* (The Asterisk)

What Does * Mean?

homesearch icons* (The Asterisk)

The Quick Answer

The asterisk (*) is a small and seemingly simple symbol, but don't be fooled. It has an impressive array of uses. It features in mathematics, computer programming, texting, university dissertations, and normal language, where is helps with handling sensitive language.

More Detail...

Here are seven common uses of asterisk:

(1) Spelling Correction

When a texter's fingers work faster than their eyes and produce a typo or their autocorrect inserts the wrong word, the texter can use an asterisk in the next message to show a correction. For example:
  • Jo: I am seeing doctor Singh tomorrow for my anal exam.
  • Jo: *annual!
  • Sam: LOL

(2) Censoring Swear Words

Asterisks are commonly used in writing to obscure swear words or offensive language. Asterisks allow writers to convey swear words without spelling them out fully. This helps them to maintain a level of propriety while still communicating the intended message.
  • Traffic warden: You can't threaten me.
  • Driver: I just f*cking did, mate.
  • Traffic warden: I'm not removing the ticket. You're parked illegally.
  • Driver: Get a f*cking real job. You can suck my d*ck.
  • Traffic warden: You're being filmed. And, no thanks.
When it's appropriate to cite the swear words verbatim, an asterisk can help writers distance themselves from the crudity.

(3) Placeholder or Wildcard Character

In computing and search queries, an asterisk can be used as a wildcard character, which represents any string of characters in searches. For example, if you search for "bo*t" it might find "boat", "bolt", "boot", and "bout."

(4) Obscuring Characters

An asterisk is commonly used to obscure certain characters in a string of text, such as in passwords or sensitive information. For instance, a hidden password might appear as "******".

(5) Emphasizing Text

In some texting apps (e.g., WhatsApp), asterisks are used for bolding text. For example:
  • I need an answer *today* please.
  • (This displays today in bold.)

(6) Textual Reference or Footnote

In written documents, an asterisk is often used to indicate a footnote or a reference point. If an additional explanation or a citation is needed, an asterisk is placed at the end of word to be explained, and the corresponding text or citation is placed at the bottom of the page.

(7) Mathematical Operations

In mathematical operations, especially in computer programming and on calculator keypads, an asterisk is used as the symbol for multiplication. For example, 5 * 6 means "5 multiplied by 6". Incidentally, we have the codes for a proper times symbol (×) if you don't want to use an asterisk or a lowercase x.

Image for *

When I write *, I mean this:

meaning of *

The asterisk (*) is a highly versatile character with seven common uses in texting and normal writing.

Summary of Key Points for First Definition

In text messaging, the asterisk symbol (*) often represents a spelling correction. (The hashtag is also used for this purpose.)
Definition:Spelling Correction
Type:Slang Shorthand (for "spelling alert")
Guessability:guessability level 3
3: Guessable
Typical Users:typical user

Adults and Teenagers

Summary of Key Points for Second Definition

The asterisk symbol (*) is also used for censoring swear words.
Definition:Censoring Swear Words
Guessability:guessability level 1
1: Easy to guess
Typical Users:typical user
Adults and Teenagers

Example of * Used in a Text

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