A star-shaped figure (*) primarily used to indicate an omission or call attention to a footnote.
In language studies, an asterisk is commonly placed in front of a construction that is considered ungrammatical.
Etymology:From the Greek, "a small star"
Examples and Observations:
- "I would like to raise a toast this week to Barney, a blue and gold parrot at a wildlife sanctuary in Nuneaton, who during an important civic visit told the local mayoress to 'f*** off.'"
(Carol Midgley, "I Swear to You, I Can't Stand P***poor Cussers." The Times, April 17, 2008)
- "What the two-year, pricey process produced is a logo consisting simply of the name Walmart (with no hyphen this time). They also replaced the old upper-case, blocky lettering with rounder, lower-case letters. . . . Oh, they've also placed an artistic feature at the end of the name. Apparently it's meant to be a star, sunburst, or flower--but it really looks like an asterisk, as though we should look at the fine print before swallowing the idea that a friendlier logo means a friendlier corporation."
(Jim Hightower, July 18, 2008)
- "Note cues for references are generally rendered (1) or 1. Sometimes an asterisk between parentheses or standing alone . . .."
(R.M. Ritter, ed., The Oxford Style Manual. Oxford Univ. Press, 2003)
- "With the possible exception of Abner Doubleday's invention of baseball, the game's most enduring myth has been Roger Maris' Asterisk. . . .
"The asterisk supposedly came into being 40 years ago when Maris became the first player to surpass the most famous American sports record of the past century, Babe Ruth's 60 home runs in one season. The asterisk was supposed to accompany Roger Maris' name into the record books to indicate that Maris had broken the record over a 162-game span instead of the 154 schedule that Ruth played.
"In point of fact, no such asterisk was ever put beside Maris' name in any record book; it never existed."
(Allen Barra, "The Myth of Maris' Asterisk." Salon.com, Oct. 3, 2001)
- "Rhys Barter was shocked to receive messages calling him a 't***face' and 'a**e'--we can only guess what the asterisks stand for--according to the Sun. Knowles later apologised, saying he had been 'sabotaged' after he left his computer unattended while filming on a building site in Liverpool."
(MediaMonkey, "Nick Knowles's Twitter SOS." guardian.co.uk, May 6, 2010)
- History of the Asterisk
"Some of the ancient critical signs survived the centuries and acquired new roles in the printed book; others were not small enough or had shapes which were less suitable for reproduction in cast metal type. Two survived as notae, the asterisk and the obelus in the form of the crux †. The asterisk appears occasionally in early medieval manuscripts, but with even less frequency later. In printed books, it appears with its original function, to mark omissions, but was placed within the text . . ..
"In printed books the asterisk and obelus were used principally in conjunction with other marks as signes de renvoi to link passages in the text with side-notes and footnotes."
(M.B. Parkes, Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West. Univ. of California Press, 1993)