† ‡ ⸸
In UnicodeU+2020 DAGGER (†)
U+2021 DOUBLE DAGGER (‡, ‡)
Different from
Different fromU+271D LATIN CROSS

A dagger, obelisk, or obelus is a typographical mark that usually indicates a footnote if an asterisk has already been used.[1] The symbol is also used to indicate death (of people) or extinction (of species or languages).[2] It is one of the modern descendants of the obelus, a mark used historically by scholars as a critical or highlighting indicator in manuscripts. In older texts, it is called an obelisk.[3][a]

A double dagger or diesis is a variant with two hilts and crossguards that usually marks a third footnote after the asterisk and dagger.[5] The triple dagger is a variant with three crossguards and is used by medievalists to indicate another level of notation.[6]


Three variants of obelus glyphs

The dagger symbol originated from a variant of the obelus, originally depicted by a plain line or a line with one or two dots ÷.[7] It represented an iron roasting spit, a dart, or the sharp end of a javelin,[8] symbolizing the skewering or cutting out of dubious matter.[9][10][11]

The obelus is believed to have been invented by the Homeric scholar Zenodotus as one of a system of editorial symbols. They marked questionable or corrupt words or passages in manuscripts of the Homeric epics.[4][9] The system was further refined by his student Aristophanes of Byzantium, who first introduced the asterisk and used a symbol resembling a for an obelus; and finally by Aristophanes' student, in turn, Aristarchus, from whom they earned the name of "Aristarchian symbols".[12][13]

While the asterisk (asteriscus) was used for corrective additions, the obelus was used for corrective deletions of invalid reconstructions.[14] It was used when non-attested words are reconstructed for the sake of argument only, implying that the author did not believe such a word or word form had ever existed. Some scholars used the obelus and various other critical symbols, in conjunction with a second symbol known as the metobelos ("end of obelus"),[15] variously represented as two vertically arranged dots, a γ-like symbol, a mallet-like symbol, or a diagonal slash (with or without one or two dots). They indicated the end of a marked passage.[16]

It was used much in the same way by later scholars to mark differences between various translations or versions of the Bible and other manuscripts.[17] The early Christian Alexandrian scholar Origen (c. 184 – c. 253 AD) used it to indicate differences between different versions of the Old Testament in his Hexapla.[12][15][18] Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 310–320 – 403) used both a horizontal slash or hook (with or without dots) and an upright and slightly slanting dagger to represent an obelus. St. Jerome (c. 347–420) used a simple horizontal slash for an obelus, but only for passages in the Old Testament.[19] He describes the use of the asterisk and the dagger as: "an asterisk makes a light shine, the obelisk cuts and pierces".[11]

Isidore of Seville (c. 560–636) described the use of the symbol as follows: "The obelus is appended to words or phrases uselessly repeated, or else where the passage involves a false reading, so that, like the arrow, it lays low the superfluous and makes the errors disappear ... The obelus accompanied by points is used when we do not know whether a passage should be suppressed or not."[10]

Medieval scribes used the symbols extensively for critical markings of manuscripts. In addition to this, the dagger was also used in notations in early Christianity, to indicate a minor intermediate pause in the chanting of Psalms, equivalent to the quaver rest notation or the trope symbol in Hebrew cantillation. It also indicates a breath mark when reciting, along with the asterisk, and is thus frequently seen beside a comma.[20][21]

In the 16th century, the printer and scholar Robert Estienne (also known as Stephanus in Latin and Stephens in English) used it to mark differences in the words or passages between different printed versions of the Greek New Testament (Textus Receptus).[22]

Due to the variations as to the different uses of the different forms of the obelus, there is some controversy as to which symbols can actually be considered an obelus. The symbol and its variant, the ÷, is sometimes considered to be different from other obeli. The term 'obelus' may have referred strictly only to the horizontal slash and the dagger symbols.[citation needed]

Modern usage

The dagger usually indicates a footnote if an asterisk has already been used.[1] A third footnote employs the double dagger.[5] Additional footnotes are somewhat inconsistent and represented by a variety of symbols, e.g., parallels ( ), section sign §, and the pilcrow  – some of which were nonexistent in early modern typography. Partly because of this, superscript numerals have increasingly been used in modern literature in the place of these symbols, especially when several footnotes are required. Some texts use asterisks and daggers alongside superscripts, using the former for per-page footnotes and the latter for endnotes.

