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Etymology of ‘Ampersand’ (&)

The & symbol (referred to as an ‘ampersand by some or just ‘the and symbol’ by others) is a typographic ligature of the letters e and t which together form et (the Latin word for ‘and’). Depending on the font, the symbol may look more or less like ‘et’ (this website uses Baskerville which has an uppercase ampersand modeled on the one developed by William Caslon).

& came to be known as ‘ampersand’ around the 19th century when & was sometimes added as the last letter of the alphabet. When schoolchildren sang the alphabet, they would sing “…x, y, z, and per se &“. They would say per se to avoid the confusion of saying “and and”. Eventually, the words became slurred (much like how kids today say “elemeno”) and “and per se and” morphed into ampersand.