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See also: ampèrsand


The "Roman" ampersand on the left is stylised, but the "italic" one on the right is clearly similar to "et".
Handwritten styles


A mondegreen of "and per se and", meaning "and (the character) '&' by itself", which is how the symbol (&) was originally referred to in English. This formulation is due to the old practice in schools whereby, when reciting the alphabet, the "&" sign was treated as a 27th letter (read as "and"), and any letter that could also be used as a word in itself ("A", "I", "O" and, at the time, "&") was preceded by the Latin expression per se (Latin for "by itself"). Thus the end of the recitation would be: "X, Y, Z and per se and". This last phrase eventually became "ampersand", and the term was in common English usage by around 1837.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈæm.pə(ɹ).sænd/, /ˈæmp.ə(ɹ)ˌzænd/
  • (file)


ampersand (plural ampersands)

  1. The symbol "&".
    The ampersand character in many logics acts as an operator connecting two propositions.
    • 1793, Macklin, Charles, The Man of the World. A Comedy in Five Acts, as Performed at the Theatres-Royal of Covent-Garden, and Crow-Street, Dublin: W. Wilson, page 36:
      Sir Pert. And therefore I left it to the prodigals and coxcombs, that could afford till pay for it, and its ſtead, Sir, mark–I luocked oot for an antient, well, jointered, ſuperanuated Dowager—a conſumptive, toothleſs, ptiſical, wealthy widow—or a ſhreeveled, cadaverous, neglected piece of deformity, i’ the ſhape of an eezard, or an apperſiand—or in ſhort, any thing—any thing that had the ſiller—the ſiller—for that was the North ſtar of my affection; do you take me, Sir, was nai that right?[sic]
    • 1796, Pratt, Samuel Jackson, “Letter XXI. To the same.”, in Gleanings through Wales, Holland, and Westphalia; with Views of Peace and War at Home and Abroad, London: T. N. Longman, page 317:
      At length, having tried all the hiſtorians from great A to amperſand, he perceives there is no eſcaping from the puzzle but by ſelecting his own facts, forming his own concluſions, and putting a little truſt in his own reaſon and judgment.
    • 1815, Lady Jane’s Pocket. A Novel, volume III, London: Minerva Press, page 221:
      “Oh, some fine rich piece of antiquity, in the shape of an ezzard, or an am(-)perse-and, as sir Pertinax says.”
    • 1830, Forby, Robert, The Vocabulary of East Anglia, London: J. B. Nichols and Son, page 6:
      AMPERSAND, s. the character &, representing the conjunction and. V. n. g.A per se A. This is and per se and; by a little smoothing and elision in pronunciation, becoming Ampersand. “The expression,” says the learned author referred to, “is not yet forgotten in the nursery.” No; nor far beyond the nursery. It is remembered and used in the village-school, in the cottage, the shop, and the farm-house. This formula of spelling and putting together was applied to every syllable consisting of one letter only; as we all may remember who learned our first elements on the principles of the old school. Only, indeed, the dame was wont to express per se in her own English, and teach us to say “A by the self A.” The character & is, however, in fact, originally and properly Latin, and is a combination of the two letters e and t, which constitute the common conjunction copulative in that language. It has been adopted and transferred into other languages, for the same use, with or without the same propriety. It must be allowed to exhibit stronger traces of its two constituent letters than the majority of those Greek abbreviations, tables of which, more or less copious, are inserted in almost all grammars, and which are so very embarrassing in ancient MSS. and early printed editions. A curious and irrefragable proof of the Latinity of this character in the rich library at Holkham, Norfolk. In a Latin MS. of the Four Gospels, supposed to be of the tenth century, it is used as a part of many words, at the end, and even in the body of them. Instances are, posset and sciretis; written thus, poss& and scir&is. There is a multitude of others.
    • 1835, Jacob Chase, Jr.; G. W. Montgomery, editors, Herald of Truth. Devoted to the Inculcation and Defence of Universal and Impartial Grace, volume II, Geneva, N. Y.: I. Prescott & Co., page 235:
