In UnicodeU+00B6 PILCROW SIGN (¶)
Different from
Different fromU+00A7 § SECTION SIGN
See also
Pilcrow in typefaces: Neue Helvetica, Arial, Consolas, Adobe Garamond Pro, Baskerville Old Face, Palatino Linotype, and Gentium Plus
Three short paragraphs on making gunpowder in the manuscript GNM 3227a (Germany, c. 1400); the first paragraph is marked with an early form of the pilcrow sign, the two following paragraphs are introduced with litterae notabiliores (literally: enlarged letters).
Pilcrow signs in an excerpt from a page of Villanova, Rudimenta Grammaticæ, printed by Spindeler in 1500 in Valencia.[1]
Possible development from capitulum to modern paragraph symbol.[2]

The pilcrow, , is a handwritten or typographical character used to identify a paragraph. It is also called the paragraph mark (or sign or symbol), paraph, or blind P.[3]

The pilcrow may be used at the start of separate paragraphs or to designate a new paragraph in one long piece of copy, as Eric Gill did in his 1931 book An Essay on Typography.[4] The pilcrow was a type of rubrication used in the Middle Ages to mark a new train of thought, before the convention of visually discrete paragraphs was commonplace.[5] In some medieval texts, it indicated a new sentence.[1] In recent times, the symbol has been given a wider variety of roles, as listed below.

The pilcrow is usually drawn similarly to a lowercase q reaching from descender to ascender height; the bowl (loop) can be filled or unfilled. It may also be drawn with the bowl stretching further downwards, resembling a reversed D; this is more often seen in older printing.

Origin and name

The word pilcrow originates from the Ancient Greek: παράγραφος (parágraphos), literally "written on the side or margin". This was rendered in Old French as paragraphe and later changed to pelagraphe. The earliest reference to the modern pilcrow is in 1440 with the Middle English word pylcrafte.[6]

Use in Ancient Greek

The first way to divide sentences into groups in Ancient Greek was the original παράγραφος (parágraphos), which was a horizontal line in the margin to the left of the main text.[7] As the paragraphos became more popular, the horizontal line eventually changed into the Greek letter Gamma (⟨Γ⟩, ⟨γ⟩) and later into litterae notabiliores, which were enlarged letters at the beginning of a paragraph.[8]

Use in Latin

Above notation soon changed to the letter ⟨K⟩, an abbreviation for the Latin word caput, which translates as "head", i.e. it marks the head of a new thesis.[9] Eventually, to mark a new section, the Latin word capitulum, which translates as "little head", was used, and the letter ⟨C⟩ came to mark a new section, or chapter, [10] in 300 BC.[11]

Use in Middle Ages

In the 1100s, ⟨C⟩ had completely replaced ⟨K⟩ as the symbol for a new chapter.[2] Rubricators eventually added one or two vertical bars to the C to stylize it (as ⸿); the "bowl" of the symbol was filled in with dark ink and eventually looked like the modern pilcrow, .[2]

(Scribes would often leave space before paragraphs to allow rubricators to add a hand-drawn pilcrow in contrasting ink. With the introduction of the printing press from the late medieval period on, space before paragraphs was still left for rubricators to complete by hand. However in some circumstances, rubricators could not draw fast enough for publishers' deadlines and books would often be sold with the beginnings of the paragraphs left blank. This is how the practice of indention before paragraphs was created.[12])

Modern use

Opening page of Genesis from the Doves Bible (Doves Press, 1902): pilcrow used as a verse marker

The pilcrow remains in use in modern documents in the following ways:

The pilcrow is also often used in word processing and desktop publishing software:

The pilcrow may indicate a footnote in a convention that uses a set of distinct typographic symbols in turn to distinguish between footnotes on a given page; it is the sixth in a series of footnote symbols beginning with the asterisk.[3] (The modern convention is to use numbers or letters in superscript form.)


The pilcrow character was encoded in the 1984 Multinational Character Set (Digital Equipment Corporation's extension to ASCII) at 0xB6 (decimal 182), subsequently adopted by ISO/IEC 8859-1 ("ISO Latin-1", 1987) at the same code point, and thence by Unicode as U+00B6 PILCROW SIGN. In addition, Unicode also defines U+204B REVERSED PILCROW SIGN, U+2761 CURVED STEM PARAGRAPH SIGN ORNAMENT, and U+2E3F ⸿ CAPITULUM. The capitulum character is obsolete, being replaced by pilcrow, but is included in Unicode for backward compatibility and historic studies.