The dagger is also used to indicate death,[5][23] extinction,[24] or obsolescence.[1][25] The asterisk and the dagger, when placed beside years, indicate year of birth and year of death respectively.[5] This usage is particularly common in German.[26] When placed immediately before or after a person's name, the dagger indicates that the person is deceased.[5][27][28][29] In this usage, it is referred to as the "death dagger".[30] In the Oxford English Dictionary, the dagger symbol indicates an obsolete word.[25]

Dagger and double-dagger symbols in a variety of fonts, showing the differences between stylized and non-stylized characters. Fonts from left to right: DejaVu Sans, Times New Roman, LTC Remington Typewriter, Garamond, and Old English Text MT

While daggers are freely used in English-language texts, they are often avoided in other languages because of their similarity to the Christian cross.[citation needed]


Typing the character

Single dagger:

Double dagger:

Visually similar symbols

The dagger should not be confused with the symbols U+271D LATIN CROSS, U+253C BOX DRAWINGS LIGHT VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL, or other cross symbols.

The double dagger should not be confused with the U+2628 CROSS OF LORRAINE, or U+2626 ORTHODOX CROSS, or U+01C2 ǂ LATIN LETTER ALVEOLAR CLICK in IPA, or U+167E CANADIAN SYLLABICS WOODS-CREE FINAL TH.

