The surprising truth about the ampersand symbol

(Image credit: Getty)

It's a symbol you probably see every day, but it turns out the humble ampersand is more than just a pretty piece of typography. This weekend, we revisit the history of ampersand – and the time that designers had their minds blown by it last year.

For those not familiar with the technical word 'ampersand', it's this '&' symbol, commonly used as shorthand for 'and'. Designers had their minds blown earlier this year when the below tweet was shared, informing everyone of the true meaning of the ampersand. (If you'd like to try out the ampersand in a range of different fonts, check out the best free fonts around). Ready for the fact? Okay, here we go...

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Editor and author Sarah Pappalardo explained the secret behind the symbol with a tweet that has sparked astonishment in the Twitter world. She pointed out that the ampersand is a ligature (a combination of two or more graphemes tied together, if you're not in the know), for the word 'et'.   

Reactions on Twitter saw people sharing when they first found this out (those clever clogs are very much in the minority, though, we have to say).

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Other notable ligatures include those representing 'ae' and 'oe', but we reckon there are none so well-known and visible as the ampersand. Another interesting nugget is that the symbol used to come at the end of the alphabet, making it a character in its own right that children would recite up until the 1800s. You can find out even more in the below video. Who knew there was so much to discover about the curly 'and' symbol?

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Georgia Coggan

Georgia is lucky enough to be Creative Bloq's Editor. She has been working for Creative Bloq since 2018, starting out as a freelancer writing about all things branding, design, art, tech and creativity – as well as sniffing out genuinely good deals on creative technology. Since becoming Editor, she has been managing the site on a day-to-day basis, helping to shape the diverse content streams CB is known for and leading the team in their own creativity.