      He agreed in the views expressed by Dr. Ely—he liked the course pursued by that venerable Father. For his part, he liked changes in some things. When he was a boy, and studied Dilworth, he was taught to say izzard and amperseand, but he was willing to adopt the improvements of the present day, and pronounce things differently. After all, it was a mere dispute about words, and if there was heresy, they were the greatest heretics that cried out heresy the loudest. He was for peace, and all we wanted was a revival spirit, to put an end to controversy.
    • 1835 December, The Southern Literary Messenger, volume II, Richmond: Thomas Willis White, page 289:
      The “Turn Out” is excellent—a second edition of Miss Edgeworth’s “Barring Out,” and full of fine touches of the truest humor. The scene is laid in Georgia, and in the good old days of fescues, abbiselfas, and anpersants—terms in very common use, but whose derivation we have always been at a loss to understand. Our author thus learnedly explains the riddle. / “The fescue was a sharpened wire, or other instrument, used by the preceptor to point out the letters to the children. Abisselfa is a contraction of the words ‘a, by itself, a.’ It was usual, when either of the vowels constituted a syllable of a word, to pronounce it, and denote by its independent character, by the words just mentioned, thus: ‘a by itself, a, c-o-r-n corn, acorn’—e by itself e, v-i-l vil, evil. The character which stands for the word ‘and’ (&) was probably pronounced with the same accompaniment, but in terms borrowed from the Latin language, thus: ‘& per se (by itself) &.’ ‘Hence anpersant.’”
    • 1838, Holloway, William, A General Dictionary of Provincialisms, Written with a View to Rescue from Oblivion the Fast Fading Relics of By-Gone Days, Lewes: Sussex Press, Baxter and Son, page 3:
      AMPERSAND, s. [Corruption of semper and.] The sign &. E. [East] Sussex / AMPERZED, s. [Corruption of semper and.] Hants.
    • 1839, Haliburton, Thomas Chandler, The Clockmaker; Or the Sayings and Doings of Sam. Slick, of Slickville. To Which Is Added, the Bubbles of Canada, by the Same Author, Paris: Baudry’s European Library, page 50:
      He spells out of an English dictionary, and reads out of an English book. He has hardly learned what Ampersand means afore they give him a horse, such as it is, and he puts an English bridle into his mouth, and an English saddle on his back, and whips the nasty, spavin’d, broken-winded brute, with an English whip; and when he stumbles, and throws him off, he swears a bushel of horrid English oaths at him.
    • 1843, The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine, volume XXII, New-York: John Allen, page 123:
      Up jumped Jonathan, his eyes wolfish and his lips white with rage. But ‘there was an oath in Heaven,’ and he did not forget it. So he proceeded to swallow his alphabetical pills—an antidote to wrath, not mentioned in the ‘Regimen Salernitanum,’ nor recognized by the British College. ‘A, B, C,—you’ve tored my jacket—D, E, F,—you’ve spilt my ’lasses—G, H, I, J, K—you’re a ’tarnal rascal—L, M, N, O, P, Q,—I’ll larn you better manners, you scamp, you!—R, S, T, U, V,—I’ll spile your picter, you old wall-eye!—W, X, Y, Z, ampersand—now I’ll pound your insides out o’ you, you darned nigger!’ And with that, Jonathan, whose passion had been mounting alphabetically throughout all his father’s prescription of vowels and consonants, caught the young scape-grace, and, throwing him down, was proceeding to work off each of the deacon’s twenty-six anti-irascible pills in the shape of a dozen hearty fisticuffs, which might, perhaps, have brought the poor fellow to the omega of his days had not the timely approach of a passenger interrupted the manipulations. So much for rules to control the passions.
    • 1845, Judd, Sylvester, Margaret. A Tale of the Real and Ideal, Blight and Bloom; Including Sketches of a Place Not Before Described, Called Mons Christi., Boston: Jordan and Wiley, page 195:
