The Strange History of the Ampersand

The logogram on the left is ubiquitous and easily recognizable throughout the world; it’s “the and sign”. To professionals and lovers of linguistic trivia, it’s the “ampersand”.

What is less known is how it got to be to the place it is today. Here’s a brief history recapitulating the most important areas:

  • Its original form was based on the Latin word “et”, meaning, logic will tell you, “and”.
  • As it was used in manuscripts in the following centuries, the shorthand form for writing it developed into what we see today.
  • At one point it was incorporated into the English alphabet (unofficially, as always with English) as “and”, making 27 letters.
  • When reciting the alphabet, it was correct to say “and per se and” (and for itself, i.e. not introducing another item to the list).
  • This cumbersome “and per se and” got truncated into “ampersand”, which is its official name as of today.