of their members or employees by omitting the @. This practice, known as , makes the email addresses less vulnerable to spam programs that scan the internet for them.

On some social media platforms and forums, usernames are in the form @johndoe; this type of username is frequently referred to as a "handle".

On online forums without threaded discussions, @ is commonly used to denote a reply; for instance: @Jane to respond to a comment Jane made earlier. Similarly, in some cases, @ is used for "attention" in email messages originally sent to someone else. For example, if an email was sent from Catherine to Steve, but in the body of the email, Catherine wants to make Keirsten aware of something, Catherine will start the line @Keirsten to indicate to Keirsten that the following sentence concerns her. This also helps with mobile email users who cannot see bold or color in email.

In (such as and -based microblogs), @ before the user name is used to send publicly readable replies (e.g. @otheruser: Message text here). The blog and client software can automatically interpret these as links to the user in question. When included as part of a person's or company's contact details, an @ symbol followed by a name is normally understood to refer to a Twitter ID. A similar use of the @ symbol was also made available to Facebook users on September 15, 2009. In Internet Relay Chat (IRC), it is shown before users' nicks to denote they have operator status on a channel.

In American English the @ can be used to add information about a sporting event. Where opposing sports teams have their names separated by a "v" (for ), the away team can be written first - and the normal "v" replaced with @ to convey at which team's home field the game will be played.For an example, see: http://www.nfl.com/schedules This usage is not followed in British English, since conventionally the home team is written first.

In some communities, @ is, against current trends, appended to the end of the nick, e.g. deraadt@, to preserve its original meaning − " at (this site/community)".


Computer languages
@ is used in various programming languages and other computer languages, although there is not a consistent theme to its usage. For example:
  • In ALGOL 68, the @ symbol is brief form of the at keyword; it is used to change the lower bound of an array. For example: now refers to an array starting at index 88.
  • In , @ is used in XML parsing and traversal as a string prefix to identify attributes in contrast to child elements.
  • In , @ is used in special statements outside of a CSS block.
  • In C#, it denotes "verbatim strings", where no characters are escaped and two double-quote characters represent a single double-quote. 2.4.4.5 String literals, As a prefix it also allows keywords to be used as identifiers, a form of stropping.
  • In DIGITAL Command Language, the @ character was the command used to execute a command procedure. To run the command procedure VMSINSTAL.COM, one would type @VMSINSTAL at the command prompt.
  • In the ASP.NET MVC Razor template markup syntax, the @ character denotes the start of code statement blocks or the start of text content. ASP.NET MVC 3: Razor’s @: and syntax
  • In Forth, it is used to fetch values from the address on the top of the stack. The operator is pronounced as "fetch".
  • In Haskell, it is used in so-called as-patterns. This notation can be used to give aliases to , making them more readable.
  • In Java, it has been used to denote , a kind of metadata, since version 5.0.
  • In , it is prefixed to a parameter to indicate that the parameter is passed by reference.
  • In ML, it denotes list concatenation.
  • In , specifically when representing , @ is sometimes used as a logical symbol to denote the actual world (the world we are "at").
  • In , @ is prefixed to language-specific keywords such as @implementation and to form string literals.
  • In Pascal, @ is the "address of" operator (it tells the location at which a variable is found).
  • In , @ prefixes variables which contain arrays , including array @array2..5,7,9 and hash slices or . This use is known as a sigil.
  • In , it is used just before an expression to make the interpreter suppress errors that would be generated from that expression. PHP: Error Control Operators – Manual
  • In Python 2.4 and up, it is used to decorate a function (wrap the function in another one at creation time). In Python 3.5 and up, it is also used as an overloadable matrix multiplication operator.
  • In Ruby, it functions as a sigil: @ prefixes instance variables, and @@ prefixes .
  • In Scala, it is used to denote annotations (as in Java), and also to bind names to subpatterns in pattern-matching expressions.
  • In Swift, @ prefixes "annotations" that can be applied to classes or members. Annotations tell the compiler to apply special semantics to the declaration like keywords, without adding keywords to the language.
  • In , @ prefixes variables and @@ prefixes niladic system functions.
  • In several -type programming languages, like , FoxPro/ and Clipper, it is used to denote position on the screen. For example: to show the word "HELLO" in line 1, column 1.
  • In FoxPro/, it is also used to indicate explicit pass by reference of variables when calling (but it is not an operator).

