Dagger (typography)
A dagger, or obelisk. (, †, U+
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

2020) is a typographical symbol or glyph
A glyph is an element of writing: an individual mark on a written medium that contributes to the meaning of what is written. A glyph is made up of one or more graphemes....

. The term "obelisk" derives from Greek (obeliskos), which means "little obelus"; from (obelos
An obelus is a symbol consisting of a short horizontal line with a dot above and below. It is mainly used to represent the mathematical operation of division. It is therefore commonly referred to as the division sign.- History :The word "obelus" comes from the Greek word for a sharpened stick,...

) meaning "roasting spit". It was originally represented by the ÷ symbol and was first used by the Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 scholars as critical marks in manuscripts.

A double dagger or diesis (, ‡, U+2021) is a variant with two handles. Neither should be confused with the Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

A crucifix is an independent image of Jesus on the cross with a representation of Jesus' body, referred to in English as the corpus , as distinct from a cross with no body....



The dagger symbol originated from a variant of the obelus
An obelus is a symbol consisting of a short horizontal line with a dot above and below. It is mainly used to represent the mathematical operation of division. It is therefore commonly referred to as the division sign.- History :The word "obelus" comes from the Greek word for a sharpened stick,...

 (plural: obeli), originally depicted by a plain line (-) or a line with one or two dots (÷). It represented an iron roasting spit, a dart, or the sharp end of a javelin
A Javelin is a light spear intended for throwing. It is commonly known from the modern athletic discipline, the Javelin throw.Javelin may also refer to:-Aviation:* ATG Javelin, an American-Israeli civil jet aircraft, under development...

, symbolizing the skewering or cutting out of dubious matter.

The obelus is believed to have been invented by the Homeric scholar
Homeric scholarship
Homeric scholarship is the study of Homeric epic, especially the two large surviving epics, the Iliad and Odyssey. It is currently part of the academic discipline of classical studies, but the subject is one of the very oldest topics in all scholarship or science, and goes back to antiquity...

Zenodotus was a Greek grammarian, literary critic, and Homeric scholar. A native of Ephesus and a pupil of Philitas of Cos, he was the first librarian of the Library of Alexandria...

 as one of a system of editorial symbols. They were used to mark questionable or corrupt words or passages in manuscripts of the Homeric epics
Homeric epics
In the field of classics, the term "Homeric epics" refers specifically to the Iliad and Odyssey, two epics attributed to the Ancient Greek poet Homer...

. The system was further refined by his student Aristophanes of Byzantium
Aristophanes of Byzantium
Aristophanes of Byzantium was a Greek scholar, critic and grammarian, particularly renowned for his work in Homeric scholarship, but also for work on other classical authors such as Pindar and Hesiod. Born in Byzantium about 257 BC, he soon moved to Alexandria and studied under Zenodotus,...

, who first introduced the asterisk
An asterisk is a typographical symbol or glyph. It is so called because it resembles a conventional image of a star. Computer scientists and mathematicians often pronounce it as star...

 and used a symbol resembling a T for an obelus; and finally by Aristophanes' student, in turn, Aristarchus
-People:* Aristarchus of Samos , Greek astronomer and mathematician* Aristarchus of Samothrace , Greek grammarian* Aristarchus of Tegea , Greek writer* Aristarchus of Thessalonica , Eastern saint...

, from whom they earned the name of 'Aristarchian symbols'.

While the asterisk (asteriscus) was used for corrective additions, the obelus was used for corrective deletions of invalid reconstructions. It was used when non-attested words are reconstructed for the sake of argument only, implying that the author did not believe such a word or word form had ever existed. Some scholars used the obelus and various other critical symbols, in conjunction with a second symbol known as the metobelos ("end of obelus"), variously represented as two vertically arranged dots, a γ-like symbol, a mallet-like symbol, or a diagonal slash (with or without one or two dots). They were used to indicate the end of a marked passage.

It was used much in the same way by later scholars to mark differences between various translations or versions of the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 and other manuscripts. The early Christian Alexandrian
Alexandrian is either:* an adjective referring to a place called Alexandria, as in Alexandrian text-type* a person from and/or inhabiting a city called Alexandria...

 scholar Origen
Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

 (c. 184 – 253 AD) used it as a method of indicating differences between different versions of the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 in his Hexapla
Hexapla is the term for an edition of the Bible in six versions. Especially it applies to the edition of the Old Testament compiled by Origen of Alexandria, which placed side by side:#Hebrew...

