Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


A.Word.A.Day

About | Media | Search | Contact  


Home

Today's Word

Subscribe

Archives



Oct 5, 2021
This week’s theme
Words related to writing

This week’s words
chosisme
pilcrow
paremiography
dithyramb
obelus

pilcrow
Pilcrow signs in Villanova, Rudimenta Grammaticæ, published in 1500
Image: Wikimedia

Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share
A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

pilcrow

PRONUNCIATION:
(PIL-kroh)

MEANING:
noun: A symbol (¶) used to indicate paragraph breaks.

ETYMOLOGY:
Apparently an alteration of the word paragraph, with r changing into l and remodeled along the more familiar words pill and crow. Earliest documented use: 1440.

NOTES:
In the beginning, a piece of writing was one big amorphous chunk of text: no punctuation, no upper/lowercase, no spaces. Writing real estate was expensive, whether tablets, skins, or papyrus. With time punctuation marks entered the language. A pilcrow signified a change in topic, even though the text still flowed without any visual breaks.

Eventually, actual paragraph breaks were employed and the pilcrow sat at the beginning of the paragraph, often embellished in red color. When printing came along, the hand embellishment of the pilcrow disappeared though the space marked for it remained at the beginning of the paragraph as an indent.

The pilcrow took a well-earned retirement, though you can still find it if you know where to look in your word processor.

USAGE:
“I suggest adding a pilcrow for persons who read while driving.”
Vladimir Nabokov; Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle; McGraw-Hill; 1969.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Within one linear centimeter of your lower colon there lives and works more bacteria (about 100 billion) than all humans who have ever been born. Yet many people continue to assert that it is we who are in charge of the world. -Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and author (b. 5 Oct 1958)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere

Donate

Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2021 Wordsmith