  • In Windows PowerShell, @ is used as array operator for array and hash table literals and for enclosing here-string literals.
  • In the Domain Name System, @ is used to represent the , typically the "root" of the domain without a prefixed sub-domain. (Ex: wikipedia.org vs. www.wikipedia.org)


Gender-neutrality in Spanish and Portuguese
In Portuguese and , where many words end in "-o" when in the masculine gender and end "-a" in the feminine, @ is sometimes used as a gender-neutral substitute for the default "o" ending. For example, the word amigos traditionally represents not only male friends, but also a mixed group, or where the genders are not known. The proponents of gender-inclusive language would replace it with amig@s in these latter two cases, and use amigos only when the group referred to is all-male - and amigas only when the group is all female. The Real Academia Española disapproves of this usage. DPD 1ͺ ediciσn, 2ͺ tirada


Other uses and meanings
  • In (especially English) scientific and technical literature, @ is used to describe the conditions under which data are valid or a measurement has been made. E.g. the density of saltwater may read d = 1.050 g/cm3 @ 15 °C (read "at" for @), density of a gas d = 0.150 g/L @ 20 °C, 1 bar, or noise of a car 81 dB @ 80 km/h (speed).
  • As an abbreviation for alias in articles about missing persons, obituaries, brief reports - for instance: "John Smith @ Jean Smyth" (a possible abbreviation of ). For example, a Chinese Singaporean may use two transliterations of his or her Chinese name (e.g., Mao Tse-Tung @ Mao Zedong).
  • In chemical formulae, @ is used to denote trapped atoms or molecules. For instance, La@C60 means inside a cage. See article Endohedral fullerene for details.
  • In Malagasy, @ is an informal abbreviation for the prepositional form amin'ny.
  • In , @ is the abbreviation for locus, as in IGL@ for immunoglobulin lambda locus.
  • In the of , @ is used as a letter in . The Unicode Consortium rejected a proposal to encode it separately as a letter in , but SIL International uses Private Use Area code points U+F247 and U+F248 for lowercase and capital versions.Constable, Peter, and Lorna A. Priest (October 12, 2009) SIL Corporate PUA Assignments 5.2a. SIL International. pp. 59-60. Retrieved on April 12, 2010.
  • A , as the actual schwa character "ə" may be difficult to produce on many computers. It is used in this capacity in the ASCII IPA schemes , and .
  • In it may substitute for the letter "A".
  • It is frequently used in typing and as an abbreviation for "at".
  • In Portugal it may be used in typing and text messaging with the meaning "" ( linguado).
  • In online discourse, @ is used by some as a substitute for the traditional circle-A.


