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See also: asterix and Asterix



An asterisk symbol (sense 1.1).
An asterisk key (bottom left; sense 1.1) on the dialling pad of a telephone.
An asterisk (sense 1.2) placed on a diskos.

The noun is derived from Middle English asterisk [and other forms],[1] from Late Latin asteriscus (asterisk; small star), from Ancient Greek ἀστερῐ́σκος (asterískos, asterisk; small star), from ᾰ̓στήρ (astḗr, celestial body (star, planet, and other lights in the sky such as meteors))[2] (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₂eHs- (to burn; to glow)) + -ῐ́σκος (-ískos, diminutive suffix).

Sense 1.1.2 (“something which is of little importance or which is marginal”) refers to the use of an asterisk to denote a footnote or marginal note in a text; in other words, information that is not important enough to be incorporated into the main text. Sense 1.1.3 (“blemish in an otherwise outstanding achievement”) refers to the use of an asterisk in a sporting record to indicate that the record is qualified in some manner (for example, that the sportsperson was found to have taken performance-enhancing drugs at the time).[3]

The verb is derived from the noun.[4]



asterisk (plural asterisks)

  1. (dated) A small star; also (by extension), something resembling or shaped like a star.
    • c. 1670s (date written), Thomas Brown [i.e., Thomas Browne], “Sect[ion] XXXII”, in John Jeffery, editor, Christian Morals, [], Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: [] [A]t the University-Press, for Cornelius Crownfield printer to the University; and are to be sold by Mr. Knapton []; and Mr. [John] Morphew [], published 1716, →OCLC, part I, page 38:
      Add one Ray unto the common Luſtre; add not only to the Number but the Note of thy Generation; and prove not a Cloud but an Aſteriſk in thy Region.
    1. The star-shaped symbol *, which is used in printing and writing for various purposes, including to refer a reader to a note at the bottom of a page or in a margin, and to indicate the omission of letters or words; a star.
      • 1754, Thomas Edwards, “Canon XVIII. He may Explane His Author, or Any Former Editor of Him; by Supplying Such Words, or Pieces of Words, or Marks, as He Thinks Fit for that Purpose.”, in The Canons of Criticism, and Glossary; [], 6th edition, London: [] C. Bathurst, [], →OCLC, page 157:
        He is in the right to put the Aſteriſks, not the VVords into the text; becauſe They do indeed give us [notice, that there is in Them] as much additional meaning, as there vvould be in thoſe vvords vvhich they ſo properly repreſent.
      • 1837, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], “Publishing”, in Ethel Churchill: Or, The Two Brides. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 13:
        I having been looking at your pamphlet, and shewing it, but I mention no names. I don't see the use of names, for my part, unless it be to put in asterisks. It is—yes—very, indeed.
      • [1849, M. J. B. Silvestre, “Plate LXI. Square Uncial Greek Writing. IVth. or Vth. Century. Fragments of the Greek Pentateuch, in the Bibliothèque Royale.”, in Frederic Madden, transl., Universal Palæography: Or, Fac-similes of Writings of All Nations and Periods, [], volume I, London: Henry G[eorge] Bohn, [], →OCLC, page 163:
        There is no punctuation, but three signs are used, namely, 1st, the asterisc (); 2nd, the obelus (—:); and 3rd, the two dots (:). The asteriscs indicate the words of the Hebrew text, not admitted by the Seventy into their Greek version, which words are included between the asterisc and the two dots; []
        Used to refer to a different symbol.]
      • 1869, “Notices Useful to the Foreigner”, in One Week at Venice: Illustrated Guide for Visiting Every Thing Worthy of Consideration, Venice: Colombo Coen’s New Library, [], →OCLC, page 128:
        The Hôtels marked with one asterisc are Restaurants also. Those marked with two asteriscs have Table d'Hôte.
      • 1960 December, “The Glasgow Suburban Electrification is Opened”, in Trains Illustrated, London: Ian Allan Publishing, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 714:
        Above all, the 48-page timetables of the new service, which have been distributed free at every station in the scheme, are a model to the rest of B.R. For the first time on British Railways, so far as we are aware, a substantial timetable has been produced, not only without a single footnote but also devoid of all wearisome asterisks, stars, letter suffixes and other hieroglyphics.
      • 1998 February 16, John Heilpern, “Shopping and Fucking: Is that all there is?”, in The Observer[2], London: Guardian News & Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2022-05-17:
        On the other hand, The New York Times favors the 'it doesn't exist' formula. It has prudishly renamed the play Shopping and … [Mark Ravenhill's play Shopping and Fucking (1996)] Everyone does it, no one will name it! The Times doesn’t even give it an asterisk or two. Three little dots must suffice. "How was it for you, my darling?" "That was the greatest three little dots I ever had in my life!"
      • 2012, Úrsula Flores-Perez, Manuel Rodriguez-Concepcion, “Carotenoids”, in Andrew Salter, Helen Wiseman, Gregory Tucker, editors, Phytonutrients, Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, →ISBN, figure 3.2 caption, page 94:
        Data were collected from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Nutrition Coordination Center (NCC) Carotenoid Database (Holden et al., 1999) and correspond to raw foods unless indicated with an asterisc (cooked) or two asteriscs (canned).
      1. Something resembling or shaped like an asterisk symbol.
        • 2016, Courtney Sanchez, “Retro Stove”, in DIY Box Creations: Fun and Creative Projects to Make out of Really Big Boxes!, Lake Forest, Calif.: Walter Foster Jr., Quarto Publishing Group, →ISBN, page 48:
          Using a crafting knife, cut a small asterisk shape in the center of each black circle. Gently pierce each asterisk with a wooden skewer to make a hole. Once done, simply insert your stove knobs, and you're almost ready!
      2. (figuratively) Something which is of little importance or which is marginal; a footnote.
        • 2016, Charles [Wesley] Marshall, “More SkyMiles, Less Family”, in The Good Dad Guide, Eugene, Or.: Harvest House Publishers, →ISBN, part 6 (Prevent), page 142:
          I don't want to be an asterisk in my kids' lives. I don't want to be just some guy who sporadically appears and then disappears again.
        • 2021 September 12, Andrew Anthony, “‘We showed it was possible to create a movement from almost nothing’: Occupy Wall Street 10 years on”, in Katharine Viner, editor, The Guardian[3], London: Guardian News & Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-01-20:
          The opposing view sees it as an abject failure and historically irrelevant. This verdict was neatly summed up by the New York Times financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin when he predicted, a year on from the event: "It will be an asterisk in the history books, if it gets a mention at all."
      3. (US, sports, figuratively) A blemish in an otherwise outstanding achievement.
        They came into the tournament highly ranked, but with a little bit of an asterisk as their last two wins had been unconvincing.
    2. (Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism) An instrument with radiating arms resembling a star which is placed over the diskos (or paten) used during the Eucharist to prevent the veil covering the chalice and diskos from touching the host on the diskos.
      Synonym: star-cover
      • 1866, John Chrysostom, “Liturgy of the Catechumens”, in [anonymous], transl., Service of the Divine and Sacred Liturgy of Our Holy Father John Chrysostom. [], London: Joseph Masters, [], →OCLC, pages 69–70:
        Then he [the deacon] reverently covereth the holy Cup with the veil. Likewise he placeth the Asterisk upon the holy Diskos, and the veil over it, and saith the following prayer with the Priest, silently, []
      • 1962, Marvin C. Ross, “Copper”, in Catalogue of the Byzantine and Early Mediaeval Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, volume 1 (Metalwork, Ceramics, Glass, Glyptics, Painting), Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Trustees for Harvard University, published 1970, →OCLC, paragraph 89, page 73:
        The asterisk is one of the sacred objects used in the Byzantine rite. It is placed on the paten to protect the Eucharistic bread from contact with the special veil that covers it. The name derives from the shape of the object and symbolically recalls the Biblical words: "And the star came and stood above where the child was" [] [Matthew 2:9].
      • 2013, Bryan D[ouglas] Spinks, quoting Symeon of Thessalonica (in translation), “The Eucharist and Anaphoras of the Byzantine Synthesis”, in Do This in Remembrance of Me: The Eucharist from the Early Church to the Present Day (SCM Studies in Worship and Liturgy), London: SCM Press, →ISBN, page 126:
        The diskos, then, typifies the heavens, and for that reason, it is round, and holds the Master of heaven. What is called the ‘asterisk’ represents the stars, especially the one at the birth of Christ, just as the veils represent the firmament, the swaddling clothes, the shroud, and the burial cloths.

