@
At sign
In UnicodeU+0040 @ COMMERCIAL AT (@)
Related
See alsoU+FF20 FULLWIDTH COMMERCIAL AT
U+FE6B SMALL COMMERCIAL AT

The at sign, @, is normally read aloud as "at"; it is also commonly called the at symbol, commercial at, or address sign. It is used as an accounting and invoice abbreviation meaning "at a rate of" (e.g. 7 widgets @ £2 per widget = £14),[1] but it is now seen more widely in email addresses and social media platform handles.

The absence of a single English word for the symbol has prompted some writers to use the French arobase[2] or Spanish and Portuguese arroba, or to coin new words such as ampersat[3] and asperand,[4] or the (visual) onomatopoeia strudel,[5] but none of these have achieved wide use.

Although not included on the keyboard of the earliest commercially successful typewriters, it was on at least one 1889 model[6] and the very successful Underwood models from the "Underwood No. 5" in 1900 onward. It started to be used in email addresses in the 1970s, and is now routinely included on most types of computer keyboards.

History

@ symbol used as the initial "a" for the "amin" (amen) formula in the Bulgarian   of the Manasses Chronicle (c. 1345).
@ symbol used as the initial "a" for the "amin" (amen) formula in the Bulgarian of the Manasses Chronicle (c. 1345).
The Aragonese @ symbol used in the 1448 "taula de Ariza" registry to denote a wheat shipment from Castile to the Kingdom of Aragon.[7]
The Aragonese @ symbol used in the 1448 "taula de Ariza" registry to denote a wheat shipment from Castile to the Kingdom of Aragon.[7]
@ used to signify French "à" ("at") from a 1674 protocol from a Swedish court (Arboga rådhusrätt och magistrat)
@ used to signify French "à" ("at") from a 1674 protocol from a Swedish court (Arboga rådhusrätt och magistrat)

The earliest yet discovered symbol in this shape is found in a Bulgarian translation of a Greek chronicle written by Constantinos Manasses in 1345. Held today in the Vatican Apostolic Library, it features the @ symbol in place of the capital letter alpha "Α" as an initial in the word Amen; however, the reason behind it being used in this context is still unknown. The evolution of the symbol as used today is not recorded.

It has long been used in Catalan, Spanish and Portuguese as an abbreviation of arroba, a unit of weight equivalent to 25 pounds, and derived from the Arabic expression of "the quarter" (الربع pronounced ar-rubʿ).[8] A symbol resembling an @ is found in the Spanish "Taula de Ariza", a registry to denote a wheat shipment from Castile to Aragon, in 1448.[9] An Italian academic, Giorgio Stabile, claims to have traced the @ symbol to the 16th century, in a mercantile document sent by Florentine Francesco Lapi from Seville to Rome on May 4, 1536.[9] The document is about commerce with Pizarro, in particular the price of an @ of wine in Peru. Currently, the word arroba means both the at-symbol and a unit of weight. In Venetian, the symbol was interpreted to mean amphora (anfora), a unit of weight and volume based upon the capacity of the standard amphora jar since the 6th century.

Modern use

Commercial usage

In contemporary English usage, @ is a commercial symbol, meaning at and at the rate of or at the price of. It has rarely been used in financial ledgers, and is not used in standard typography.[10]

Trademark

In 2012, "@" was registered as a trademark with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office.[11] A cancellation request was filed in 2013, and the cancellation was ultimately confirmed by the German Federal Patent Court in 2017.[12]

Email addresses

A common contemporary use of @ is in email addresses (using the SMTP system), as in jdoe@example.com (the user jdoe located at the domain example.com). Ray Tomlinson of BBN Technologies is credited for having introduced this usage in 1971.[4][13] This idea of the symbol representing located at in the form user@host is also seen in other tools and protocols; for example, the Unix shell command ssh jdoe@example.net tries to establish an ssh connection to the computer with the hostname example.net using the username jdoe.

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

Social media

Further information: Mention (blogging)

On some social media platforms and forums, usernames start with an @ (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 might not see bold or color in email.

In microblogging (such as on Twitter and GNU social-based microblogs), an @ 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 handle. A similar use of the @ symbol was also made available to Facebook users on September 15, 2009.[14] In Internet Relay Chat (IRC), it is shown before users' nicknames to denote they have operator status on a channel.

Sports usage

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 versus), 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.[15] This usage is not followed in British English, since conventionally the home team is written first.

Computer languages

@ is used in various programming languages and other computer languages, although there is not a consistent theme to its usage. For example:

Gender neutrality in Spanish

Protester with banner showing "La revolución está en nosotr@s"
Protester with banner showing "La revolución está en nosotr@s"

Main article: Gender neutrality in Spanish

In Spanish, 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.[35] 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.[36]

Other uses and meanings

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Bicameral @ letter as used in the Koalib language.
Bicameral @ letter as used in the Koalib language.
X-SAMPA uses an @ as a substitute for ə, which it resembles in some fonts.
X-SAMPA uses an @ as a substitute for ə, which it resembles in some fonts.

Names in other languages

In many languages other than English, although most typewriters 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. Naming the symbol after animals is also common.

@ on a DVK Soviet computer (c. 1984)
@ on a DVK Soviet computer (c. 1984)

Unicode

In Unicode, the at sign is encoded as U+0040 @ COMMERCIAL AT (@). The named entity @ was introduced in HTML5.[48]

Variants

Character information
Preview @
Unicode name COMMERCIAL AT FULLWIDTH COMMERCIAL AT SMALL COMMERCIAL AT
Encodings decimal hex dec hex dec hex
Unicode 64 U+0040 65312 U+FF20 65131 U+FE6B
UTF-8 64 40 239 188 160 EF BC A0 239 185 171 EF B9 AB
Numeric character reference @ @ @ @ ﹫ ﹫
Named character reference @
ASCII and extensions 64 40
EBCDIC (037, 500, UTF)[49][50][51] 124 7C
EBCDIC (1026)[52] 174 AE
Shift JIS[53] 64 40 129 151 81 97
EUC-JP[54] 64 40 161 247 A1 F7
EUC-KR[55] / UHC[56] 64 40 163 192 A3 C0
GB 18030[57] 64 40 163 192 A3 C0 169 136 A9 88
Big5[58] 64 40 162 73 A2 49 162 78 A2 4E
EUC-TW 64 40 162 233 A2 E9 162 238 A2 EE
LaTeX[59] \MVAt

See also

References

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