5 Pound Sign Phone Symbol Facts

What is the Name of the # Key on a Telephone Keypad? What are the Uses of the # Key? What’s a Hashtag? Do £ and # signs mean the Same?

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876 after which, the models of telephones kept upgrading with time. When the keypad was generated for telephones, # sign was introduced. It came to be known as the pound sign. But have you wondered what purpose does the pound sign phone keypad serves? What is the meaning of the pound key symbol? And what is the hashtag symbol name in different languages? Let us find out together!

1. Definition of Pound Key Symbol

It has several names worldwide and is used in different contexts in different places. During the 14th century, in the Roman or Latin language, the abbreviation lb was used for measuring weight. It meant libra pondo in Latin. So the source of the abbreviation lb is libra which is a Roman word that means pound weight. As per the 1853 treatise of book-keeping, the symbol was described as a numeric character. In the early 20th century, it was referred to as a number sign in the United States. According to this,

  • If the symbol is placed before the digit, it will denote the number. For example, #4 means number four.
  • But if the sign is the successor of the number, then it will be considered the pound i.e. a measurement. For example, 5# will mean five pounds. (See What is the name for the @ (at) symbol?)

2. Origin of Pound Sign Phone keypad

Earlier, there used to be a rolling dial pad on telephones in which we had to turn the dial by placing our finger on the number we wanted to dial. The pound sign was included in the keypad of telephones by the engineers of Bell Telephone Laboratories. When they introduced their newest models with a push-button keypad, they felt that the keys on both sides of zero were empty.

So, to get an accurate sign to place on the two keys, employees from Bell Telephone Laboratories, Link Rice and Jack Soderberg went on a country tour to find the perfect symbols and ended up with * and # signs. They did so because these two symbols were also present on the standard typewriter keyboards. And these symbols were included on the telephone keypad in 1961. (See Origin of Dollar Sign)

3. Original Naming of the Pound Sign

The original name for this sign is Octothorpe. This term generates a command to send the contents of the memory to the telephone line through a send circuit. There have been two different stories behind its name.

  • When Ralph Carlsen of Bell Labs retired, he wrote a memorandum in 1995 in which he mentioned Don Macpherson, an employee of the company, was the one who came up with the name. He came up with a unique and different name, octothorpe. Here, octo refers to the eight points of the symbol. While, thorpe was taken in reference to Jim Thorpe, an American Olympics player.
  • The second story is by Douglas a Kerr, another engineer employee of Bell Telephone Laboratories who stated the name of the pound sign phone key actually originated as a joke among his fellow employees, C Schaak & Herbert T Uthlaut who had invented the term. (See 6 Female vs Male Sign Fun Facts)

4. Different Places, Different Names

The pound sign phrase for referring to the # sign has been mentioned since 1932 in the United States. They call this pound sign phone key a pound or pound key.

  • While from the writings discovered in the late 1960s in South Africa, the term was mentioned as hash. In the United Kingdom, the # sign is also popularly known as a hash. This name is widely accepted in the context of computer programming and scriptwriting.
  • In Malaysia, the # symbol is known as hex.
  • But for Americans, £ & # signs are both considered as pounds only.
  • In modern times, with growing trends, people have started thinking and calling # sign as a hashtag. It is referred to as a hashtag when talking about social media or referring to a particular hashtag trending on Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • There are lots of other names for this symbol. So, they can be called comments, crunch, corridor, or crosshatch.
  • Fence, flash, gate tic-tac-toe, grid, rake, hak, or, mesh are other names by which this pound sign phone symbol is, addressed. (See What are these symbols called in English, ~, `, #, ^, *, -, {}, [], ‘, “, /, ?)

5. Uses of Hashtag Symbol Name

The # symbol is used in various fields, like medical science, spoken language, programming, etc. Therefore, the purpose for which it is used also differs. Like in medical shorthand,

  • The # is used to indicate or denote a fracture. For example, if a person has a fractured humerus, it will be written as #NOH, which means fractured neck of the humerus.
  • In Norway or Poland, the # can be used as a drug delimiter written on medical prescriptions. (See Are Nootropics Safe?)

The pound sign phone symbol or # can be used in language and writing as follows:

  • During proofreading an article, we insert # sign to show that there should be a space there.
  • When a book series is published, the # symbol denotes the number of books in that series. For example, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was book #2 in the Harry Potter book series.
  • When the grammar of a sentence is correct, yet there is no logical meaning of the sentence, then the # sign is inserted before the sentence. (Also read Meaning of 40)
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