      Webster, moreover, advertises us that & is no letter—the goal of every breathless, whip-fearing, abcdarian’s valorous strife, the high-sounding Amperzand, no letter! Mehercule! You apocopate that from the alphabet, and Deacon Haddock will apocopate you from the School; yea, verily. It really signifies and per se, that for your private edification, Mistress Margaret. Moreover Perry makes twenty-six vowel sounds, Hale only sixteen; Webster enumerates nine vowels, Hale five; Hale preponderates in merit by reduction in number.
    • 1848, Bartlett, John Russell, Dictionary of Americanisms. A Glossary of Words and Phrases Usually Regarded as Peculiar to the United States, volume 1, New York: Bartlett and Welford, →ISBN, pages 1, 10:
      ABISSELFA. A, by itself, A. It will be recollected by many, that in the olden time, the first letter of the alphabet was denominated “abisselfa” when it formed a syllable by itself, as in the word able. The scholar, in spelling the word, was taught to say, “a, by itself, a, (rapidly, abisselfa,) b, l, e, able.” We derive this word and the use of it from England, where it is used in Suffolk County.—Moor’s Glossary. [] AMPERSAND. The character &, representing the conjunction and. It is a corruption of “and, per se, and” (and, by itself, and). This expression was formerly very common in this country, but seems now to have gone out of use. It may, however, be retained in the interior, where the modern system of education has not reached. Mr. Halliwell, who notices this word in his Archaic and Prov. Dict’y, says, that it is or was common in England. In Hampshire it is pronounced amperzed, and very often amperze-and. Strutt, in his Sports and Pastimes, mentions an ancient alphabet of the fourteenth century, now in the Harleian Library, at the end of which is “X Y wyth esed and per se—Amen.”
    • 1875, W. D. Henkle, editor, Educational Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Teachers, volume I, Salem, Ohio: W. D. Henkle, pages 122–123:
      1. Ampersand.—This word was formerly much used in nursery books to express the character & placed at the end of the alphabet. Halliwell says “In Hampshire it is pronounced amperzed, and very often amperse’-and.” The word has been called a puzzling word. One writer says that as he heard it it never puzzled him because his venerable instructress taught him to say after zand-pussy-and.” He considered that & was called pussy from its resemblance to a cat in a sitting posture. This is certainly a quaint conceit. Another writer’s recollection of the way he pronounced the word when a boy was ampuzzyam. Another still says his venerable instructress taught him to pronounce it ampseand. We now give the correct explanation of the word. A quarter of a century ago our maternal grandfather, a native of New Jersey, told us that he was taught to spell able abisselfa, b-l-e, bl, able, but he said he never knew what abisselfa meant. A few years after we found that abisselfa is a corruption of a by itself a, that is a standing by itself in a syllable is pronounced ā and not ă, or ä or a̤. In the same way idle would be spelled ibisselfi, d-l-,e dl, idle and ogle, obisselfo g-l-e gl, ogle. It seems that the Latin phrase per se was also used instead of by itself so that instead of abisselfa, ibisselfi, and obisselfo, the children were taught to say a per se a, i-per-se-i, and o-per-se-o. It is not strange that per se became in the mouths of children pussy or puzzy. The character & was in like manner taught as and per se and, which became by corruption and pussy se and, etc., and finally ampersand.
    • 1877, Bartlett, John Russell, “Andpersand.”, in Dictionary of Americanisms: A Glossary of Words and Phrases usually Regarded as Peculiar to the United States[1], 4th edition, Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown, and Company, OCLC 221542401, page 12:
      Two generations ago, when Irish schoolmasters were common at the South, this expression, equivalent to the & annexed to the alphabet (meaning “& per se, and,” to distinguish it from &c.) was in frequent use.
    • 1878 May–October, Scribner’s Monthly, An Illustrated Magazine For the People, volume XVI, New-York: Scribner & Co., pages 439–440:
