Talk:Number sign

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I added the title above.--Ludvikus 14:20, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

An article was just published describing the etymology of this word. I offer it here for study. Additionally, there is a discussion about this article at If someone wishes to check into the validity of the etymology, I suggest these sources for original material.

Can I suggest that this page is tidied - there is a lot of information repeated and disorganised here, presumably due to a long edit history by many people. Jazzle 09:52, 19 January 2006 (UTC)

For addressing when a target mail receiver box is intended, is a space used between "#" and the box ordinal number? 555 Wilshire Blvd., #43 or 555 Wilshire Blvd., # 43 Thank you.

In standard American usage, at least, spaces never occur between the number sign and the number itself. bring this on topic, it might be prudent to include examples of usage in the article. --Aponar Kestrel 20:29, 2004 Jul 25 (UTC)
Though it's not commonly used in this way in Britain, I believe the space is omitted. (It is just a style thing though, like two spaces after a full-stop. Jazzle 09:52, 19 January 2006 (UTC)

Quote: pound / pound sign Used as the symbol for the pound avoirdupois in the U.S. (where lb. would be used in the UK and Canada). Never called 'pound' in the UK. and The business clerk's hurried way of writing the abbreviation appears to have been responsible for the # sign used for pound.

Doesn't this pound/number sign confusion come from the fact that ISO 646-GB had the pound sign where ASCII had number sign? --romanm 00:00, 7 Nov 2003 (UTC)

No, the article has the right of it. Look on the bottom of a Wendy's bag sometime, or possibly that of another fast-food chain, though I can't verify. You may see something like 3#, presumably meaning that the bag is rated to hold three pounds of food (or whatever). --Aponar Kestrel 20:29, 2004 Jul 25 (UTC)
Does it? I have yet to see any evidence for the weight-based “meaning”, and while it’s possible that a Wendy’s bag has 3# on the bottom, it seems equally likely that this is a result of people mistakenly referring to # as the “pound sign”. The Wikipedia article does cite a commentator from 1991, but that seems way too late. Is there other, earlier or more authoritative evidence for the etymology of the “pound sign” name? Also, by way of evidence, check out this reference from the article, which clearly states that the evidence for the weight-based etymology is “so thin”. Ajhoughton (talk) 15:50, 11 July 2013 (UTC)

BT definitely do call # "square". Only this morning (19 December 2003), I was instructed to press "square" in order to gain entry to a teleconference. Lord knows why they do it. Even my mum knows that # is called "hash"! Pmcray

This has since been discontinued as ridiculous. It was done to avoid the implied drug reference. Jazzle 09:52, 19 January 2006 (UTC)
I recall some data processing people whom I knew in the 1970s pronoumced it "box" when reading it aloud in a string of characters. It was one of just a few non-letter non-numerals that was permitted in computer file names. WHPratt (talk) 19:23, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

"(However, in French the # key on a telephone is called le carré.)"

Really ? Actually, I have never heard this sign being called a "carré" (square in english). Everyone I know calls it a "dièse". → SeeSchloß 18:25, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)

"hex: from its use to denote hexadecimal values in some markup and programming languages; e.g. for web colors in HTML"

I don't know if there's a programming language that uses the sign in the way described, but I do know that the meaning of this sign in HTML is just the ordinary number sign; it has nothing to do with hexadecimal. (The # in a color attribute indicates the color being given as a number rather than as a color name. The # in character references indicates usage of a numeric char reference instead of a so-called character entity reference (essentially a symbolic name). Only the additional letter x denotes the number as being hexadecimal in the latter case.)

I remove the reference to HTML for now. Somebody else should see if there's really an instance where # means hexadecimal — I doubt it. -- 07:19, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)

  1. is used in Ada 95 and Ada 2005 (possibly even in Ada 83) to indicate the base of a number. For example: Temp : Integer := 16#F00D#; It can be used with other bases as well: 8#713#; (459 in base 10). See the appropriate Ada 95 Language Reference Manual section here: [1] --Anonymous —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:58, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

At least in my part of UK, the # is medical shorthand for 'fracture' (as in 'this gentleman's # union is progressing nicely'). It's quite hard to look this kind of stuff up, and I don't know if it's official or international, but it's worth noting here in the talk page for future reference.-Ashley Pomeroy 12:55, 27 May 2005 (UTC)

about a previous discussions in this page:

The "#" is called "le carre' " in French. (At least here in Quebec, Canada)

Many words in Quebecois are NOT the same as in French for very strange reasons, including some English words being used in France but not in Quebec and some others being used here and not in France.

Anyway this "#" sign seems to be a real mess everywhere. The whole phone/computer/typography industry seems to be plagued with this kind of confusions.

From ISO-10646, the french name of this symbol is "le croisillon" (U+0023 CROISILLON). I am a francophone from Québec and, no, you never hear it called this way, but that's still a better name when you don't refer to the musical symbol, because it is definitly not a square (carré). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:50, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

ITU standard[edit]

ITU-T E.161 section 3.2.2 ([2]) apparently states

The # is to be known as a "square" or the most commonly used equivalent term in other languages. This symbol shall consist of four lines of equal length forming two pairs of parallel lines. One pair is horizontal while the other is vertical or inclined to the right at an angle of 80 degrees. It will be seen that the two pairs of lines overlap. The ratio a/b, where a is the overlap and b is the length of the lines, shall be between 0.08 and 0.18.

Which explains BT's usage of "square". The comment that was attached to the quote:

The preferred values are In Europe, 90 degrees, a/b=0.08 In North America, 80 degrees, a/b close to the upper limit of 0.18.

Perhaps someone could add these two to the article? porges 23:21, 19 September 2005 (UTC)

Actually just found a copy of the PDF, the text does state:

On the 4 × 3 array, the symbol on the button which is immediately to the right of the button 0 (in the 6 × 2 array, the corresponding button is located below the button 0) and which, according to UIT-T Q.23, is used to transmit the frequency pair 941 Hz and 1477 Hz, should conform in shape to the specificaTions given in Figure 3 or 4. This symbol shall consist of four lines of equal length (b) forming two pairs of parallel lines. One pair is horizontal while the other is vertical or inclined to the right at an angle α of 80o as shown in Figure 4. It will be seen that two pairs of parallel lines overlap. The ratio a/b where a is the overlap, shall be between 0.08 and 0.18

Diagrams: Figure 3 shows a "straight" hash, and Figure 4 a "slanted" one. From the diagrams, α is interior angle of the hash, with b being the length of each arm and a the overlap. The preferred values are either:

  • α = 90o with a/b = 0.08;
  • α = 80o with a/b close to the upper limit of 0.18

The symbOl may be referred to as the square or the most commonly used equivalent term in other languages4.

4: In some countries an alternative term (e. g. "hash", "pound" or "number sign") may be necessary for this purpose, particularly where the form in Figure 4 is commonly used, in which case it is useful to select and to recommend a preferred term for consistent use nationally.
Indeed, it is this specification which led to BT's use of the term "square" in the United Kingdom. If you look at the buttons on Post Office/British Telecom telephones of the 1970's/early 1980's period, the symbol used is the "straight hash" referred to above, with the uprights vertical and the low a/b ratio. PBC1966 (talk) 17:33, 11 September 2013 (UTC)

# and pound sterling signs[edit]

Is it a coincidence that # is found on US keyboards where the sign for pound sterling is found on British (and some other) keyboards? 23:35, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

I had always thought that this was why the hash sign was also called a pound sign. GhostInTheMachine 11:24, 1 May 2006 (UTC)

I'd have thought the connection is likely to be that the UK pound sign is typically on 3 because somebody who calls the # symbol "pound" was responsible for choosing where to put £. – Kieran T (talk) 01:16, 24 March 2007 (UTC)
What you say may well be so, Kieran T. However, it is quite a smart choice because if # means "pound" to you then £ does not, and vice-versa. Moletrouser (talk) 14:22, 9 January 2010 (UTC)
Why # on a US-keyboard and £ on a UK keyboard are in the same place. This dates back to the variants of ASCII on each country. See ISO/IEC 646 section National variants. The UK version of ASCII (BSI 4730) put the '£' sign at ASCII 010 0011, replacing '#', which as it wasn't on a British typewriter keyboard wasn't needed. Therefore all you needed to do to make a UK keyboard, was replace the keytop with one marked '3 £' instead of '3 #'. Similarly you changed the printer head to turn a US printer into a GB one. This also worked for other national variants of ASCII. The German variant replaced [\] and {|} with ÄÖÜ and äöü and put them in the same place on a German keyboard, where they are to this day. TiffaF (talk) 07:13, 19 April 2010 (UTC)

Issue number and plurality[edit]

What is the correct usage of '#' when describing plural issue numbers? For example, in comic books a single issue would look like this:

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #300

But when several issues are referred to, which one of the below should it look like?

