octothorpe

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English[edit]

An octothorpe

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Origin disputed. Reportedly a jocular coinage by Bell Labs supervisor Don Macpherson in the early 1960s, from octo- (eight), with reference to its eight points, + -thorpe (after 1912 Olympic medalist Jim Thorpe, in whom Macpherson was interested). However, Doug Kerr [1] attributes octatherp to a practical joke by engineers John C. Schaak, Herbert T. Uthlaut, and Lauren Asplund upon himself and Howard Eby.

The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories (1991) supports octotherp as the original spelling, and telephone engineers as the source.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

octothorpe (plural octothorpes)

  1. (chiefly US) The hash or square symbol (#), used mainly in telephony and computing
    • 1982, Willard R. Espy, A Children's Almanac of Words at Play, Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 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...
    • 2004, Andrew Pitonyak, Openoffice.Org Macros Explained, Hentzenwerke, 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.

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