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An octothorpe

Alternative forms[edit]


Origin disputed. There is no known usage before it was adopted by Bell Labs in the late 1960s or early 1970s, so most sources agree it was coined by someone at Bell Labs, but accounts from Bell Labs personnel conflict on the details. The derivation as a traditional term from octo- (eight) and thorpe (field, hamlet or small village) lacks any evidence, but there is near universal agreement that the first element refers to the number eight. Eight is derived from the number of ends of the lines. Thorpe could be reference to Jim Thorpe, as one proponent was a fan of the athlete.



octothorpe (plural octothorpes)

  1. (chiefly US, typography) The hash or square symbol #, used mainly in telephony and computing.
    Synonyms: hash, hashtag, number sign, octothorn, pound sign
    • 1973, US patent application ser. no. 05/422,816 (filed 3 December 1973), issued as patent no. 3,920,926 (18 November 1975), Telephone Data Set Including Visual Display Means, col. 3
      The pad 1 provides keys for numerals 0 to 9, while the sextile or asterisk (*) key is decoded to provide a decimal point and the octothorp ( # ) key generates a command to send the contents of the memory unto the telephone line through a send circuit 7, a coupling circuit 8 and the hybrid network 2.
    • 1982, Willard R. Espy, A Children's Almanac of Words at Play[1], New York: Clarkson N. Potter, →ISBN, retrieved 18 January 2022, page 230:
      Octothorp is the # on a push-button telephone. Rumor at the telephone company is that a man named Charles B. Octothorp, wanting to make his name famous, would approach anyone with a Touch-Tone ’phone, stop, and say admiringly, “That’s a mighty handsome octothorp you have there.”
    • 2004, Andrew Douglas Pitonyak, Openoffice.org Macros Explained, Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin: Hentzenwerke Publishing, →ISBN, page 139:
      Strings are enclosed in double quotation marks, numbers are not enclosed in anything, and dates and Boolean values are enclosed between octothorpe (#) characters.


See also[edit]


  • Keith Houston (2013) Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks[2], New York: W. W. Norton & Company, →ISBN, pages 41–57.

Further reading[edit]