The pilcrow symbol was included in the default hardware codepage 437 of IBM PCs (and all other 8-bit OEM codepages based on this) at code point 20 (0x14), which is an ASCII control character.

Keyboard entry

Paragraph signs in non-Latin writing systems

In Thai, the character marks the beginning of a stanza and ฯะ or ๚ะ marks the end of a stanza.[18]

In Sanskrit and other Indian languages, text blocks are commonly written in stanzas. Two vertical bars, , called a "double daṇḍa", are the functional equivalent of a pilcrow.[19]

In Amharic, the characters and can mark a section/paragraph.

In China, the , which has been used as a zero character since the 12th century, has been used to mark paragraphs in older Western-made books such as the Chinese Union Version of the Bible.


  1. ^ a b Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1922). Printing types, their history, forms and use, a study in survivals by Daniel Berkeley Updike. Vol. I. p. 108.
  2. ^ a b c M. B. Parkes (1993). "The Development of the General Repertory of Punctuation". Pause and Effect: Punctuation in the West. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 43. ISBN 9780520079410.
  3. ^ a b "Notes, references and bibliographies: Notes". Style manual (3 ed.). Canberra: Australian government publishing service. 1978.
  4. ^ Eric Gill (2013) [1931]. An Essay on Typography (PDF). London: Penguin. ISBN 9780141393568.
  5. ^ Stamp, Jimmy (10 July 2013). "The Origin of the Pilcrow, aka the Strange Paragraph Symbol". Design Decoded (a Smithsonian blog). Archived from the original on 14 July 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  6. ^ Keith Houston (29 January 2015). "The Pilcrow". Shady characters : ampersands, interrobangs and other typographical curiosities. London: Penguin. p. 16. ISBN 9780718193881.
  7. ^ Edwin Herbert Lewis (1894). The History of the English Paragraph. University of Chicago Press. p. 9.
  8. ^ M. B. Parkes (1993). "Introduction: Glossary of Technical Terms". Pause and Effect: Punctuation in the West. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 10. ISBN 9780520079410.
  9. ^ M. B. Parkes (1993). "1. Antiquity: Aids for Inexperienced Readers and the Prehistory of Punctuation". Pause and Effect: Punctuation in the West. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 12. ISBN 9780520079410.
  10. ^ Hoefler, Jonathan (12 March 2008). "Pilcrow & Capitulum". Typography.com. Hoefler&Co. Retrieved 4 November 2022. It's tempting to recognize the symbol as a "P for paragraph," though the resemblance is incidental: in its original form, the mark was an open C crossed by a vertical line or two, a scribal abbreviation for capitulum, the Latin word for chapter.
  11. ^ David Sacks (2003). "K and its Kompetitors". The Alphabet: Unravelling the Mystery of the Alphabet from A to Z. London: Hutchinson. p. 206. ISBN 9780091795061.
  12. ^ Tschichold, Jan (1991) [1975]. "Why the Beginnings of Paragraphs Must Be Indented". In Bringhurst, Robert (ed.). Ausgewählte Aufsätze über Fragen der Gestalt des Buches und der Typographie [The form of the book : essays on the morality of good design]. Translated by Hajo Hadeler. London: Lund Humphries. pp. 105–109. ISBN 9780853316237. OCLC 220984255.
  13. ^ Hildebrand, Joe; Hoffman, Paul E. (December 2016). Hildebrand, J (ed.). HTML Format for RFCs | §5.2 Pilcrows. Internet Architecture Board. doi:10.17487/RFC7992. RFC RFC7992.
  14. ^ "Show or hide tab marks in Word", Word Help, Microsoft, Turn the display of formatting marks on or off accessed=13 June 2023
  15. ^ "Windows Alt Key Codes". Penn State University. 2010. Archived from the original on 14 June 2010.
  16. ^ "Save keystrokes with text replacements on iPhone". Apple Support. Retrieved 1 June 2023.
  17. ^ "iPad Writing Tool". iDevices World – Australia. 2011. Archived from the original on 20 June 2011.
  18. ^ "Thai" (PDF). Unicode. 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  19. ^ A.M., Ruppel (2017). The Cambridge Introduction to Sanskrit. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-1107088283.