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #300–305
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #s 300–305
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #'s 300–305

And if two numbers are referred to and separated by text, do they both need a '#', or will one suffice? For example:

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #300 can be compared to #305
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #300 can be compared to 305

Any help is appreciated. Maybe I should be looking for the Wikipedia style guide. Still, the accepted usage (and a note on which style guide uses which usage) should be on this page too, I think. Kaijan 00:33, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

"Correct" from a grammatical point of view and "acceptable style" are two separate things. "#'s" is incorrect due to the spurious apostrophe. The others are all "correct". The last example looks relatively unfamiliar to me, so I'd say it's less likely to be considered a preferred style. I've seen the rest in roughly equal measures. I have my preferences but it's just a matter of personal taste.—mjb 06:11, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

why not #300–#305? Dicklyon 06:22, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
yeah I was wondering why that wasn't in the list, too :) mjb 07:50, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Although I'm certainly not an expert on the matter, I wouldn't think that the pound sign (#) would be used in a plural sense, particularly in the context given. Instead, I would expect not to see the # symbol at all there, rather more something like: Walt Disny's Comics and Stories Nos. 300-305.


There seems to be some difference in etymology.

While in common use the octothorpe etymology is vague and unsubstantiated, and has a presumed jocular reference, though the presumption does not seem particularly sound. The octothorn etymology, however, seems sound, and has been documented reputably.

I suppose that it's possible that the original name was octothorn, as documented by William Sherk. That name could have been misheard and/or used in a joking manner as octothorpe,and thus became octothorpe in common usage. (asterisk has almost become asterix from common usage now - yick!)

Given this, the octothorn name seems to have has superior etymological credentials, and is one of the two properly referenced names for this symbol.

It is illogical then that octothorn is the only one flagged with "possibly false etymology" when the etymology of octothorpe (and pretty much any other name for that matter) is so much weaker. I would suggest that if that were the case, then some evidence ought to be provided to put the Sherk reference into disrepute.

Etymology can be challenging to our preconcieved notions of what is right. If a word like asterix is in common usage, we should not presume that the etymology is sound, even though it is undocumented. Equally, if the etymological origins of a word are documented, we should not presume to convince ourselves that the common usage variation is more etymologically worthy - unless it actually is. An interesting reverse case-in-point is the welsh rabbit etymology - intended to be a joke/slur, it was sotened in time to welsh rarebit

At this point octothorpe seems less etymologically worthy than octothorn

I tried to edit the flag, but it is better removed, which I will do now.

The term octothorpe came from Donald MacPherson at Bell Labs, in New Jersey.

That's according to a posting in telecom-archives [3]. But another Bell guy tells a different story, as pointed out in the article [4]. Since the Merriam–Webster book says it was originally octatherp, Dour Kerr's story may be more credible. We need to find some old telephone docs and see what they say. My wife says she picked it up working for BNR (Bell Northern Research) in the 1970s, which at least fits with some of the telecom articles [5]. Dicklyon 22:59, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

Lauren Asplund's new claim to authorship[edit]

We have one more claim now for who coined octotherp; but I reverted it since there's no external refernce. It should probablky also be reverted from the wiktionary. Asplund should write it up, maybe publish it, or put it online, where it can be referenced as one more possibly-credible claim for who in the Bell System came up with it. Of course, anyone with old docs from the 1960s showing the term could help out here a lot. Dicklyon 22:21, 18 August 2006 (UTC)

Lauren Asplund, I reverted your edit yet again. If you want to get your story out, please publish it online or elsewhere and let us know, and if it looks credible someone else (not you) should link it and talk about it in wikipedia. Otherwise, it's autobiographical or original research or POV, and not the way wikipedia works. Dicklyon 16:54, 22 August 2006 (UTC)

...And again. You just don't know when to quit, do you? EdC 15:38, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
I put a note on Lasplund's user page to suggest looking here before doing it yet again. Dicklyon 18:09, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
I am sorry about not responding to Dicklyon's comment about my entry into Wikipedia about octotherp. When I started this a couple of weeks ago I didn't know how the system worked and I didn't know about "reverting". I kept putting the information back in because I thought I had goofed up in some way and that is why it was disappearing. I appreciate your help. I had no idea there was so much interest in the word. What should I do now? Should I just repeat the information here and wait for comments? Or do I put the claim out somewhere else? or what? I did contact Doug Kerr and he forwarded my e-mail to the Herb Uthlaut who was mentioned in his essay. Neither of them said I was wrong but neither of them could verify it either. 40+ years is a long time! I am trying to locate Howard Eby to see what he remembers. There was an article in the AT&T publication for retirees call "Encore" but I think it is no longer in publication. The article was written by a Sheldon Hocheiser in the First and second quarter 1999 edition and it mentions the word. I will also try to get some documention from AT&T but I'm not optimistic. 2 Sep 2006
Lauren, thanks for your response; I moved it up to the right section. If you have an article from Encore that tells or supports the story, we should put that online and reference it. I can find a place to host a scan if you don't have a place. Do you have a scan? Or can make one easily enough? If not, I can handle that from a paper copy. By the way, I emailed Doug Kerr about it, too, but haven't got a reply from him yet. Dicklyon 18:22, 2 September 2006 (UTC)
Dick, thanks for your response. How do I go about publishing the info I have or putting it on line somehow. Where do I do that? I can scan the magazine article but after I have it where do I put it. How do I get to my user page that you memtioned. Sorry about being to uninformed about Wicipedia protocal and I hate to ask you all this. Is there somewhere I can go to get info about interacting with Wikipedia so I don't have to ask you all these questions? I am still trying to locate Howard Eby to get his version of the events. Thanks for your help. Lauren Asplund 8 Sep 2006
Lauren, when you're logged in, you should see a link with your login name at the top, which will take you to your user page, which you can edit. But you can't hold your article on wikipedia; it needs to be outside somewhere, and then link it. I can host it one of my sites if you send me the scan, or you can ask your ISP about how to host it yourself. You can see one of my sites and find my email address if put put ".com" after my login name. Dicklyon 15:34, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
Dick, I put my comments on my user page and asked for comments. How do I let people know how to get to my page? I am sending you the 1999 article from Encore magazine to put up on your website. What else should I be doing? Thanks for your help. Lauren Asplund 29 Sep 2006.
The article is here: Encore magazine PDF. See User:Lasplund -- Dicklyon 00:54, 30 September 2006 (UTC)

Usage in reference to Touch Tone telephones.... In addition to the Bell System references, I was surprised to not see this also referred to as a "diamond" as in, "star and diamond" that was an old Bell System usage back in the earlier days of the "Touch Tone" phone dial. Here is one WP reference to that... I thought I should throw this in here in case someone would like to add this to the article, properly. boB Gudgel 7-25-2013

Since it is most common Internationally to be known as the Hash symbol[edit]

Shouldn't that be the name of the article.... after all Wiki is Intl not us centric

Usually articles get left as American or British grammar and terminology, depending on how they started, to avoid change wars. If there's a definitive reference to show that hash is more common than number sign, please cite it; or do you just mean more countries? Dicklyon 22:59, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
I quote: "['number sign'] is the word used for the sign in most of the rest of the world." and "'hash' [is] the most common name outside the U.S., including in the Ireland, UK, Australia, and New Zealand."

If most of the English speaking world calls it a hash, shouldn't the article be renamed? I'm going to change the first quote anyway as it is plain wrong.