. Epiphanius of Salamis
Epiphanius of Salamis
Epiphanius of Salamis was bishop of Salamis at the end of the 4th century. He is considered a saint and a Church Father by both the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches. He gained a reputation as a strong defender of orthodoxy...

 (ca. 310–320 – 403) used both a horizontal slash or hook (with or without dots) and an upright and slightly slanting dagger to represent an obelus. St. Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

 (c. 347 – 420) used a simple horizontal slash for an obelus, but only for passages in the Old Testament. He describes the use of the asterisk and the dagger as: "an asterisk makes a light shine, the obelisk cuts and pierces."

Isidore of Seville
Isidore of Seville
Saint Isidore of Seville served as Archbishop of Seville for more than three decades and is considered, as the historian Montalembert put it in an oft-quoted phrase, "le dernier savant du monde ancien"...

 (c. 560 – 636 AD) described the use of the symbol as follows: "The obelus is appended to words or phrases uselessly repeated, or else where the passage involves a false reading, so that, like the arrow, it lays low the superfluous and makes the errors disappear... The obelus accompanied by points is used when we do not know whether a passage should be suppressed or not."

Medieval scribes used the symbols extensively for critical markings of manuscripts. In addition to this, the dagger was also used in notations in early Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, to indicate a minor intermediate pause in the chanting of Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

, equivalent to the quaver rest notation. It is also used to indicate a breath mark when reciting, along with the asterisk, it is thus frequently seen beside a comma
A comma is a type of punctuation mark . The word comes from the Greek komma , which means something cut off or a short clause.Comma may also refer to:* Comma , a type of interval in music theory...


In the 16th century, the printer and scholar Robert Estienne
Robert Estienne
Robert I Estienne , known as Robertus Stephanus in Latin and also referred to as Robert Stephens by 18th and 19th-century English writers, was a 16th century printer and classical scholar in Paris...

 (also known as Stephanus in Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and Stephens in English) used it to mark differences in the words or passages between different printed versions of the Greek New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

  (Textus Receptus
Textus Receptus
Textus Receptus is the name subsequently given to the succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament which constituted the translation base for the original German Luther Bible, the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale, the King James Version, and for most other...


The obelus was also occasionally used as a mathematical symbol for subtraction
In arithmetic, subtraction is one of the four basic binary operations; it is the inverse of addition, meaning that if we start with any number and add any number and then subtract the same number we added, we return to the number we started with...

. It was first used as a symbol for division
-Mathematics:*Division , the inverse of multiplication*Division , digital implementation of mathematical division*Division, in relational algebra-Science:*Cell division, the process in which biological cells multiply...

 by the Swiss mathematician Johann Rahn
Johann Rahn
Johann Rahn was a Swiss mathematician who is credited with the first use of the division symbol, ÷ and the therefore sign, ∴. The symbol is used in Teutsche Algebra, published in 1659.-References:...

 in his book Teutsche Algebra in 1659. This gave rise to the modern mathematical symbol ÷.

Due to the variations as to the different uses of the different forms of obeli, there is some controversy as to which symbols can actually be considered obeli. The lemniscus (÷) and its variant, the hypolemniscus, is sometimes considered to be different from other obeli. And obeli may have referred strictly only to the horizontal slash and the dagger symbols.

Modern usage

The dagger is usually used to indicate a footnote
A note is a string of text placed at the bottom of a page in a book or document or at the end of a text. The note can provide an author's comments on the main text or citations of a reference work in support of the text, or both...

, in the same way an asterisk is. However, the dagger is only used for a second footnote when an asterisk is already used. A third footnote employs the double dagger. Additional footnotes are somewhat inconsistent and represented by a variety of symbols, e.g., parallels (||) and the pilcrow
The pilcrow , also called the paragraph mark, paragraph sign, paraph, alinea , or blind P, is a typographical character commonly used to denote individual paragraphs...

