About the @ sign.
The @-sign is derived from a medieval symbol. In the middle-ages, it was common to invent symbols for the most usual words, (primarily) in order to save the expensive paper. The @-sign is a combination of the letters a and d, which in latin means at, from etc. In Britain it has been used in stores, meaning "per each" (in Swedish and French ŕ).

Another example of such a combination is:
&, a combination of the letters e and t, which means (as you all know) "and".
About this sign, I was told a wonderful explanation, from Ian S. Gibson in Australia, why it is named ampersand.
Long ago, & was considered the last letter in the alphabet.So, when you rattled off the alphabet, it was:
"x, y, z and, per se, and". And, per se, and became ampersand... (Per se is latin for "in itself")


The @-sign has for a long time been used on the typing-machines (called "commercial at"), but it wasn't very much in use until it became a characteristic sign in the Web-addresses.

The list following is a list of nicknames for @ in different languages:

  • Swedish:
    Alfaslang = alpha-hose *
    krullalfa = curled alpha *
    apöra = monkey's ear
    elefantöra = elephant's ear
    kanelbulle = cinnamon bun
    snabel-a = trunk a ("official" in Sweden)

  • Danish (thanks to Peter Lemmich):
    snabel-a = see above
    People well versed in computer talk just say "at".

  • Russian:
    Sobachka = small dog

  • Czech:
    zavínác = roll mops

  • Dutch:
    Apestaartje = small monkey-tail

  • German:
    Klammeraffe = falling (or tripping) monkey
    Affenschwanz = monkey's tail (thanks to mr Mira Grubic in Switzerland)
    Most people just say "at".

  • Yiddish (from Alon in Israel):
    Shtrodel = kind of pie

  • Hungarian:
    Kukac = maggot

  • Romanian (from mr Cristian Bogdan cristi@nada.kth.se):
    Coada de maimuta = monkey's tail

  • (Latin American) Spanish (from Dr. Victor Amaya):
    Arroba = 25 lbs (ie, a measure of weight)

  • Chinese (Taiwan) (from Robert Matthews):
    In the tonal spelling system (Gwoyeu Luomaatzyh):
    Sheau laoshuu = small mouse
    In Pinyin spelling:
    Xiao laoshu

  • Greek: (Contributed by Katerina Karabela)
    Papi = small duck

  • French:
    Escargot = snail **

  • Italian:
    Chiocciola = snail **
    (A contributor has mailed me and corrected the spelling,
    which should now be correct, and furthermore told me that it's
    more usual to call it "chiocciolina", meaning little snail.
    He also told me that "at" is common among skilled people.)

  • Korean:
    Gol-baeng-i = A shell (similar to snail, but lives under water). Dal-phaeng-i = snail **
    (Geun-ho Kim mailed me about this. According to him, "Gol-baeng-i" is the most commonly used word.)

    * The combinations including alpha aren't very good, because @ is (as one clearly can see) not based on an alpha, it's an ordinary a...

    ** Snail isn't very good either, because it has become common to call the ordinary paper-mail snail-mail...


    Another admirer: Richard Neville

    I'll be very happy if everybody (yup, that's including you) mails me and tells me nicks for @ in their language, in order to help me extending this list in infinity...
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