All Words > Octothorpe

illustration Octothorpe



Part of speech: noun

Origin: American, 20th century


Another term for the pound sign (#).

Examples of Octothorpe in a sentence

"The octothorpe is sometimes used as an “Enter” key for a phone system and is dialed at the end of a command."

"My grandfather was confused by why so many words online were preceded by an octothorpe."

About Octothorpe

The origin of the word “octothorpe” is uncertain, though the term was in use at Bell Telephone Labs by the early 1970s, and most believe the term was invented by Bell Labs employee Don MacPherson. “Octothorpe” combines the Latin prefix “octō-,” meaning “eight,” with the proper name Thorpe, which many suspect MacPherson chose in homage to American gold-medal Olympian and football player Jim Thorpe. In a competing theory, one former Bell Labs insider claimed “octothorpe” began as the nonsense word “octatherp.”

Did you Know?

Whether it’s called an “octothorpe,” or a “pound” or “hashtag” or “number” sign, the # symbol began life as an abbreviation “lb” for the Latin “libra pondo,” or “pound weight.” Those handwriting “lb” quickly were often left with a messy symbol that looked like four crossed lines, from which the octothorpe was developed as a simple representation. The octothorpe became a technological standard in 1968 when AT&T added it to its touch tone telephone, along with the asterisk (*), in order to make the keypad square.

illustration Octothorpe

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