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asterisk (third-person singular simple present asterisks, present participle asterisking, simple past and past participle asterisked)

  1. (transitive) To mark or replace (text, etc.) with an asterisk symbol (*; noun sense 1.1); to star.
    • 1896 August, The Australasian Insurance, Banking Record, quotees, “The Bank of New Zealand’s Balance Sheet”, in Clement H. Davis, editor, The Bankers’ Magazine of Australasia. An Illustrated Monthly, volume X, number 1, Melbourne, Vic.: Bankers’ Instituteo of Australasia, →OCLC, page 43:
      Bank of New Zealand Estates Company Share Account now stands, as we have already seen, at £1,089,722 17s. 7d., a reduction of £760,177 2s. 5d. having been effected by the writing off of share capital. But from the point of view of its intrinsic value, the item has still to be dealt with, being asterisked in the balance sheet as follows: []
    • 2003, Rebecca Campbell, “Odette in Venice”, in Slave to Love [], New York, N.Y.: Villard Books, →ISBN, page 95:
      She was determined to make the most of the trip, extracting some cultural capital from the emotional waste, and so read carefully through the Venice guidebooks she had brought, underlining the must-dos and asterisking the should-dos.
    • 2020, Christopher Rollason, “Popular Poe Anthologies in the United Kingdom and France”, in Emron Esplin, Margarida Vale de Gato, editors, Anthologizing Poe: Editions, Translations, and (Trans)National Canons, Bethlehem, Pa.: Lehigh University Press; Lanham, Md.; London: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, →ISBN, part IV (Wor(l)ding Poe Abroad: Anthologizers, Editors, Illustrators, and Translators), page 289:
      [Alain] Jaubert's preface is the longest and most detailed in our corpus; [] It covers both [Edgar Allan] Poe's work in general and the specific content of the volume (Jaubert, ingeniously, adopts an ad hoc typographical device, asterisking the references to the tales of his volume).

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ asterisk, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ asterisk, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2022; asterisk, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ See, for example, Allen Barra (2007 May 27) “An asterisk is very real, even when it’s not”, in The New York Times[1], New York, N.Y.: The New York Times Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2008-12-10.
  4. ^ asterisk, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2022; asterisk, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]



Danish Wikipedia has an article on:
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asterisk c (singular definite asterisken, plural indefinite asterisker)

  1. asterisk




asterisk c

  1. asterisk


Declension of asterisk 
Singular Plural
Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Nominative asterisk asterisken asterisker asteriskerna
Genitive asterisks asteriskens asteriskers asteriskernas