The unicode name is "number sign". This and precedent are two good reasons to leave the article title as it is. Dicklyon 23:12, 18 August 2006 (UTC)
Look at: (talk) 17:50, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
Unicode consortium is known to introduce such nice terms as GREEK CAPITAL LETTER LAMDA, LATIN CAPITAL LETTER OI, HANGZHOU NUMERAL, Combining grapheme joiner (which is not a joiner at all), many others listed in [6] and [7], and also by numerous naming errors in Lao script. Should we import all this crap to an encyclopedia without verification? Incnis Mrsi (talk) 11:14, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

Hash? .... In 'English speaking countries? .... The only people to call it 'Hash' are those who can't speak English properly. The symbol is a 'Hatch'. Although, if said quickly, it could sound like Hash. The le'er 'T' seems to be taboo these days, especially with young people. They talk shi', because they know no be'er! (talk) 17:18, 29 June 2011 (UTC)

i first heard it called 'Hatch' which is a really clear and obvious name, given that it is graphically a unit of hatching. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:15, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
Have to agree its mostly called the hash sign in most English speaking countries, oh and shove that elitist crap about not speaking English properly. As for an encyclopedia though you shouldn't name articles after a slang-ish word even if it is the most common saying. Otherwise tilde will be called squiggle. (talk) 11:20, 5 March 2012 (UTC)


It seems people are unaware that this term had entered the language in 1971: octothorp \ak-te-thorp, -to-\ noun [octo- + thorp, of unknown origin; fr. the eight points on its circumference] (1971)

the symbol #
C) 1996 Zane Publishing, Inc. and Merriam-Webster, Incorporated
Yours truly,--Ludvikus 14:26, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Why do you think we are unaware? Read what the article says. Octothorp remains an obscure and unofficial name for the number sign, and we should not be elevating it the way you have. I have reverted your changes. Anyone object? Dicklyon 15:46, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Google hits for Octothorp: 24,800 [8]
Yours truly,--Ludvikus 04:52, 17 December 2006 (UTC)


Google hits: 74,200 [9]

Yours truly,--Ludvikus 04:54, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Ludvikus, the preferred unicode name is number sign. You can verify that at the unicode site. Maybe go ahead and add a reference if you think it's needed. As for octothorp, octothorpe, etc., go ahead and add any extra information you may have to the section below where these are listed among the alternate names. Dicklyon 06:51, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

George Orwell's 1984 & the Vocabulary Police[edit]

It is certainly the practice among all DICTIONARIES I know to include a term as long as it has had a recorded use - and a listing in a dictionary, like Merriam-Webster's, establishes its legitimacy! Accordingly, the following is conclusive for the term to be included at the top of the article as one of the words whose meaning is '#'. Here's the conclusive proof:

    octothorp \ak-te-thorp, -to-\ noun [octo- + thorp, of unknown origin; fr. the eight points
    on its circumference] (1971) : the symbol #
    (C) 1996 Zane Publishing, Inc. and Merriam-Webster, Incorporated

User:Dicklyon thinks otherwise, and has repeatedly REVERTED my inclusion of octothorp at the top of the article.

Accordingly, I request the intervention of an WP Administrator TO ARBITRATE.--Ludvikus 19:39, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

You really think your little tiff requires arbitration already? Why not ask others here to comment? Or try putting info into the article in a more sensible way, rather than as the incorrect statement that octothorp is the preferred unicode name? There no need to resort to personal attacks, which is the only way I can interpret your heading above. I am not in fact against you referring to the symbol in question an as octothorp, and that name is already discussed in the article; it's kind of cute; so if something more needs to be said about it, please do add it, and stop being a crybaby. Dicklyon 19:51, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
By the way, the status of "octothorp" can be estimated by searching a large number of dictionaries. Compare octothorp to a lookup of a more official word like crybaby. Dicklyon 20:02, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

"...octothorp is the preferred unicode name?" That's not my position. I'm saying that millions of American users have been exposed to this sign/symbol, #, and Unicode conventions are not particularly relevant to that usage. Perhaps you should have your Unicode usage THERE. But regarding the oridany person, who comes accross the number sign, he will pick up the dictionary, and perhaps in a game of scrabble spell/write out OCTOTHOPR. But the article, though a search by typing in "octothorp", will not have it at the TOP.
And why does the ARTICLE begin with UNICODE usage! Why not ASCII? ASCII is older and better entrenched in the cultures of the West and those that use the Roman alphabet?

Yours truly,Ludvikus 20:27, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

I just call it a tic-tac-toe board sign. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:00, 12 May 2014 (UTC)

Unicode vs. Typewriter & Telephone[edit]

  • Unicode is a relatively recent technical usage.
  • The Typewriter has been arround since the 19th century - and though I have not, every typewriter I have used or come accross had this octothorp or number sign on its ASCII type set.
  • Similarly, since the 12-botton phone key-pad has been arround (I don't recall the situation regarding the rotary phone), the symbol, "#", has been arround. So it is not what the Unicode community legislates that is to be prioritized. Rather, it is the common users of the typewriter and telephone who give us the meaning of this sign or symbol. --Ludvikus 20:15, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
The situation regarding rotary dial telephones is that they had neither * nor # symbols on them at all. Various national (and sometimes regional) dial variations included letters, but no other symbols. However, the history of the telephone dial pad does introduce yet another name which was occasionally used to refer to the # symbol: "Diamond." The reason for that is simply that some early prototype designs for the telephone keypad did actually use a diamond symbol in the relevant position, so the name stuck even after it was decided that the key would bear the # symbol. PBC1966 (talk) 17:43, 11 September 2013 (UTC)


In other words, I'm talking about the 32 ASCII charaters!

And I'm asking you, what is the 3rd character called?
Are you going to omit--AT THE TOP PARAGRAPH--the uncommon name octothorp? Why? Because of Unicode conventions? I did not find that convention in Merriam-Webster when I looked up the term!
What's the third sign/symbol called, besides "number sign"? Here's a picture for you:
Ascii full.png
Yours truly, Ludvikus 20:39, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
The third printable ASCII character is called a double quote mark. The first is a space followed by an exclamation point.Victor Engel (talk) 21:42, 29 June 2011 (UTC)


Could we disambiguate the usage? Unicode vs. ordinary meaning?
--Ludvikus 21:34, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
A thousand times no; the article is about the symbol "#". The Unicode name deserves precedence because it is an international standard and thus avoids any question of geographic bias. --EdC 22:24, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
IMHO yes indeed, because Octothorp a.k.a. Hash symbol is not the only number sign used worldwide, even in English. Unicode creators are humans and have right to mistake. Merging of these articles was a mistake. Incnis Mrsi (talk) 15:27, 31 January 2010 (UTC)

Number sign & 1994-1996 Merriam-Webster's[edit]

  • By the way, there's no entry for "number sign" in said MW!!!
So much the worse for "number sign," but better for my beloved "octothorp"!!! Ludvikus 20:44, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
WP:WINAD. --EdC 21:11, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

On Octothorp some more[edit]

Dear User:EdC: Why the prejudice against my Octothorp?

  • Before the Unicode, and yes even before ASCII, the Octothorp existed - nameless, perhaps, and called by many bastardly names, it was known merely discriptively, by one of its many uses, as in the case of number sign. But now - why resist its poetic coinage, nay, its Christening?
Yours truly,
(copied from my talk page, where User:Ludviku cross-posted the above:
Because it lacks common currency or adoption as standard usage. Whatever you think of its poesy (and I used to think it was reasonably cute, but you're doing a good job of inducing me to reassess that opinion) it is not a standard or well-known term.) --EdC 02:58, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

More of Ludviku's complaints, and my answers, are on my talk where he put them: User_talk:Dicklyon#Ludvikus.27s_octothorp_tirades. Dicklyon 01:29, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

Wow, you've got off far worse than I have. I'm pretty sure it's bad form to cross-post to editors' talk pages from the relevant article talk page, especially given that you (and I) are watching this article. EdC 02:58, 18 December 2006 (UTC)
It was a bit obnoxious, but no big deal. Dicklyon 03:06, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

Patents from the 1930s and 1940s called it "number sign (#)": three patents Dicklyon 03:06, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

Names in other languages[edit]

There's some interesting stuff halfway down this article in El Reg; tic-tac-toe, little ladder, timber yard ...

Would be nice to have a complete list in the article, i reckon.