      When we take the words which do appear, we notice the introduction of many which cannot fairly be described as Americanisms, but merely the momentary coinage which perhaps never goes beyond the occasion of its invention, it may even be a pun or half jest. Among these must be named “adulterer” for one who adulterates, the illustration being in a weak congressional joke; “Algic,” a word used by the late Mr. Schoolcraft for Algonquin and never used so far as we know by any one else, except when quoting the title of one of Mr. Schoolcraft’s books; “cawhalux,” an obviously individual expression; “forlornity,” which any one might have said, but no one would have thought worth repeating; “indicted” for “indited,”—a piece of ignorance in writer or printer upon a solitary occasion; “laurelistic,” “collapsity” and “appetitical,” words which could be made a great many times by feeble-minded writers or speakers trying to be forcible, without taking hold of the community; “oughtness,” which the Rev. Joseph Cook used and which may be a “Cook(-)ism,” but is not an Americanism; “sozodont,” which is a trade-mark with no national characteristic. Some words too are used that surely are strictly English. “Tile,” for a hat, “tramp,” “rink” and “andpersand”; and the confusion of “aught” and “naught,” a subject sufficiently treated in Miss Edgeworth’s “Frank”; “high-jinks” is by no means an Americanism nor indeed it is used here very much; a curious explanation of the phrase, properly spelled “hy-jinks,” will be found in the recent re-issue of Allan Ramsay’s works, vol. i, p. 162.
    • 1885, Fallows, Samuel, The Progressive Dictionary of the English Language: A Supplementary Word-Book to All the Leading Dictionaries of the United States and Great Britain, Chicago: The Progressive Publishing Company, page 44:
      Ap per si-and (ap-pêr’si-ānd) n. A name sometimes given to the character &: ampersand. ‘Piece of deformity in the shape of an izzard or an appersiand.’
    • 1888, The Phrenological Magazine, volume 4, page 143:
      Look at them—scrutinise them, and see if every question of the day is not written there—written in indelible ink for future ages to read. They are “writ large” in the faces of half-a-dozen of the foremost men, and repeated in text in the host of lesser men. Take those three photographs that are “placed in the line,” as it were—Lord Salisbury, Mr. Gladstone, and Mr. John Dillon. In that trio you have the whole of the Irish question, from A to Z, and, if you throw in Mr. Parnell, with his smooth, mild, and inscrutable countenance, you have the “amparzand.”
    • 1897, American Printer and Lithographer, Moore Publishing Company, pages 52, 260:
      The ampersand in firm and corporate names serves an admirable purpose, for it at once informs the reader, through the eve, whether two or more parties are partners or not. Almost every week, in my proofreading on a financial paper. I find an instance or two where the ampersand denotes exactly what is meant in giving the names of eeftain[?] railroads, and without it the reader would be left in doubt, unless the editor followed the fashion of some publications and inserted “the” before every corporate name. [] some queer ampersands. / What is the legitimate form of the ampersand? Ringwalt’s American Encyclopædia of Printing says that it was not adopted in its present form until about 1750. It was originally the Latin et surmounted by a ligature, and the type founders give it to us in Roman in this form (&), and in old-style italic in this form (&). There is a wide difference between the two, and there exists a still wider difference in various display types, while the sign painter takes all sorts of liberties with the figure. The word is a contraction of “and per se and,” signifying “and by itself and.” It is occasionally spelled amparzand, and is found in old books in the form ampusand, amperse-and, ampassyand, amperzed, etc. Having for many years received recognition in primers as a tail-end to the alphabet, and being apparently of fixed use in the language, it becomes interesting to discover what forms it has taken on in arriving at its present shape, if indeed it have any present legitimate state.



  • Translingual: &



ampersand (third-person singular simple present ampersands, present participle ampersanding, simple past and past participle ampersanded)

  1. (transitive, rare) To add an ampersand to.

Further reading[edit]