The Octothorpe

An octothorpe is better known as which word?

And the answer: a hashtag.    

The # symbol has had many familiar names over the years, from pound sign and number sign to hashtag. The octothorpe gets its peculiar name from telephone companies, when operators needed a name for the symbol with eight points.

Photo credit: socialmediaweek.org

2007 brought many gifts of the modern age – the iPhone, the growth of Twitter, the Pixar film Ratatouille – but perhaps most significantly, the hashtag was born. Coined in its modern iteration by Twitter user Chris Messina, the hashtag quickly caught on as a means of following a single topic, person or discussion without having to search words separately.

However, the pound symbol/hashtag/octothorpe is no new invention. In fact, it actually dates back to Ancient Rome, where it began as the Latin term libra pondo, translating to "pound in weight." The phrase was soon abbreviated to lb, which we still use today to refer to weight. As lb became standardized, it was often spelled with a bar across the two letters – ℔ – to show they were connected. Time and the writing of messy scribes took its toll, and the term morphed closer to the classic #. Its meaning, which originally referred to the unit pound, also began to be used as a number sign. Thankfully, the first telephones were created included the symbol, ensuring its longevity for years to come. #Thankful.


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