-- Tom Anderson 2007-01-2100:47 +0000

In Korean, it is often (always?) called "sharp" in speaking (I've never seen it written, so I don't know if it's written in Hangul or Latin alphabet)- probably because it ollks like the musical symbol ofr sharp. (I am referring to South Korean Korean only.) Kdammers (talk) 13:10, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

History of #?[edit]

Where did it come from? I heard it originally was a medieval symbol for a farm and eight fields. -- 19:52, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

see - Dicklyon 00:06, 23 March 2007 (UTC)

Article title OK?[edit]

User:Vincent.premysler has several times now added a tag indicating that the article has the wrong title, and should simply be called "#". I've reverted it, several times now. Accorinding to WP:BRD, since he was reverted he ought to come here and say what he had in mind and seek consensus, but since he didn't, I'm bringing it up. Does anyone think the article title would be better as "#"? Dicklyon 22:03, 5 August 2007 (UTC)

i think that's better because it talks about # Vincent.premysler 22:19, 5 August 2007 (UTC) vincent
Vincent, you can sign by appending four tildes to your comment (or should I say four ~s?). Anyway, we commonly refer to things by their names, and use those names as article titles, hence the current article name. Dicklyon 22:16, 5 August 2007 (UTC)
You were good suggusting dicklon Vincent.premysler 22:23, 5 August 2007 (UTC)vincent

I agree with Dicklyon. The title of an article about a typographical sign should be the name of the sign rather than the sign itself. –Henning Makholm 22:25, 5 August 2007 (UTC)

im doing what you dont like beacuase your fingers may get hurt. type in "number sign". Vincent.premysler 22:47, 5 August 2007 (UTC)vincent
theres vandalism related to this conversation at what Multiplication symbol redircts toVincent.premysler 00:11, 6 August 2007 (UTC)vincent
I've editted your comments a bit. Please learn to use "show preview" to get your edits right. Dicklyon 00:14, 6 August 2007 (UTC)
No vandalism, just an "improper move" that User:Oleg Alexandrov did when he decided to change from the name to the symbol ×. Dicklyon 00:20, 6 August 2007 (UTC)

i mean change it back Vincent.premysler 00:31, 6 August 2007 (UTC)user:Vincent.premysler

Good idea. Even better if you bring it up on that article's talk page first. Dicklyon 00:33, 6 August 2007 (UTC)

i said × should be moved on ×'s talkVincent.premysler 11:48, 6 August 2007 (UTC) vincent

User:Oleg Alexandrov said he didnt like my request. tell him that × should be moved. he said that at ×'s talk. take a look dicklyon!Vincent.premysler 12:10, 6 August 2007 (UTC) vincent how do you move pages with the colgone blue interface dicklyon? Vincent.premysler 12:14, 6 August 2007 (UTC) )vincent please respond dicklyon Vincent.premysler 12:35, 6 August 2007 (UTC) vincent

The title "Number sign" may have to stay. Because # doesn't get URL encoded when it is entered in the address bar, the article cannot be referenced. I tried to URL encode the # by hand to %23, but Wikipedia says it is an invalid character. The same with the "space" character. error page 04:14, 8 September 2007 (UTC) fsuarez2005 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:14, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

Good, since all other articles on characters are named by the name of the character, not by the character itself, so this one should be, too. Dicklyon 04:21, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

Number sign and keyboard stuff[edit]

I've just removed this: "On a UK keyboard, it has its own key just to the left of "Enter" and on a US keyboard, it can be typed using Shift-3 (on a UK keyboard, this is the key combination for the pound sign)." from the first paragraph. I did this for several reasons:

1. are we going to add where to find the sign on arabic, greek, chinese, indian and spanish keyboards as well?

2. UK keyboards have an ISO layout. Hence there are 2 keys to the left of "enter" (more exactly "carriage return" or "return")

3. On my Mac, if I put the UK layout on my ISO keyboard, I have to push ALT+3 to get the #, on the left of return, I have ] (higher row) and \ (lower/home row). I guess that what I deleted was referring to keyboards on a Windows system? In which case, if we really want to be helpful, we should add the info for Linux and the Mac as well. In the end, we could do this for ANSI, ISO and JIS keyboard on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and probably other systems such as Solaris, HP-UX, Amiga, etc etc...

In the end, I think it's best to let people find the sign on their own keyboard if they really wish so. 11:42, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

More specifically, the reference to # being to the left of the return key applies to IBM PC-type keyboards and their derivatives. Prior to those, # was much more commonly on Shift-3, with £ (if provided) at some other location which varied from keyboard to keyboard (e.g. the BBC Microcomputer). As noted elsewhere, some British keyboards dropped # entirely in order to place £ on the Shift-3 location. On occasions, the $ sign was dropped from Shift-4 in order to place £ there (e.g. on some British versions of the ubiquitous model 33 Teletype keyboard). PBC1966 (talk) 18:46, 11 September 2013 (UTC)

Etymology of the "number sign"?[edit]

I think the article is missing something rather important: Why is the "number sign" used to denote a number? Where does this usage originate? --- Henrypijames 20:42, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Why it is used to denote a number is a fairly nebulous concept, as that has been the symbol's original and primary function, which likely predates the etymology of the verbal manifestation itself.

Relating to naming issues raised above: a case could be made, from a descriptivist point-of-view, for the symbol's designation as a "pound sign" as observed from common usage in America. However, the current naming scheme on Wikipedia, where # is identified as a "number sign" and £ is identified as a "pound sign", is one that I wholeheartedly endorse, in small part for its descriptive accuracy in a non-America-centric perspective, but also due to its logical prescriptivist foundation and avail in deterring the asterixification suffered by another of our ill-fated symbol friends. -=( Alexis (talk) 12:21, 30 November 2007 (UTC) )=-

# cannot redirect here[edit]

Should we add a notice to this that says something like:

# cannot redirect here due to technical restrictions

in case anyone does try to type this in?? --Solumeiras talk 10:19, 8 November 2007 (UTC)

Whom would that help? If someone tries to go to, they will end up at the front page and would not see your notice anyway. –Henning Makholm 01:01, 9 November 2007 (UTC)
Too bad. On the other hand, [10] does exist, but redirects to Ampersand only!! Pity. SBHarris 19:47, 19 April 2010 (UTC)

Mention of IRC Usage?[edit]

The # sign is used in normal forum posts to say oh, that irc channel.

Here is an example.

I could provide a lot more, but you get my point right?

Crazysim (talk) 01:13, 16 December 2007 (UTC)


In many parts of the world, including various European countries, Canada, Australia, and Russia, “number sign” is the name of the “número” sign...

How can "number sign" be the name of the sign in non-English-speaking countries? Does it mean "number sign" translated literally into the local language perhaps? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:08, 15 September 2008 (UTC)

This seems to be a fair point as it is apparently called знак номера (znak nomera) in Russian.

Furthermore, the Spanish/Portuguese spelling número is dubious as well; its Latin/Italian (numero) or French (numéro) form would be preferable. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:45, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

Misplaced text[edit]

Other Names in English This section need editing as it inclueds usage with naming.

hash / hash mark / hash sign Hash is most common name for the mark used in the English-speaking world outside North America.[citation needed] In Ireland, the UK, Australia, India and New Zealand, "hash key" refers to the # button on touch-tone telephones; "Please press the hash key." The symbol is often used as medical shorthand for 'fracture' [1][2] Used among computer professionals. For example, in Unix scripting, it is used in combination with an exclamation mark ("#!") to produce a "shebang" or "hash-bang", used to tell the kernel which program to use to run the script. (talk) 16:28, 4 November 2008 (UTC)

This article needs additional citations for verification? Sheesh![edit]

The quote "Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (October 2008)" is aggressive and sort of inappropriate for this kind of article.

IMO, this article is, clearly:

- thorough
- has more information than any other article in the world on this topic (google octothorp and compare the results)
- somewhat exhaustive for an obscure topic
- free of spam and self promotion
- good enough... a citation or two would be "nice"... but wikipedia seems to really be the authority here...

I think wikipedians sometimes go too far in pursuit of the "following the rules" over "following the spirit of wikipedia" with all these "need citation" things. I know its hard to keep the "brittany spears" page from growing out of control, but the "number sign" page just doesn't have the same kind of broad public interest and opinion.

