Asterisk symbol

What is the asterisk symbol?

The asterisk designated as * is a glyph or a typographical symbol. The word was derived from the Late Latin asteriscus, and Ancient Greek "ἀστερίσκος," meaning "little star." The asterisk symbol signifies a conventional image of a star. Math and computer scientists frequently vocalize the asterisk symbol as a star. For instance, in the C* algebra or A* search algorithm). In the English language, the asterisk symbol is commonly designated with six-pointed in serif typefaces, five-pointed in sans-serif typefaces, and six or eight-pointed when handwritten.

What are the common uses of an asterisk symbol?

There are various uses of the asterisk symbol. Below you will learn more about its usage.

Use # 1 - Asterisk symbol used as a footnote symbol:

The asterisk symbol is a star-shaped sign * mainly used to grab attention to a footnote, point to disclaimers (which frequently appear in ads), dress-up company logos, and indicate an omission. Nowadays, asterisk symbols are used to spike the reader to a footnote. Under "The Chicago Manual of Style, 17 Edition," people may use asterisk symbol (as opposed to digits) only when a footnote appears in the whole paper or book. Generally, a single asterisk symbol is enough, but if more than one footnote is required on the same page, the sequence will be like that * † ‡ §.

Besides, the asterisk symbols are used lightly differently when footnotes are being indicated. For example, cues for references are typically rendered with one or (1), but often an asterisk sign is used among parentheses or alone, under the "Oxford Style Manual." It is possible to attach an asterisk symbol to an article's title since Peter Goodrich mentions in his essay "Dicta" that the asterisk symbol footnote plays the central role of listing influential colleagues benefactors, student assistants, and the circumstances around the production of the article. In that sense, the asterisk sign hints the readers to a footnote listing patrons, names, or even to a congratulatory message.

Moreover, the asterisk symbol is often placed in front of ungrammatical constructions. But, still, the most common use of this symbol is to call out a footnote. For instance, the asterisk is frequently used to censor offensive words, and on the net, points to a correction to a message. As in computer science, the asterisk symbol is used as a wildcard character or denotes repetition, multiplication, or pointers.

Use #2 - Asterisk used to indicate omissions:

Many stories and publications consist of a quoted material to add credibility to a piece of paper and heighten the readers' interest. But people often use some swear words and even curse, providing a significant challenge to writers when publishers prohibit the use of salty language — as most do nowadays. In that sense, most people use the asterisk to replace those letters that have been removed from foul language and cuss words. For instance, in the phrase s**t, the asterisk replaces two letters in a term referring to excrement. Interestingly, the dash was used to signify the omission of some letters from words as late as the early-1950s. But, later by the middle of the 20th century, the asterisk symbols widely displaced the dash in nearly all such uses.

Asterisk symbol in computer programming

On the computer keyboard, the asterisk symbol is designed as ( * ), and it is found above the "8" key right on standard U.S. keyboards and the number pad of most computers and laptops. See below:

  1. To type an asterisk symbol using a U.S. keyboard, you will need to hold down the "Shift" key and then press the "8" key on your computer's keyboard. The asterisk symbol is easy to create and use on the numeric keypad along with math formulas.
  2. To create an asterisk symbol on a tablet or smartphone, you should open the keyboard, then go directly into the numbers section (123), and then go to the (#+=) category or symbols section (sym). Finally, it would help if you pressed the cursor on the * symbol.

Below you will find other examples of the asterisk used across computers:

  • In a math formula, an asterisk symbol is used to notate a multiplication. For instance, in the following formula, 5 <times> 2 is equal to 10. See: 5 * 2 = 10.
  • The asterisk symbol signifies a wild character or so-called wildcard with computers. For example, when you type *.TXT in a search engine or find a field, the device will look for any file that ends with .TXT.
  • Another use of the asterisk sign is in the nonexecutable statement used along with some programming languages. For instance, in the following PHP code, you see the comment "hidden text" that would not show when being executed since a front slash and the asterisk surround it. See example: /* hidden text */.
  • In Python or other programming languages, a couple of asterisks ** may be used as an operator to calculate the power of a digit. For instance, in the script, i**j will be "i" to the power of "j."

How to insert an asterisk symbol in computers

You will need to know how the sign is encoded to insert the asterisk symbol into the web, texts, or other computing systems. In this part, you will find some useful code points and characters to create the asterisk symbol. These characters are also helpful for developers. Below you can see differently designed asterisks with their encodings:

  • Asterisk * - Unicode U+002A, decimal code &#42; UTF-8 code point 2A; HTML code points &ast; and &midast; (HTML5 only).
  • Arabic Five Pointed Star ٭ - Unicode U+066D; decimal code &#1645; UTF-8 code point D9 AD.
  • East Asian Reference Mark ※ - Unicode U+203B; decimal code &#8251; UTF-8 code point E2 80 BB.
  • Flower Punctuation Mark ⁕ - Unicode U+2055; decimal code &#8277; UTF-8 code point E2 81 95.
  • Asterism ⁂ - Unicode U+2042; decimal code &#8258; UTF-8 E2 81 82.
  • Low Asterisk ⁎ - Unicode U+204E; decimal code &#8270; UTF-8 code point E2 81 8E.
  • Two Asterisks Aligned Vertically ⁑ - Unicode point U+2051; decimal code &#8273; UTF-8 code point E2 81 91.