See also


  1. ^ The terms obelus and obelisk derive from the Greek: ὀβελίσκος (obeliskos), which means "little obelus"; from ὀβελός (obelos) meaning 'roasting spit'.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d Partridge, Eric (2004) [1953]. You Have a Point There: A Guide to Punctuation and Its Allies. London: Routledge. p. 235. ISBN 0-415-05075-8.
  2. ^ "Catalogue of Life: 2019 Annual Checklist". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 2019.
  3. ^ "Dagger (8)". The Oxford English Dictionary (D–E. 1933. p. 7.
  4. ^ a b "obelus". Oxford Dictionaries Online. Oxford University Press. April 2010.[dead link]
  5. ^ a b c d e Hoefler, Jonathan (4 June 2009). "House of Flying Reference Marks, or Quillon & Choil". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Archived from the original on 5 February 2010. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
  6. ^ a b "Proposal to add Medievalist punctuation characters to the UCS" (PDF). 25 January 2016. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 December 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  7. ^ Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. 2003. p. 855. ISBN 9780877798095. obelos
  8. ^ Ainsworth, William Harrison, ed. (1862). The New Monthly Magazine. Vol. 125. Chapman and Hall. p. 1 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ a b Scanlin, Harold P. (1998). "A New Edition of Origen's Hexapla: How It Might Be Done". In Salvesen, Alison (ed.). Origen's Hexapla and Fragments: Papers Presented at the Rich Seminar on the Hexapla, Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, 25th July – 3rd August 1994. "Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism" series. Mohr Siebeck. p. 439. ISBN 9783161465758.
  10. ^ a b Dobson, Richard Barrie (2000). Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. Vol. 2. Routledge. p. 1038. ISBN 9781579582821.
  11. ^ a b Hamann, Johann Georg; Haynes, Kenneth (2007). Writings on Philosophy and Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 94. ISBN 9780199202461. obelus dagger
  12. ^ a b c Wegner, Paul D. (2006). A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible. InterVarsity Press. p. 194. ISBN 9780198147473 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Grube, George Maximilian Anthony (1965). The Greek and Roman Critics. Hackett Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 9780872203105 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ Scott, William R.; Rüger, H. P. (1995). "BHS Critical Apparatus" (PDF). A Simplified Guide to BHS: Critical Apparatus, Masora, Accents, Unusual Letters & Other Markings (3rd ed.). North Richland Hills, Texas: Bibal Press. Retrieved 27 August 2011 – via Internet Archive.
  15. ^ a b Knight, Kevin. "Hexapla". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent LLC. Archived from the original on 4 September 2011. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  16. ^ Würthwein, Ernst (1995). The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 58. ISBN 9780802807885.
  17. ^ Garrison, Daniel H. (2004). The Student's Catullus. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 184. ISBN 9780806136356 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ Jones, R. Grant (2000). "The Septuagint in Early Christian Writings" (PDF). Notes on the Septuagint. p. 4. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 August 2011. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  19. ^ Smith, William; Wace, Henry, eds. (1882). A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines: During the First Eight Centuries – Being A Continuation of 'The Dictionary of the Bible'. Vol. III: Hermogenes–Myensis. John Murray – via Internet Archive.
  20. ^ Kaufman Shelemay, Kay; Jeffery, Peter; Monson, Ingrid (1994). "Oral and written transmission in Ethiopian Christian Chant". In Fenlon, Iain (ed.). Early Music History: Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Music. Cambridge University Press. p. 81. ISBN 9780521451802.
  21. ^ "Obelisk, Obelus, Dagger". Seiyaku.com. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  22. ^ Martin, David (1719). "X: Of the Obelus and Semicircle, the passage of St. John is mark'd with in Stephen's Edition". A Critical Dissertation upon the Seventh Verse of the Fifth Chapter of St. John's First Epistle: There are three that bear record in Heaven, &c. – wherein the authentickness of this text is fully prov'd against the objections of Mr. Simon and the modern Arians. William and John Innys. p. 65 – via Google Books.
  23. ^ a b Reynolds, John D. (2002). Handbook of Fish Biology and Fisheries. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 108. ISBN 9780632054121.
  24. ^ a b Tudge, Colin (2000). "Conventions for Naming Taxa". The Variety of Life: A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures That Have Ever Lived. Oxford University Press. p. 93. ISBN 9780198604266 – via Google Books.
  25. ^ a b "Guide to the Third Edition of the OED". Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 30 August 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  26. ^ Komitees des Vereins Herold [Editorial Committee of the Herold Association], ed. (1912) [1897]. Genealogisches Handbuch bürgerlicher Familien [Genealogical Handbook of Burgher families] (in German). Vol. 5. Görlitz: C. A. Starke. Archived from the original on 18 March 2017 – via Mazowiecka Biblioteka Cyfrowa (Masovian Digital Library).
  27. ^ Knowles, Elizabeth (2006). Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199202461.
  28. ^ Campbell, Alastair (2004). The Digital Designer's Jargon Buster. The Ilex Press. p. 84. ISBN 9781904705352.
  29. ^ Lennard, John, ed. (2005). "Punctuation". The Poetry Handbook: A Guide to Reading Poetry for Pleasure and Practical Criticism. Oxford University Press. p. 140. ISBN 9780199265381 – via Google Books.
  30. ^ "Author Line". The APS Online Style Manual. American Psychological Society. Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  31. ^ Hull, David L. (1990). Science as a Process: An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science. University of Chicago Press. p. 254. ISBN 9780226360515 – via Internet Archive. dagger symbol extinction
  32. ^ "Cricket Scorecard: 43rd Match, Super Eights: Australia v Sri Lanka at St George's". ESPN Cricinfo. 16 April 2007. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  33. ^ Jones, Tamura. "Genealogy Symbols". Modern Software Experience. Archived from the original on 7 March 2022. Retrieved 7 March 2022.
  34. ^ Beall, Jc. "Christ: A Contradiction". Journal of Analytic Theology. 7: 400–433. doi:10.12978/jat.2019-7.090202010411.
  35. ^ Weisstein, Eric W. "Dagger". MathWorld.
  36. ^ Hall, John R. Clark (1916). A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary for the Use of Students (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan. pp. vi, vii – via Project Gutenberg.
  37. ^ Jones, Michael Alan (1996). Foundations of French Syntax. Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. xxv. ISBN 0-521-38104-5.
  38. ^ a b c Everson, Michael (5 December 2009). "L2/09-425: Proposal to encode six punctuation characters in the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 April 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2018.