See also: [11] —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:04, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

I don't understand why you think this article should not be held to the high standards that wikipedia aspires to. Dicklyon (talk) 18:24, 14 June 2009 (UTC)

Use in UK?[edit]

"In addition to the specialised uses described below, # is used in the UK to designate a number, exactly as in the US". I've never seen this (# / hash) used to indicate a number in the UK, other than in documentation from the USA. The typical number indicator in the uk would be the number sign (no.) not # (hash). Could there be some confusion regarding the fact that both languages use the same name ("number sign") for different symbols?

Jckcip (talk) 11:30, 14 June 2009 (UTC)

Seeking sources on this, I only find it contradicted, e.g. by [12]. So we should probably just remove it. I've added a citation needed tag for now. Dicklyon (talk) 18:22, 14 June 2009 (UTC)
It's commonly used in the UK for music chart positions. See e.g. I am from the UK and I use it occasionally as a general-purpose number indicator without any conscious feeling that it is an American import. My experience is that some other British writers do the same, but this is just anecdotal, of course. It's hard to search Google for examples as the hash character seems to be ignored in search strings, but if you could do so, my guess is you'd find a sprinkling of usage in British publications. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:29, 15 July 2009 (UTC)
I disagree that it is “commonly used in the UK for music chart positions.” It may in some random examples, but not “commonly”; even using the link you gave, the first citation of it for a chart place is in reference to someone topping the Billboard (US) chart - so presumably the journalist involved was copying from a US usage. I’ve lived in the U.K. all my life, and have never seen it used by anyone to mean “number” (anecdotal, I know, but it’s how I see it.)Jock123 (talk) 15:09, 8 September 2009 (UTC)
The original article saying "# is used in the UK to designate a number, *exactly* as in the US" is misleading. The fact that we are discussing this means there is a debate, and therefore the meaning is not universally understood as it is in the US. I do agree that use of # instead of "No." is becoming more common in the UK as an effect of globalization, but again this is anecdotal. Until we have a reliable source saying usage is catching on in the UK, we should follow the only source we have which is [13] and remove references to this usage in the UK Alexd (talk) 03:45, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
I agree that if it's unsourced and plainly not a simple common-sense consensus (of which this debate is evidence), then it should be removed until a source is found. But just to add to the other side of the anecdotal evidence, as a UK resident and British English speaker, I regularly use # to indicate a number. For me, I'd put it down not so much to US influences directly, as to the fact that I've been a bit of a techie for a long time, and it's something that's been used in computing in a number of European and Asian (speech) languages over the years. However, a distinctly non-techie, and non-US-travelling friend just yesterday used it in a Twitter post; my attention was drawn to it because she immediately reposted apologising for having "hash-tagged" a number, which hadn't been the intention. Anecdotal, but enough to have me hunting for a reference so we can put something more in about its evolution in British useage. – Kieran T (talk) 11:37, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
I've updated the section. I was going to put in a line about how its usage is becoming common in music charts until I saw that virtually all of the links at are BBC pages that actually scrape their info from Wikipedia! Therefore I didn't put this in as the Wikipedia pages themselves are following American rather than British standards (and then being imported into the BBC) Alexd (talk) 19:49, 13 September 2009 (UTC)
By my experience # is occasionally used but No. is by far the more common variant. The official UK charts website doesn't use either sign, but just the number itself, incidentally. So I'd imagine that's the standard typography. (talk) 13:47, 24 April 2011 (UTC)
The other day I called into a telephone conference in the UK. A recorded voice said "please enter the conference code number followed by the pound or hash sign" --BIL (talk) 11:31, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that calling it the "pound sign" here is non-standard, certainly I've never heard it referred to as that before outside of American TV. Of course, you've heard it once, but I've seen guillemets («  ») used in place of quotation marks in English very occasionally - doesn't mean it's at all common! (talk) 13:47, 24 April 2011 (UTC)
I remember a short story by an American author in a book that we were given to read at school in Hants in the 1950s before I ever left England. It contained foot notes which explained '$' (at the time, there were double vertical bars) meant 'dollar', '¢' meant 'cent' i.e. 100th of a dollar, '/' meant 'or', and '#' meant № (No.), it even made note of American double quotes being used in place of inverted commas. Times change and we have become more globalised, but it was thought rare enough to note '#' (and the rest) for British readers of the time. Nothing was said, however, about it being a 'Pound Sign (Pound Symbol)' as we would have all taken that to mean '₤' (or later '£') because of our currency, or 'lb' because we still used old measure almost exclusively. Decimalisation came about in '71, but the UK still uses the GBP, and so I can't see it could ever be called a 'Pound Sign (Pound Symbol)' in Britain -- certainly not commonly -- with the exception of a reference to more recent North American usage. (I vaguely remember '#' was referred to as 'Hash Marks' or 'Double Hash Marks', but it was so rare, for clarity, the phrase 'like in "Noughts and Crosses" ' was added).

Christian Gregory (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 17:32, 12 August 2012 (UTC)

Names in Canada?[edit]

I'm Canadian, and I know that, on the phone at least, we do call it the pound key. Pound, number sign and hash are all used in different situations. The opening paragraph seems to imply that "number sign" is the only name used by Canadians, which is grossly inaccurate. (talk) 18:26, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

Forty years ago, it was only known as the 'Number Sign' and it was still recognised as American, for many Canadians wrote '№' or 'No.' instead. When people first started to call it the 'Pound Key / Pound Sign' many Canadians found that term confusing until it caught on -- thrust upon the Canadian populous by American automated telephone programs -- but it is still called the 'Number Sign' by most who remember when that was the only known name for it. More often the word 'Pound Sign / Pound Symbol' meant 'lb', (sometimes with a strike through it 'lb'); and to a lesser extent the British Pound, ₤ or later £, as Sterling Money Orders were and still are available at any Canadian Post office, and Sterling held a place in Canadian Financial Markets as important as the American Dollar, if not more so in years gone by. Even American Andy Rooney did a piece on '60 Minutes' asking: When did # become a "Pound Sign"?, with his own recollection of it only ever having meant a 'Number Sign' in his time.

Christian Gregory (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 07:16, 12 August 2012 (UTC)

"How the # became the sign of our times It's called an octothorpe – and Twitter users have made it a global symbol" (Guardian article)[edit]

There's an essay on the hash symbol and its history in the Guardian. Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 12:56, 16 December 2010 (UTC)

Why do you suppose he calls it an octothorpe, a name that he admits didn't catch on? Does Twitter call it that? Dicklyon (talk) 15:56, 16 December 2010 (UTC)

Not "eight fields" again please[edit]

There's no sensible support for the recent idea that octothorpe means "eight fields". It seems to originate from this 1992 book that says "In cartography, it is also a symbol for village: eight fields around a central square, and this is the source of its name. Octothorp means eight fields." This has been copied, but never sensibly supported. The origin in the phone system is much better documented in much older sources. Dicklyon (talk) 00:07, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

I believe that rumor descends from this related article. (talk) 19:57, 1 May 2011 (UTC)

In German called "Raute(zeichen)" - on the key pad of a telephone[edit]

In Austria (and I expect in Germany and Switzerland as well) automated telephone service lines usually ask you to type single digit numbers alone, or but longer ones and finish them with the "Raute-Zeichen". With Raute meaning rhombus (geometry) and Zeichen meaning sign.