Names in other languages
In many languages other than English, although most included the symbol, the use of @ was less common before email became widespread in the mid-1990s. Consequently, it is often perceived in those languages as denoting "the Internet", computerization, or modernization in general.
  • In Afrikaans, it is called aapstert, meaning "monkey tail", similarly to the use of the word.
  • In , it is آتْ ( at).
  • In Armenian, it is շնիկ ( shnik), which means "puppy".
  • In Azerbaijani, it is ət ( at) which means "meat"., though most likely it is a phonetic transliteration of 'at'.
  • In , it is a bildua ("wrapped A").
  • In Belarusian, it is called сьлімак ( ślimak, meaning "helix" or "snail").
  • In , it is ludo a ("crazy A").
  • In Bulgarian, it is called кльомба ( klyomba – "a badly written letter"), маймунско а ( maymunsko a – "monkey A"), маймунка ( maimunka – "little monkey"), or баница ("banitsa" - a pastry roll often made in a shape similar to the character)
  • In , it is called arrova ("a unit of measure") or ensaïmada (because of the similar shape of this food).
  • In :
    • In , it used to be called 圈A (pronounced quān A), meaning "circled A / ", or 花A (pronounced huā A), meaning "lacy A", and sometimes as 小老鼠 (pronounced xiǎo lǎoshǔ), meaning "little ". Nowadays, for most of China's youth, it is called 艾特 (pronounced ài tè), which is the phonetic transcription from "at".
    • In , it is 小老鼠 (pronounced xiǎo lǎoshǔ), meaning "little ".
    • In and , it is at.
  • In Croatian, it is most often referred to by the English word "at". Informally, it is called a manki, coming from the local pronunciation of the English word "monkey". Note that the Croatian word for monkey, majmun, is not used to denote the symbol.
  • In and , it is called zavináč, which means "".
  • In , it is snabel-a ("'s trunk A"). It is not used for prices, where in Danish a alone means at (per piece).
  • In , it is called apenstaartje ("little "). The "a" is the first character of the Dutch word "aap" which means "monkey". However, the use of the English "at" has become increasingly popular in Dutch.
  • In , it is called ĉe-signo ("at" – for the email use, with an address like "zamenhof@esperanto.org" pronounced zamenhof ĉe esperanto punkto org), po-signo ("each" – refers only to the mathematical use), or heliko (meaning "snail").
  • In Estonian, it is called ätt, from the English word "at".
  • In , it is kurla, hjá ("at"), tranta, or snápil-a ("elephant's trunk A").
  • In , it was originally called taksamerkki ("fee sign") or yksikköhinnan merkki ("unit price sign"), but these names are long obsolete and now rarely understood. Nowadays, it is officially ät-merkki, according to the national standardization institute SFS; frequently also spelled "at-merkki". Other names include kissanhäntä ("cat's tail") and miukumauku ("miaow-meow").
  • In , it is now officially the arobase "At last, France has a name for the @ sign", December 9, 2002, iol.co.zaOrthographe fixée par la Commission générale de terminologie et de néologie (Journal officiel du 8 décembre 2002) (also spelled arrobase or arrobe), or a commercial (though this is most commonly used in French-speaking Canada, and should normally only be used when quoting prices; it should always be called arobase or, better yet, arobas when in an email address). Its origin is the same as that of the word, which could be derived from the ar-roub. In France, it is also common (especially for younger generations) to say the English word "at" when spelling out an email address. In everyday Québec French, one often hears " a commercial" when sounding out an e-mail address, while TV and radio hosts are more likely to use arobase.
  • In Georgian, it is at, spelled ეთ–ი (კომერციული ეთ–ი).
  • In , it has sometimes been referred to as Klammeraffe (meaning "") or Affenschwanz. Klammeraffe or Affenschwanz refer to the similarity of @ to the tail of a monkey grabbing a branch. More recently, it is commonly referred to as at, as in English.
  • In , it is most often referred to as παπάκι ( papaki), meaning "duckling", due to the similarity it bears with comic character designs for ducks.
  • In Greenlandic, and Inuit language, it is called aajusaq meaning "A-like" or "something that looks like A".
  • In , it is colloquially known as שטרודל ( ), due to the visual resemblance to a cross-section cut of a strudel cake. The normative term, invented by the Academy of the Hebrew Language, is כרוכית ( krukhit), which is another Hebrew word for "strudel", but is rarely used.
  • In , it is at, from the English word.
  • In Hungarian, it is called kukac (a playful synonym for "worm" or "maggot").
  • In Icelandic, it is referred to as atmerkið ("the at sign") or hjá, which is a direct translation of the English word "at".
  • In , speakers often say at the rate of (with e-mail addresses quoted as "example at the rate of example.com").
  • In Indonesian, it is usually et. Variations exist – especially if verbal communication is very noisy – such as a bundar and a bulat (both meaning " A"), a keong (" A"), and (most rarely) a monyet (" A").
  • In , it is ag (meaning "at") or comhartha @/ag (meaning "at sign").
  • In , it is chiocciola ("") or a commerciale, sometimes at (pronounced more often and rarely ) or ad.
  • In Japanese, it is called attomāku (アットマーク, from the English words "at mark"). The word is , a loan word from the English language. It is sometimes called Naruto, because of Naruto whirlpools or food ().
  • In , it is officially called айқұлақ ("moon's ear"), and sometimes unofficially referred to as ит басы ("dog's head").
  • In , it is called golbaeng-i (골뱅이, meaning "bai top shells"), a dialectal form of .
  • In , it is ئه ت at, from the English word.
  • In , it is officially called маймылча ("monkey"), sometimes unofficially as собачка ( sobachka – Russian for "doggy") or эт ( et – the Russian pronunciation of "at").
  • In , it is pronounced the same as in English, but, since in Latvian is written as "e" (not "a" as in English), it is sometimes written as et.
  • In Lithuanian, it is et (equivalent to the English "at").
  • In Luxembourgish it used to be called Afeschwanz ("monkey tail"), but due to widespread use, it is now called at, as in English.
  • In Macedonian, it is called мајмунче ( my-moon-cheh – "little monkey").
  • In , it is called alias when it is used in names and di when it is used in email addresses, "di" being the Malay word for "at".. It is also commonly used to abbreviate atau which means "or" / "either".
  • In Morse code, it is known as a "commat", consisting of the Morse code for the "A" and "C" which run together as one character: ·--·-·. The symbol was added in 2004 for use with email addresses, "The ARRL Letter", Vol. 23, No. 18, April 30, 2004 the only official change to Morse code since World War I.
  • In , the symbol is called "at the rate." Commonly, people will give their email addresses by including the phrase "at the rate".
  • In Norwegian, it is officially called krøllalfa ("curly alpha" or "alpha twirl"), and commonly as alfakrøll. Sometimes snabel-a, the Swedish/Danish name (which means "trunk A", as in "elephant's trunk"), is used. Commonly, people will call the symbol (as in English), particularly when giving their email addresses.
  • In , it is at, from the English word.
  • In , it is officially called małpa ("monkey") and commonly referred to as małpka ("little monkey"). Rarely, the English word "at" is used.
  • In Portuguese, it is called arroba (from the Arabic arrub). The word "" is also used for a weight measure in Portuguese. One arroba is equivalent to 32 old Portuguese pounds, approximately 14.7 kg, and both the weight and the symbol are called arroba. In Brazil, are still priced by the arroba – now rounded to 15 kg. (This naming is because the at sign was used to represent this measure.)
  • In Romanian, it is most commonly called at, but also colloquially called coadă de maimuţă ("monkey tail") or a-rond. The latter is commonly used, and it comes from the word "round" (from its shape), but that is nothing like the mathematical symbol A-rond (rounded A). Others call it aron, or la (Romanian word for at).
  • In , it is most commonly собака ( sobaka, meaning "dog"). The name "dog" came from the way it looked on the Soviet computer: the symbol had a short tail, making it look somewhat like a dog.

