What is the name for the @ (at) symbol?

What is the meaning of [email protected]? The at sign, @, is normally read aloud as "at"; it is also commonly called the at symbol, commercial at or address sign.

  1. 1 Let’s Know a Little About the At Sign

    The ‘at’ symbol, @, is generally read out loud as "at". It is also commonly known as the "at sign", "address sign" or the "commercial at". The symbol is used as an invoice and accounting abbreviation which means "at a rate of". However, in recent times, we see it most commonly seen in social media account handles and email addresses. As there is no English word that can be used for the symbol, some writers have resorted to using the Portuguese and Spanish 'arroba' or the French 'arobase’. Some even went on to coin new words such as strudel, asperand, and ampersat. 

    However, none of these words is used widely. Sometimes, especially in East Asia, the term ‘alphasand' is used. Even though it was not included on the oldest commercial successful typewriters' keyboards, the at-sign was present at one model of 1889. From 1900 onwards, it began to be included in the immensely successful Underwood models of the 'Underwood No. 5'. From the 1970s, people started using it in email addresses, and now, it is universally included in all computer keyboards worldwide.

  2. 2 It’s Not Easy to Name It

    Over the years, the at-sign has adopted several nicknames, such as curl, snail, arabesque, rose, cat, ape, cyclone, whirlpool, whorl, vortex, strudel, a-twist, twist, twiddle, cabbage, monkey, snail, and so on. The sign has come into prominence with the advent of the Internet. However, it is still a mystery why anybody is yet to come up with an official name for the symbol. In the nineteenth century, the symbol first started coming up on typewriter keyboards and now, even in the twenty-first century, people are yet to name it. Maybe the decline in manual book-keeping and traditional arithmetic teaching has led to the meaning of this sign for the young generation to go out of knowledge right before acquiring a new use.

  3. 3 Different Languages, Different Uses

    In German, the at-symbol is frequently referred to as 'Klammeraffe’. In Norwegian and Danish, it is ‘grisehale’. The Swedish Language Board has recommended the name ‘snabel’ for the symbol in Sweden. They also called it ‘kanelbulle’. The Finnish call it ‘miukumauku’, ‘kissanhanta’ as well as ‘apinanhanta’. In Friesian, the symbol turns up as ‘apesturtsje’. People in Hungary call it ‘kukac’ while the Portuguese and Spanish call it ‘arroba’. 

    The Serbians call it ‘majmun’ and there is a similar word for it in Bulgarian. Czechs often refer to it as ‘zavinac’. The Thai term for the symbol means ‘the wiggling worm-like character’. ‘Strudel’ is the most-used term in Hebrew. ‘Snail’ is probably the most curious word used for the ‘@’ symbol. It is curious as it has moved way too far from its origins. For a long time, the French referred to it as ‘escargot’, though ‘arobase’ and is a more formal term. Even the Italians call it ‘chiocciola’, the Koreans ‘dalphaengi’, the Hebrews ‘shablul’ and the Esperanto call it ‘heliko’. (See What are these symbols called in English, ~, `, #, ^, *, -, {}, [], ‘, “, /, ?)

  4. 4 The English Usage

    In the English language, the at mark is most commonly known as merely 'at', or 'commercial at' when used more fully. The character sets of international standards have also given it the official name of ‘commercial at’. As it is used in INTERCAL, the joke computer language, the symbol is also called ‘whirlpool’. Other terms include fetch, snail, and snabel. These international nicknames have made their way into the English language.

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