In operating manuals for all kinds of phones and payphones (after the times of dialplate) the "number sign"-button is more often depicted, but in the text would be refered as (type (or hold) the ...) Raute-Taste (=key) or (enter the ...) Raute-Zeichen as well as if spoken about. --Helium4 (talk) 09:31, 25 June 2011 (UTC)

Use during the Typewriter Age[edit]

Although the article warns the user not to confuse this with the musical sharp-sign, when I learned to type I never used it to order products and thought it was on the typewriter keyboard for the benefit of musicians : I suspect that before computer typography this symbol would be used to type F-sharp as "F#" (and B-flat would have been "Bb"). But I'm not from a musical family, and so have no access to old typewritten pages that would prove it to be so. (talk) 01:12, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

Use as a generic number sign?[edit]

What is the explanation of it becoming shorthand for "number"? The shorthand for a pound in weight is explained, but the expansion to denote a any number is not in itself a logical leap. Dainamo (talk) 14:33, 17 January 2012 (UTC)

Other name: Crunch[edit]

I removed:

It is used as "crunch" in the Linux distribution #! "Crunch Bang" (

Unless it can be proven that the name crunch is used for the # sign outside of the name of this Linux distribution, or that the distribution is very notable, I don't think "other names" is the right section for this fact. Nitro2k01 (talk) 12:04, 29 January 2012 (UTC)

*Not* traditionally known as "pound" in America ?[edit]

The article asserts: "In the United States, the symbol is traditionally called the pound sign"
Yet in one of the supposed citations for that assertion - ( 1^ a b William Safire. "On Language; Hit the Pound Sign". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-21. ) - the author actually states:
"I always thought the pound sign was the symbol for the British pound sterling, a script capital L with a hyphen through it, a stylized representation of the Latin libra"
"No; the sign that the recorded Miss Syrup refers to is what some of us remember as the tick-tack-toe sign , or the crosshatch , or the sign of the double-cross"
An author witing in a piece in the New York Times stating this entity is *not* called what people like him thought it was called... is not good evidence that it was widely known by that name... (talk) 08:06, 24 March 2012 (UTC)

The history of this term is not something to go into except in an explicit history section. There is some of that in the "origin" section but with no dates given, we can't use the word traditionally (a WP:weasel word if ever there was one). The word "traditionally" can be understood as "commonly" (correct) or "historically" (maybe not correct, at least if you go back far enough). How old is any "tradition"? No tradition goes back forever and you need dates to rank them. So I'm just going to change it to "commonly" (what was meant) and avoid the problem. Discuss this in a history section, if you ever make one. SBHarris 18:20, 24 March 2012 (UTC)

This is another America-centric article[edit]

Fact - # only has meaning in the US and probably Canada as Number sign.
Fact - the rest of the world doesn't recognise it as a number sign.
Therefore - this page is wrongly named and should instead be called That funny sign they use in a minority of the English speaking world but thinks it's the whole of the English speaking world aka the USA which is used there and only there to denote number . Francis Hannaway (talk) Francis Hannaway 08:46, 8 July 2012 (UTC)
This article should be merged with the Hashtag page, as a section that states that some minoriities use it to symbolise the word number. Francis Hannaway (talk) Francis Hannaway 08:55, 8 July 2012 (UTC)
See below. The sign has been used in the US at least since 1918 as both a number sign (#1) and a pound sign as in pounds of weight (a 100# bag of cement). In the first use it goes before the number, and in the last use, after the number).SBHarris 02:56, 25 March 2014 (UTC)

Why is this article titled after one usage of this octothorpe?[edit]

Why shouldn't this article be named "Sharp" after it musical score usage? All these uses for this symbol are redundant when it comes to titling the article. It's meaning is usage dependant in almost any English speaking country. In Music (Italian terminology) it means "sharp" (regardless of symbol shape, frequent usage by scorewriters). Behind a numeric it means "pounds". Before a numeric it means "number". In the future it may be used to indicate a computer programming language or who knows what is next? This article has the wrong title with only one of its usages instead of a defined name. This is like calling the article for "hyphens", "Joiners" .
I had understand "octothorpe" is a family of eight sided character symbols and not this particular one. (talk) 14:24, 11 July 2012 (UTC)

Please, read the article better before starting a hopeless and clueless pettifogging. The fourth paragraph of the article explains that the octothorpe is not more similar to than multiplication sign is a variant of the letter "x". BTW I also feel the title "number sign" to be a confusion induced and enforced by (numerically superior) U.S.American editors. Incnis Mrsi (talk) 16:10, 12 July 2012 (UTC)
Seems to be a rampant syndrome in some cases. Canadians sit in the middle and get both shoved up their behinds. LOL (talk) 16:04, 13 July 2012 (UTC)
IP, I do not understand this. Could you be more explicit please? -DePiep (talk) 20:22, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
Well I am not sure what is unclear but.... As a Canadian our language is mostly Brit but we have many Amer influences being close brothers with them. As the US people seem to be the major population online their ways typically take precidence in many instances. This must be irritating to language based debate confusions, and especially the opposite ends of the language. (talk) 14:19, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
Well, I'm sure it's irritating to be in the minority, but you people who speak English as your primary language but not American (US) English, are in the minority. Speakers of US English outnumber you 2 to 1, and not just online, but on the planet. Get used to it. On the planet, primary Chinese and Spanish speakers outnumber the English, so that's bound to affect world online culture in the future. Meanwhile, on, Americans rule. And it's not just because WP started here. SBHarris 22:54, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
The comment "title "number sign" to be a confusion induced and enforced by (numerically superior) U.S.American editors" would seem to be well exemplified by some retorts here. Quite the demonstration of it using strawman arguments. Quite entertaining though. (talk) 05:33, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
Do they call it "octothorpe" where you're from? That would be interesting to see sources on. Dicklyon (talk) 05:35, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
No. Not many people have ever heard of the octothorpe name, in my circles. It was called "the number sign", after the phone companies usage on keypads, until about five to ten years ago. The last few years online (seeming to lead the pack and culture) started to call it a "pound sign", always known to expeditor people for weight, always appearing at the end of a number (eg. CW#). Both of those appear to be usages and not the symbol's name. Now I was told, loosely, that it was an octothorpe but since have discovered the term may be a broad one that covers many eight sided figures. (what else?). Either way, a redirect from these usages to the proper name would be in order for a dictionary of any merit. The proper name? Brings us back to a conundrum? (talk) 20:01, 24 July 2012 (UTC)

An argument to rename this page "Hash sign"[edit]

I think precedent has moved so as to title this page as "Hash sign," due mostly to Twitter hashtags being the most common usage. According to this article's current phrasing, the term "number sign" is common only to Canada while most of the rest of the world calls it a "hash sign." Of all the redirects, only "hash sign" and "hash symbol" are linked by articles (I assume wikipedia authors strive for the "correct" article title and therefore it isn't fair to compare the redirect counts of "hash sign" + "hash symbol" vs "number sign"). By raw Google hit counts, "number sign" is still the winner (941k hits for just "number sign/symbol/character" vs 183k for just "hash sign/symbol/character", skipping "pound" variants due to confusion with £). Still, it seems "hash" is the most commonly used version even outside of Twitter, as evidenced in the text of this very Wikipedia article, the article What is the name of the symbol # at Oxford Dictionaries, and a piece What Is the Real Name of the #? introduces the symbol by its usage on Twitter. Adam KatzΔ 21:42, 12 February 2014 (UTC)

Unexplained reversion[edit]

What was the reason for this reversion? RiverStyx23{submarinetarget} 23:45, 15 January 2013 (UTC)

IMHO the reason is that the author of deleted fragments does not read properly their own sources. Incnis Mrsi (talk) 11:34, 16 January 2013 (UTC)

Origin and usage and naming conventions in North America[edit]

Origin and usage/naming in NA is not the same, and I see no reason hy they should share paragraph title. I suggest Origin first, then another paragraph below with usage and naming conventions below that. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Beverfar (talkcontribs) 13:43, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

The Proper Nomenclature[edit]

Break the ambiguity: the symbol is properly referenced as the “octothorpe”. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jsabarese (talkcontribs) 18:34, 8 April 2013 (UTC)

Properly referenced as? I would suggest reading some of the background already present above and in the main article. The symbol was in use many years before the "octothorpe" term was coined (see references to Bell Labs etc.). PBC1966 (talk) 18:53, 11 September 2013 (UTC)

Usage to represent "pound"[edit]

The article discusses the possible origin of the name "pound sign," but it never mentions that word is actually used (in the U.S. at least) as a symbol for "pound." I have seen paper bags marked "5#", "8#", etc., to indicate the maximum weight the bag can hold. I think it's strange that the discussion in the article never mentions this usage.

So now my question is this--did the sign acquire the name "pound sign", whereupon people started using it as a symbol for "pounds" (essentially a rebus, like using "?" to represent the word "question")? Or did the symbol acquire its name, "pound sign," from the fact that it was used to represent the word "pound"? Which is it? Either way, this seems obviously relevant to the discussion. Chalkieperfect (talk) 15:53, 25 September 2013 (UTC)


As far back as 1918 at least it was used as a business symbol for pound or number (though interestingly in the 1918 business text above they suggest it means "number" when written before a numeral, as in #1, and "pound" when written after: 1000# = 1000 pounds). Certainly people would have called it a number or pound symbol. You have to say something when you're talking about a symbol, as the artist (formerly known as) Prince taught us-- you don't always have a blackboard handy.

