* Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

In addition to the thousands of words that make up the English language, there are also a number of symbols, “*” being one of them. Otherwise known as the asterisk symbol, “*” is found above the “8” key on standard US keyboards — but what does it mean? We’ll tell you.

In this post, we’re exploring the popular symbol to uncover its meaning, usage, and more. S,o if you’ve ever been curious as to what “*” truly means or how to use it — keep reading. Here’s our complete guide on asterisks. 

What Is the Definition of Asterisk?

According to the Collins Dictionary, an asterisk is the sign used to indicate that there’s more information about something in another part of the text. In other words, when you’re writing something and need to add a quick footnote, a simple way to mark the spot where you want to include the extra note is to use the star-shaped asterisk symbol. 

More often than not, a single asterisk is enough, but if more than one note is needed on the same page, the official order of footnotes is as follows:

  • * (asterisk)
  • † (dagger)
  • ‡ (double dagger or diesis)
  • § (section sign)
  • || (logical OR operator)
  • ¶ (pilcrow)

What Is the Etymology of Asterisk?

The asterisk comes from the Greek word asterikos meaning “little star.” Back in the day, these small symbols were used to show the omission of a letter or a passage in time, but that special role has largely been handed over to the ellipsis — also known informally as “dot, dot, dot.” 

What’s the Correct Way to Use an Asterisk?

By now, you know that an asterisk is a punctuation mark that closely resembles a little star, but what’s the correct way to use this popular symbol? Here are a few rules to keep in mind to ensure proper usage:

Rule #1: Use an asterisk to indicate a footnote (aka an explanation or comment) at the bottom of the page.

Rule #2: Use the star-shaped icon in advertisements to indicate that there is further information (such as a disclaimer) on a different part of the ad.

Rule #3: Use an asterisk to censor inappropriate language (such as swear words).

Rule #4: When an asterisk and another punctuation mark (such as a period, exclamation mark, or question mark) appear at the end of a sentence, the asterisk follows the punctuation mark without any spaces between them.

What Are Translations of Asterisk?

Wondering how to say our word of the day in a different language? We’ve got you covered — here are some of the top translations of asterisk:

  • American English — asterisk  
  • Brazilian Portuguese — asterisco 
  • Croatian — asteriskcr
  • Czech — hvězdička
  • Chinese — 星号
  • Italian — asterisco 
  • Japanese — 星印
  • British English — asterisk
  • Afrikaans — asteriskcr
  • Korean — 별표
  • European Portuguese — asterisco 
  • Norwegian — stjernestr
  • Russian — звездочка
  • Danish — stjerne
  • Spanish — asterisco
  • Turkish — yıldız işareti
  • Ukrainian — зірочка
  • European Spanish — asterisco 
  • French — astérisque 
  • German — Sternchen

Interesting Facts About Asterisks

Now that you know all about the asterisk symbol let’s explore a few interesting facts about asterisks. Here are some things about the popular symbol that you may have not already known:

  • Asterisks were used in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament of the Bible. 
  • In colloquial usage, an asterisk icon attached to a sporting record indicates that it’s somehow tainted.
  • Chinese for “asterisk” is xīnghào 星号 (“star symbol”), in Japanese, it’s asutarisuku アスタリスク, and in Korean, it’s byeolpyo 별표 (“star mark”). 
  • A group of three star-shaped symbols in a triangular formation is known as an asterism — like a pattern of stars lighting up the night sky. 
  • The asterisk symbol that is used today is believed to have been developed by a grammarian named Aristarchus of Samothrace from Ancient Greece, who devised the little star shape when using his marking system to edit Homer’s poetry in the second century BC. 
  • When used in computer science, the asterisk symbol is used in regular expressions to denote zero or more repetitions of a pattern (aka the Kleene star after Stephen Kleene).
  • In telephone directories, the small icon is placed before the phone number in order to indicate that it’s a switchboard. 
  • Unlike superscript numbers or letters, an asterisk symbol can be used alone when you’re needing only a handful of footnotes in written text.
  • A group of three asterisk symbols in a row is called a dinkus and indicates a section break in written text.  
  • The Hindu word for asterisk is taaraka तारक, but that also means “star,” “savior,” “aster,” “protector,” “liberator,” “deliverer,” and “planet.”
  • In recent years, the star-shaped icon has come into use on baseball scorecards to denote a “great defensive play.”


An asterisk is a typographic symbol or glyph. In the English language, this star-shaped sign is usually five-pointed or six-pointed in typefaces and can be used as censorship as well as on the internet to correct one’s spelling. 

That said, the asterisk is most commonly used to indicate a footnote that usually contains additional text or “the fine print.”

Want to discover more new words or words that are trending? Head on over to our website where you’ll find our word lists as well as a ton of informative blogs that contain everything you need to truly grasp the meaning of a term.

From synonyms and antonyms to different meanings, Middle English, and example sentences — when it comes to terminology, we’ve got you covered!


Asterisk with obelus | UMich Library 

Asterisk definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary

IX. Footnote indicators | Department for General Assembly and Conference Management