The at sign (@, read aloud in English as "at") is a typographic symbol most commonly used as an abbreviation in accounting and commercial invoices, in statements such as "7 widgets @ £2 ea. = £14". More recently, the at symbol has become ubiquitous due to its use in email addresses.
It is often referred to informally as the at symbol, the at sign, or just at. It has the official name commercial at in the ANSI/CCITT/Unicode character encoding standards.
The origin of the symbol is debated, but is most likely a cursive form of ā, or possibly à (the French word for 'at').
In modern English, the at sign is a commercial symbol, meaning at or at the rate of. It has been used, rarely, in financial documents or grocers' price tags. It is not used in standard typography.
The symbol's most familiar modern use is in e-mail addresses (sent by SMTP), as in firstname.lastname@example.org ("the user named ‘jdoe’ working at the computer named ‘example’ in the ‘com’ domain"). Ray Tomlinson is credited with the introduction of this use in 1976. This idea of user@host is seen in many other tools and protocols as well: for example, the command ssh email@example.com tries to establish a ssh connection to the computer with the hostname www.example.com using the username jdoe.
In the programming language Perl, the symbol prefixes variables which contain arrays, as opposed to scalar values (indicated with '$') and hash tables / associative arrays ('%'). If the code were to be treated as a sentence, this prefix would be the equivalent of a determiner, so "@animals" might be read as "these animals".
In the IRC protocol, the at sign is the symbol for a channel operator. IRC also uses the user@host form (often preceded by nick!) for identifying and banning users. In this case the user@ part was originally an ident response and the host part was a reverse dns name from the user's IP. However, most modern IRC networks provide some mechanism for users to hide their real reverse dns hostname and/or for admins/privileged users to pick one arbitrarily.
The at symbol is also used as an alternative political spelling for typing in some Romance languages as a gender-neutral substitute for the masculine "o" in mixed gender groups and in cases where the gender is unknown. For example, the Spanish word "amigos," which could either mean male and female "friends" or all male "friends" would be replaced with "amig@s." The character is intended to resemble a mix of the masculine letter "o" and the feminine "a". The usefulness of this is debated; in Spanish the masculine grammatical gender may include both males and females, while the feminine gender is exclusive to females, and there is no neutral gender. Some advocates of gender-neutral language-modification feel that using the male grammatical gender as a generic gender indicates an implicit linguistic disregard for women. Many Spanish speakers feel that this use of the "@" degrades their language, and some allege that it is an example of cultural imperialism. This construction is generally only used in informal writing. There is no established pronunciation of this writing. Alternative forms would be amigos/as and amigⒶs using the circle-A of anarchism.
In a similar fashion, Pokémon fans often write "Lati@s" to denote Latios and Latias.
Look up @, at sign in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.In most roguelike games (such as NetHack), the at sign is used to denote the player character (or more generally, any human).
The at sign is also used sometimes (for example in articles relating to missing persons, obituaries, or brief reports) to denote an alias after a person's proper name, for instance: "John Smith @ Jean Smyth".
The at sign may sometimes be used to represent a schwa, as the actual schwa character "ə" may be difficult to produce in many computers. It is used in this capacity in the ASCII IPA or Kirshenbaum IPA scheme.
In online discourse, the at sign is used by some anarchists as a substitute for the traditional circle-A .
It is frequently used in Leet as a substitute for the letter A.
In the MMORPG game MapleStory, players who buy and sell items use long strings of at signs to heighten their chat bubbles and make their messages easier to see. The at sign is very wide compared to other ASCII characters, making it practical for this purpose.
In Malagasy, the at sign is an informal abbreviation for amin'ny.
In the programming language PHP, the at sign can be placed just before a function to make the interpreter suppress errors that would be generated when using that function.
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