In the 1960's in the US we did indeed call it tic-tac-toe or crosshatch sign. I never heard pound sign. I did see it used as a number sign, but we didn't call it that.

The "hatch" for # is an old engraving term. To hash or chop something (as with a hatchet-- a linguistic doublet) is the natural origin of hash as a term for the symbol.

That's where it started. I suspect the use for "number" is a mix-up or cross use to represent more simply the much older tally mark of four-plus-one marking for counting sheep: |||| plus a crossing line for 5. You've seen that, and can read more at tally marks. SBHarris 23:59, 20 March 2014 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Not moved (non-admin closure) DavidLeighEllis (talk) 01:38, 25 March 2014 (UTC)

Number signHash symbol – According to the article, "The term number sign is popular only in Canada". In that case, with due respect to Canada, it does not seem sensible to use this as the article title when other terms, in particular "hash", are more widely known and used. (talk) 03:37, 17 March 2014 (UTC) NOTE: (added later due to comments). Please include other suitable forms, such as "Hash (symbol)", in your consideration. The important point of the proposal is that the word hash should be used. (talk) 18:16, 17 March 2014 (UTC)

Notifed WikiProject: Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Typography#.27Hash.27_or_.27number_sign.27.3F -DePiep (talk) 06:55, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose – there are so many common names that it makes more sense here to stick to the official name in UNICODE. And "number sign" is certainly not an uncommon term in the US. Dicklyon (talk) 03:49, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
It really doesn't matter for these purposes what Unicode call it; almost nobody knows or cares. What matters is common usage. (talk) 04:18, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
Comment, about Unicode naming. Unicode has defined the U+0023 # number sign name. But Unicode also explicitly mentions these aliases: pound sign, hash, crosshatch, octothorpe (pg 3 of 6), [14]. An 'alias' in Unicode is an equally identifying name (unique over all names+alias names, guaranteed). It's just that Unicode can have & must have exactly one 'name' for a character, and it picked 'number sign' over the others. One should not assume an Unicode cultural or other preference from that. IMO, this means that the Unicode name is not very decisive in this topic. -DePiep (talk) 12:13, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
It's also "Number sign" in the AMERICAN Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), and well known as such in America for many decades. See this 1985 book. Dicklyon (talk) 00:52, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
If it is so well known in the US, then could you or someone else please amend the text "The term number sign is popular only in Canada"? This is a significant part of the reason why I proposed the rename. (talk) 01:04, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
Did that already. Dicklyon (talk) 03:15, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
OK, thanks. 19:56, 18 March 2014 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)
Thanks for fixing this. I know for a fact from growing up that the term "number sign" is used in New England and New York State. Also the alternative is not "hash" but "pound". The term "hash" until recently was European only. However all attempts I made to correct this text get reverted. It is probably best to not mention any area at all.Spitzak (talk) 20:23, 20 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Dicklyon. Hash symbol is not used here the U.S., but number sign is. Hot Stop talk-contribs 03:55, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose it's been called number sign since 2002, and is the term used in unicode. Before that in 2002 it was called octothrop when it was a stub. So WP:ENGVAR and WP:RETAIN. Considering the multitude of names for this thing "hash symbol" isn't the all that more likely than many other names for it. And you didn't ask for it to be called "hash". -- (talk) — Preceding undated comment added 06:29, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Support - per WP:COMMONNAME this usage is for Canada only, a lot of users would think Numero sign was intended . Hash passes WP:AT criteria, why not use it. In ictu oculi (talk) 09:43, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
We need more sourced statements on usage. That would be more convincing that (well based, well intended) editors experiences. Also, the third alternative pound sign must be taken into view too. -DePiep (talk) 11:54, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose proposed new name. As the nominator indicated themselves, the actual word used is "hash", not "hash symbol". One can propose to call (name, title) it hash on Wikipedia, for being the true common name. From there, for WP:DISAMBIGUATION reasons, the page should be wiki-disambiguated with a bracketed addition: hash (symbol) (most likely). So, no way the actually used real live name "hash" should have a different title name to explain or disambiguate. No way.
To be clear: I do not express support for changing to hash (symbol) or anything, I do say the proposed name is wrong for guideline reasons. -DePiep (talk) 11:31, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose for many reasons, all found above. Red Slash 00:25, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Hash (symbol) looks good. Don’t rely on the Unicode official data: Unicode people are renown for their typographic ignorance. Incnis Mrsi (talk) 07:31, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
You mean that "number sign" is not a name at all for this symbol? How is Unicode wrong in this? Please explain. See also my comment above, about Unicode naming. -DePiep (talk) 10:14, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
I mean “#” is a number sign, but is not the number sign, similarly to U+000A line feed that is an end-of-line character, but may not be called the end-of-line character for several reasons. Read above and that article about the Unicode ignorance: all things are already said. Incnis Mrsi (talk) 10:46, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
I see your point! Simple & clear point about the "a number sign". Though Google did show few or none other "number signs" graphs for me. I guess U+2116 numero sign (HTML №) would be another "a number sign". If this move goes ahead, we'd need a disambiguation page: number sign (disambiguation), or a page number sign ;-) that describes all (two so far) typographical number signs. Need to chew on this.
Me too do not want to let Unicode to decide in this at all (whichever way), because their motivation is not a source in itself (for example, they might have followed legacy ASCII), and their aliases make it a close finish. This being the English language wiki, we'd best go for the primary English word (worldwide). -DePiep (talk) 09:56, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Dicklyon. We determine common usage by looking at usage in reliable sources. In this case an appropriate reliable source is UNICODE. --B2C 07:16, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Sources. We need sources for actual name. Above, it is made clear the Unicode is not a good source. Template:Dictionaries of English.
[15] The Guardian 2010. Curious quote: 'In the UK it's generally known as "hash". In America they call it a pound sign'.
Merriam-Webster: [16] does not seem to mention "hash" as the symbol we are talking
OED: [17] not available online (subscription).
-DePiep (talk) 13:50, 20 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose Edit wars have lead to the incorrect "canada only" statement. I grew up in New England and can confirm that this was called a "number sign" there, and in fact you can see the term "number sign" used in plenty of computer documentation from the 80's, including stuff from Stanford indicating it was used on the west coast as well. I believe the area that used "number sign" is a lot larger than Canada. In addition the alternative was "pound sign" so this is not an argument for using "hash" at all. A further problem is that it is not called a "hash sign" but just "hash" and that name is already taken by a food.Spitzak (talk) 20:28, 20 March 2014 (UTC)
Detail: if a word is used by another definition, we do disambiguate (e.g., hash (symbol). It will not ever force us to change the word or deny us to choose the right word, as defined by the domain (typography here, I guess). -DePiep (talk) 21:23, 20 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose Per the reference in the section above, it's been used in the U.S. in business at least since before 1918, as a number symbol (when it goes before a numeral, as in #1) and as pound symbol (when it occurs after, as in "18# sack of wheat"). Either one is acceptable for an article name, but "hash" has never been US or Canadian standard. The sign itself could have been called number or pound for the last century, although most of us who lived in the US during the 60's remember it called "tic-tack-toe sign" or "crosshatch." I don't see either of these being used as an article name. "Hash" is from crosshatch (the engraving term, doublet of hatchet). The use as "number" is probably as a corruption of the 5 mark tally mark that we all know, and finally the use as "pound" may indeed have been a US vs Brit typewriter thing as detailed elsewhere (in the US, the # is used where UK typewriters use the pound sterling symbol £). SBHarris 00:10, 21 March 2014 (UTC)
  • It's either "number" or "pound". Hash is something to be eaten or smoked. —  AjaxSmack  02:59, 21 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Coming from California, IME this symbol in a general context is called the "number sign", while № is not considered a distinct symbol at all, just a fancy way of printing "No.", just like how and are not usually considered anything but sequences of Latin letters (Unicode gives it its own code point for use with Cyrillic and Asian typography). It's called "pound" or "the pound sign" in the context of telephony—e.g. "enter the extention followed by the pound sign", "press pound for more options"—but not much outside of that (I've never seen it used for weight, and wondered for years why it was called "pound" on phones). "Hash" is mostly from computer programmer slang, along with "bang" for exclamation point and "splat" for asterisk, and has only recently become common among nonprogrammers mostly due to hashtags, and even then its use is mostly restricted to computing contexts. — Gwalla | Talk 17:10, 21 March 2014 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Usage in the UK[edit]

