Definition: A character or symbol (& or ) for and
Pronunciation: am-per-sand, am-per-sand
1820-30; Ampersand is literally a mash-up of the words “and per se and”. The symbol itself comes from an old Roman system of shorthand signs.
Why this Word?
Who knew this little symbol had a proper name? I certainly didn’t and I felt like I had made a Tutankhamen level of word discoveries when I found it. Until I had the following conversation with my husband:
Me: “Babe! You know that little squiggle that means ‘and’? It
actually has a name…”
Husband: “You mean an Ampersand?”
Me: “…I don’t know why I even talk to you anymore.”
Decidedly crestfallen, I dithered back and forth about actually using this word for a post. Eventually I started dropping it casually into conversation to see who else already knew it. The numbers were surprisingly low, I had to explain what an Ampersand was far more often than not. (Just a side note, by “casually dropping” I actually mean “forcibly inserting” the word into conversation regardless of the topic, which resulted in me having to explain my behavior almost as much as I had to explain the word itself.) I hope you appreciate the field research that went into this post.
Whether you’re like me and didn’t know this word existed, or you’re a smarty-pants like my husband, I’m still going to explain how this word came to be. Believe it or not, the Ampersand symbol used to be considered the 27th letter in the alphabet. When reciting the alphabet, that symbol was recited as “And, Per-Se, And” and kids started mashing it together to make the word “Ampersand”.
It’s not really known why it was dropped from the alphabet; although it’s interesting to note that around the same time we started singing the ABC’s is when it started disappearing from alphabet charts. Kind of makes you wonder what else would happen to our language if we sang everything Glee-style, doesn’t it?
How can you use Ampersand in a sentence?
“I don’t feel like exerting the effort to write the word ‘and’ in this title. I’ll just insert an Ampersand and save myself from carpal tunnel.”