  • In , it is called лудо А ( ludo A – "crazy A"), мајмунче ( majmunče – "little monkey"), or мајмун ( majmun – "monkey").
  • In , it is called zavináč ("pickled fish roll", as in Czech).
  • In , it is called afna (the informal word for "monkey").
  • In -speaking countries, it denotes a pre-metric unit of weight. While there are regional variations in and , it is typically considered to represent approximately 25 pounds (11.5 kg), and both the weight and the symbol are called .
  • In , it is called snabel-a ("'s trunk A") or simply at, as in the English language. Less formally it is also known as kanelbulle ("") or alfakrull (" curl").
  • In , it is commonly called Affenschwanz ("monkey-tail"). However, the use of the English word "at" has become increasingly popular in German.
  • In , the word at means "and", so the symbol is used like an ampersand in colloquial writing such as text messages (e.g. magluto @ kumain, "cook and eat").
  • In , it is commonly called at, as in English.
  • In , it is commonly called et, a variant pronunciation of English "at".
  • In Ukrainian, it is commonly called ет ( et – "at"), other names being равлик ( ravlyk – "snail"), слимачок ( slymachok – "little slug"), вухо ( vukho – "ear"), and песик ( pesyk – "little dog").
  • In , it is اٹ ( at).
  • In , it is called kuchukcha, which loosely means "doggy" – a direct from .
  • In Vietnamese, it is called a còng ("bent A") in and a móc ("hooked A") in .
  • In , it is sometimes known as a malwen or malwoden (both meaning "snail").


Unicode variants

In culture
  • The Museum of Modern Art admitted the at sign to its architecture and design collection.
  • Author added the category of "things that were invented for one purpose, but are used for another" to his " Museum of Curiosity" collection with the @ as an example.
  • John Lloyd, pledged on QI series A DVD to support widespread use of the term "Astatine" to refer to the symbol. This name was chosen as the chemical element has the chemical symbol "At".
  • American R&B singer Usher used a version of the at sign in his career, where the "a" was replaced with the vowel "u" from his name. Puerto Rican artist Miguelito also uses his version of the at sign where the "a" is replaced by the letter "m" from his name in his own line of merchandise that includes clothes, school supplies, his studio albums, etc.
  • A Chinese couple tried to name their son @ – pronouncing it "ai ta" or "love him" – according to the . "English invades Chinese language",
August 17, 2007", People's Daily Online "Couple try to name baby @", August 17, 2007, NZ Herald
  • In the 1980 video game Rogue, presented in graphics, the player character is represented by the @. Many similar games, called , use the same presentation, and traditionally use the @ to represent the player character as well.


See also

External links

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