A very persistent anonymous editor (possibly located near Edinburgh in Scotland if the internet location is accurate) repeatedly insists that the symbol # has been in use in the UK for a hundred years and has been called the number sign. I can find no evidence of this. In fact, early British typewriters had this sign replaced with the £ sign for British usage. The anon editor refuses to bring the matter for discussion here, but there has been some discussion on one talk page (also see User talk: I've tried to compromise by modifying the article so that it does not claim so strongly that the sign is unknown in the UK, since usage has obviously spread from America in recent years, but I first met the sign about forty years ago when it was certainly not, to my knowledge, in regular British usage. Does anyone have any evidence of early usage in the UK? The OED says that the symbol was called "hash" in the UK (with earliest cite from 1961), commenting "In North America the symbol is more often referred to as the number or pound sign". Dbfirs 15:03, 29 December 2014 (UTC)

"A very persistent anonymous editor (possibly located near Edinburgh in Scotland if the internet location is accurate, but currently editing as IP repeatedly insists that the symbol # has been in use in the UK for a hundred years and has been called the number sign. "

I am indeed near Edinburgh (what that has to do with anything gawd only knows !!!)

The "#" symbol or "Numeric Sign" or "Number Sign" as it as know as (depends on whom you speak to as to what they prefer to call it or pronounce it as) has indeed been in use in the UK for as long as I have been alive (50 years) and more. My mother whom was a secretary in the 1940's was taught and used the "#" sign almost everyday in her secretarial work (for British companies) as an abbreviation for the word "Number". My father whom was a manual worker also in the 1940's used the "#" sign to denote the word "Number" on packaging cases for goods being shipped from the warehouse where he worked and on the official British customs & excise forms that accompanied some of those goods being shipped.

Myself, I was taught in my first few years of primary school (as was everyone else in the Scottish education system of my era) 1970/71 that the "#" sign was used as an abbreviation for number.

Those are simple facts that just because you obviously have no experience of those facts doesn't mean you and the other people whom are ignorant on this subject can make absurd and false claims such as "Most British and Irish people refer to the "#" sign as "Hash".

I've spoken recently to many British & Irish people on this subject of ages ranging from 15 to 87 and all understand without fail that the Numeric/ Number sign "#" is used as an abbreviation for the word "Number". I will not have you or others here based on nothing more than your lack of experience, lack of knowledge and let's be honest plain ignorance on this matter try and foist what are nothing more than opinions onto the public and you trying to present those opinions wrongly as fact.

"I can find no evidence of this."

Speak to REAL UK educated citizens then and find out for yourself.

"In fact, early British typewriters had this sign replaced with the £ sign for British usage. "

It has nothing to do with "Typewriters". My father didn't use a typewriter in his work in the 1940's and he used the "#" sign as I have mentioned above. I didn't use a typewriter at School and yet I was taught and have always used the "#" sign as the abbreviation for "Number". You don't have to use a typewriter to use the "#" sign.

"The anon editor refuses to bring the matter for discussion here."

Considering the absurd way one has to attempt to try an communicate here with others (all this crazy "editing" of text already there) is it any wonder people don't want to go to these so called "talk pages" where trying to reply to anyone is about as straight forward as trying to solve a Rubiks cube blindfolded...

" I've tried to compromise by modifying the article so that it does not claim so strongly that the sign is unknown in the UK,"

You didn't try hard enough then because you left in too many opinions that were clearly biased to making it look like no one in the UK uses the "#" sign as an abbreviation for "Number".

"since usage has obviously spread from America in recent years,"

What on earth and where on earth do you come up with such an absurd claim like that from. ???

Such an absurd claim clearly proves my point about certain folk here having a complete lack of knowledge on the subject in hand. I suggest you go ask some grown ups to put you right on your glaring lack of knowledge and incorrect guesswork and you will then realise what a ludicrous statement that is you just made there.

"but I first met the sign about forty years ago when it was certainly not, to my knowledge, in regular British usage."

Like I say I personally "first met" the "#" sign way back around 1970/ 71 in primary school and my parents "first" met it a good 30 to 40 years before that. Just because you have little personal knowledge or use of the "#" sign please stop thinking everyone else has as limited knowledge and use of it as you.

I honestly can't even begin to tell how absurd and indeed sad all the people I've spoken to about this subject recently have found the arrogance and ignorance of people like yourself and certain others here have over your uncontrollable need to be right at the cost of fact you have displayed on this subject. Just because you don't know any better please stop trying to pass on as fact to others what are nothing more than your opinions clearly based on ignorance and a lack of experience. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Normally one would just post a reply, like this, typically prefixed with colon(s) for indentation, rather than editing or "refactoring" another editor's talk comments. If you want to get your point into wikipedia, you'll need to find published sources that back up your point. That's how it works. See WP:V and WP:RS. Dicklyon (talk) 06:19, 31 December 2014 (UTC)
I have no axe to grind on this argument which started between two anon editors: and
I took the trouble to add a few references to the article, and they seemed to support the content of the article before our Edinburgh friend started adding opinion. If there is any evidence of general Scottish use (other than "my mother says"), then perhaps we could have some references for the Scottish viewpoint? Dbfirs 20:46, 31 December 2014 (UTC)
Google's "Ngrams" (you might have to click the search button) on the American corpus indicates that the use of # for number became suddenly popular in America in the late 1920s. If Google's British corpus is a reliable indicator, then the usage never crossed the Atlantic for printed material, though I accept that some business usage might not be recorded by Google. Dbfirs 20:07, 2 January 2015 (UTC)
Our Scottish friend has, so far, found only a Californian company as evidence of British usage. Clearly the usage is becoming more familiar in the UK because of American influences. In another Google search, I thought I'd found some British books using # for number, but on further investigation they all turned out to be published in America. I'm happy to look at any evidence that past usage was common in the UK, but my research indicates the contrary. I don't doubt that business and educational contacts with the USA are making the usage better-known on this side of the pond, but I'm struggling to find evidence. Can anyone find a link to the text of the LeapFrog books? Are they used by British schools? I did find one isolated usage in a heading by the Oldham Symphony Orchestra, but on most of their website they use "No." so I wonder if it was just a Google artefact. I've found some usage in music reviews on British websites, but, on investigation, many of these are by American reviewers. I think we might find some evidence for informal usage in the UK. Dbfirs 00:28, 3 January 2015 (UTC)
Your Scottish friend originally came here after an arguement on the Amiga forum Moobunny, to change a definition so he could win an arguement. He figured that if Wikipedia agreed with him, that he'd have more proof of his claims than "my Mom and Dad say so". I reverted his edits because that's an abuse of wikipedia. The thread is at and his username is "Only Me", and you can match his IP to the public Amiga section, which shows the IP "Only Me" posts from. His IP is now, as can also be seen from the public Amiga section. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:53, 10 February 2015 (UTC)
Thank you. I wondered why he was being so persistent in the face of clear evidence. Fortunately, Wikipedia is fairly robust because it relies on external references, and he has succeeded in getting better references into the article. Dbfirs 22:17, 10 February 2015 (UTC)

Direction usage is going?[edit]

While I know an earlier proposal, just under a year ago, failed, I wonder if we should at least be watching usage closely. I'm a relatively younger person to many here, who spends most of my time on a university campus in the US, and I can say that the predominant usage is definitely "hash" - this is a fairly recent development in the US (no doubt fuelled by social media), and I'd say it has almost totally replaced any usage of "number sign" or "pound" around my area and in my peer group.

At this point, obviously, there's still going to be too much dissension to make the switch - but at what point do we try to look at where usage is going instead of where it was? StarlitGlitter (talk) 13:16, 10 January 2015 (UTC)

That's a good question. I would say that we look as usage in recent publications to obtain evidence of the trend. Dbfirs 08:04, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

This wordy and reiterating article is redundant and verbose (and it repeats itself)[edit]

This article is redundant. It repeats itself, it does. It's rather verbose. Besides that, it's wordy and reiterating. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:03, 1 May 2015 (UTC)