History & Origin of Ampersand

English is a funny language. Take for example the alphabets itself. How many of you really know that & was basically a part of the English alphabet system? Though it sounds a bit bizarre to a pair of modern ears, but it’s very true. Just like the symbol, its name and origin is also equally intriguing. So, if you love to learn about the mystery, read on.

The symbol of ampersand was very much in use for more than 1500 years. The earliest known use of & can be traced back to theampersand Roman period. The Roman scribes practiced a cursive style of handwriting. Whenever they have had to write et al, which also means and even in today’s parlance, they intertwingled both the alphabets e and t. This is what believed to give the ampersand its current shape. With repetitive use, the style had become a fashion and thereby took a dominant position in the English dictionary.

During the early 19th century & formed to be the 27th letter in the English alphabet system. It was during that period that the school children literally concluded reciting ABCD with &. However, as it was very confusing to say “X, Y, Z, and”, the students took a refuge to “X, Y, Z, and per se and”. The term Per se literally means by itself. So, the students actually meant to say X, Y, Z, and by itself and. With time “and per se and” corrupted and subsequently gave rise to the term ampersand.

Once a dominant character in the English alphabet, & is left today to appear only in the names of business corporations.


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