The asterisk is a symbol.


While easily typed by holding the shift key and pressing 8, the * is also found above the numeric keypad as it represents multiplication in mathematics. It can also be called up by holding the alt key and pressing 0042. (key locations are based on a standard qwerty keyboard)

Another use for the * is as a meta character in search strings. While the question mark (?) is generally the meta character to replace a single unknown character, the asterisk is used to replace an unknown number of characters, including none.

eg. If I had a searchable database of the dictionary, and I was unsure if bookkeeper had one or two k's, I could do a search for "book*eeper". Also, if I wanted to know all words that began with the letters book, I could enter the string "book*"


Asterisk is the symbol found on the same key as number 8 on your keyboard.

In C and C++ programming languages, * has many different uses:

Also used under DOS and UNIX based operating systems to match anything in filename searches. e.g.,
C:\>dir a*.*


$ ls -l a*
Also used by a most of online search engines to specify "All and any characters".

Since times immemorial, used to specify footnotes, along with several other characters, associated with certain inline sentences/words in printed text.

And oh yes - in Lifts (Elevators in USA), ground floor (First Floor in USA) is marked by an Asterisk.

Its the most useful symbol on a keyboard or what?

Asterisk is an open-source, Voice over IP PBX written for Linux. It also runs on FreeBSD, but with the unfortunate lack of some features. At its core, Asterisk is a codec translator and channel bridging system, permitting a user to talk over one or more channels in full duplex mode. It uses SIP, Asterisk's own IAX, and RTP as its primary protocols.

Asterisk is a valuable tool for bringing Voice over IP to the masses. It can be used on any Linux machine with sound hardware, and even some without sound hardware. You do not need any special cards to run the Asterisk system. There are a number of providers that can bridge the PSTN to a Voice over IP system like Asterisk, which permits you to have your entire phone system laid out over IP. One of Asterisk's more intriguing uses is international calling - you have a friend who lives in Australia while you live in the US, you can contact him via IP and speak with him as long as he has an account on or owns an Asterisk server with decent connectivity.

Asterisk supports the Asterisk Gateway Interface or AGI, which allows you to script Asterisk's behavior and offer advanced programmability common in today's modern, many-thousand-dollar commercial PBX systems. It also offers a strong API allowing you to program your own "plugins" for Asterisk. Example plugins include voice mail, teleconferencing, directory services, and playing MP3s for Music on Hold (MOH).

You may use Asterisk with a software phone (or softphone), a hardware VoIP phone (such as a Cisco 7960), or a standard analog telephone in conjunction with an Analog Telephone Adapter or ATA. Once configured properly, you may use your Asterisk system to do all kinds of interesting things, including setting up conferences for your friends to chat on for nothing except the cost of your IP connectivity. My laptop has a softphone on it, so I can make calls using my home number, accept calls from anywhere in the world, or call-forward between Asterisk systems. The flexibility is incredible.

The only real fear is regulation of voice over IP, which hasn't happened yet, but may in the future.

The asterisk is used in two ways in linguistics. In both it is placed in front of an expression that does not actually occur in a language.

1. In historical linguistics an asterisk is placed in front of a word that has been reconstructed: that is, there is no written example of it, but it is believed that speakers of the ancient language would actually have used it. Sometimes a double asterisk is used to indicate a form that linguists believe did not occur.

See asterisk words for more details. I'll add an example here: the Praenestine Fibula is an ancient brooch that was long believed to have the oldest Latin inscription, MANIOS MED FHEFHAKED NVMASIOI ('Manius made me for Numasius'). The word FHEFHAKED, representing the pronunciation fefaked, comes from pre-Latin *dhedhaked. The problem is that by regular sound change that should have become **fedaked. For this reason many scholars think the Fibula is a modern fake.

The double asterisk is also used to indicate reconstructions much deeper in time than the single asterisk. In practice the two notations don't interfere.

A single asterisk can also mark a merely unattested form such as the nominative singular of a word that's only known in the genitive in manuscripts.

2. In discussions of sentences, the asterisk in front means it's ungrammatical, that is the native speaker wouldn't actually say it unless there was something like a slip of the tongue. It's typically used for studying the grammar of related sentences:

Mary speaks French fluently.
* Mary speaks fluently French.
Mary speaks fluent French.
In addition to the asterisk, the question mark and the hash sign are used. The leading question mark indicates a sentence that's grammatically doubtful -- either one speaker can't decide whether or not they'd say it, or they would accept it but it doesn't sound as good as a fully grammatical sentence, or some speakers accept it but others don't. A stronger doubt is expressed by two question marks: this sentence sounds very strange, not positively ungrammatical perhaps, but almost certainly can't be said. A question mark and an asterisk together probably means the linguist writing it thinks it's ungrammatical but is open to the possibility that others will find it marginally acceptable. These markings of course are subjective, but they are used precisely in complicated cases where it's hard for even native speakers to tell whether they would or would not say something, and this is an interesting and fruitful intuition in itself.
? This is the movie Mary fell asleep during.
?? John is a person who I don't really like his paintings much.
The hash indicates a sentence that is grammatical but can't be used for pragmatic reasons, or is very unlikely to be used. The error is that it doesn't fit how we know the world works.
# The lamp-post collided with the car.
# It was rude of Mary to see John.
Brackets are used to indicate optional material.
I threw the vase out (of) the window.
Asterisks (and the other markings) are used with brackets as follows. Brackets mean something is optional, so the asterisk outside brackets means being optional is unacceptable: the material has to be present. On the other hand an asterisk inside brackets means omitting the material is acceptable but having it present is not. So
I took the toy out *(of) the box.
means you can't omit the 'of', and is shorthand for the pair
* I took the toy out the box.
I took the toy out of the box.
whereas conversely
I threw the vase out (*of).
means the included material is ungrammatical but omitting it is grammatical, and this is shorthand for
I threw the vase out.
* I threw the vase out of.

As"ter*isk (#), n. [L. asteriscus, Gr. , dim. of star. See Aster.]

The figure of a star, thus used in printing and writing as a reference to a passage or note in the margin, to supply the omission of letters or words, or to mark a word or phrase as having a special character.


© Webster 1913.

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