An asterisk is the symbol *. It is used to signify omission or doubt in text or to indicate a footnote with additional information about a certain piece of text. The symbol is also widely used in mathematics and computer programming.
The word asterisk is Greek in origin, from asteri, meaning “star.” The symbol is meant to represent a star and was developed by printers in the Middle Ages. Asterisks are most commonly placed immediately following the word or number that accompanies an omission or footnote. Footnotes are usually found at the bottom of the same page as the asterisk.
The asterisk has numerous uses in modern language and typography. Multiple asterisks within the same word, such as s***, indicate the omission of an expletive. In academic contexts, multiple asterisks are used to indicate more than one footnote on the same page. The first footnote indication on a page is one asterisk following a word. The second footnote indication will use two asterisks following a word, and so on.
The symbol is also used in informal writing settings. During instant messaging or text messaging, the symbol is used to correct a word usage or spelling error. For example, if the user accidentally sends the word “form” instead of “from,” he or she may subsequently write “*from” to indicate and correct the error. The asterisk is also used to convey an action in informal text, such as *jumps for joy*.
The symbol is also used in mathematical and computer science contexts. In math, it is used on the number pads of QWERTY keyboards and on calculators to signify multiplication. Computer programmers use the asterisk to indicate a variety of meanings within programming languages as well as to signify a required field in an online form.
In sports, the asterisk is used to denote doubt or special circumstances surrounding a statistic. If a sports season is shortened due to a strike or war, the league leaders in statistical categories for that particular year may be noted with an asterisk. The symbol became infamous in the sports world in the mid-2000s, when American baseball player Barry Bonds broke the record for most home runs in a season. The ball that was hit to break the record was purchased in an online auction, and the buyer branded it with a *. The asterisk was used to express the feeling of many that Bonds achieved the record unfairly through the use of performance-enhancing drugs.