 (¶), some of which were nonexistent in early modern typography
Typography is the art and technique of arranging type in order to make language visible. The arrangement of type involves the selection of typefaces, point size, line length, leading , adjusting the spaces between groups of letters and adjusting the space between pairs of letters...

. Partly because of this, superscript numeral
Numeral system
A numeral system is a writing system for expressing numbers, that is a mathematical notation for representing numbers of a given set, using graphemes or symbols in a consistent manner....

s have increasingly been used in modern literature in the place of these symbols, especially when several footnotes are required. Some texts use asterisks and daggers alongside superscripts, using the former for per-page footnotes and the latter for endnote
EndNote is a commercial reference management software package, used to manage bibliographies and references when writing essays and articles. It is produced by Thomson Reuters.- Features :...


The dagger is also used to indicate death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

, extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

, or obsolescence
Obsolescence is the state of being which occurs when an object, service or practice is no longer wanted even though it may still be in good working order. Obsolescence frequently occurs because a replacement has become available that is superior in one or more aspects. Obsolete refers to something...

. The asterisk and the dagger, when placed beside years, are used to indicate year of birth and year of death respectively. When placed immediately before or after a person's name, it indicates that the person is deceased. In this usage, it is referred to as the "death dagger". In the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

, the dagger symbol is used to indicate an obsolete word.

The dagger should not be confused with the character "box drawings light vertical and horizontal
Box drawing characters
Box drawing characters, also known as line drawing characters, or pseudographics, are widely used in text user interfaces to draw various frames and boxes...

" (┼, U+253C). The double dagger should not be confused with the alveolar click (ǂ, U+01C2), the Cross of Lorraine
Cross of Lorraine
The Cross of Lorraine is originally a heraldic cross. The two-barred cross consists of a vertical line crossed by two smaller horizontal bars. In the ancient version, both bars were of the same length. In 20th century use it is "graded" with the upper bar being the shortest...

 (☨, U+2628), or the patriarchal cross
Patriarchal cross
The Patriarchal cross is a variant of the Christian cross, the religious symbol of Christianity. Similar to the familiar Latin cross, the Patriarchal cross possesses a smaller crossbar placed above the main one, so that both crossbars are near the top. Sometimes the patriarchal cross has a short,...

  • In mathematics
    Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

     and, more often, physics
    Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

    , a dagger is used to denote the Hermitian adjoint
    Hermitian adjoint
    In mathematics, specifically in functional analysis, each linear operator on a Hilbert space has a corresponding adjoint operator.Adjoints of operators generalize conjugate transposes of square matrices to infinite-dimensional situations...

     of an operator; for example, A denotes the adjoint of A. This notation is sometimes replaced with an asterisk, especially in Mathematics. An operator is said to be Hermitian if A = A.
  • In textual criticism
    Textual criticism
    Textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts...

     and in some editions of works written before the invention of printing, daggers are used to enclose text that is believed not to be original.
  • In biology
    Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

    , the dagger next to a taxon name indicates that the taxon
    |thumb|270px|[[African elephants]] form a widely-accepted taxon, the [[genus]] LoxodontaA taxon is a group of organisms, which a taxonomist adjudges to be a unit. Usually a taxon is given a name and a rank, although neither is a requirement...

     is extinct.
  • In chess notation
    Chess notation
    Chess notation is the term for several systems that have developed to record either the moves made during a game of chess or the position of the pieces on a chess board. The earliest systems of notation used lengthy narratives to describe each move; these gradually evolved into terser systems of...

    , the dagger may be suffixed to a move to signify the move resulted in a check, and a double dagger is used to denote checkmate. This is a stylistic variation on the more common '+' (plus sign) for a check and '#' (octothorpe) for checkmate.
  • In chemistry
    Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

    , the double dagger is used in chemical kinetics to indicate a transition state
    Transition state
    The transition state of a chemical reaction is a particular configuration along the reaction coordinate. It is defined as the state corresponding to the highest energy along this reaction coordinate. At this point, assuming a perfectly irreversible reaction, colliding reactant molecules will always...

  • In psychological statistics the dagger is used to indicate that a difference between two figures isn't significant to a p<0.05 level, however is still considered a "trend" or worthy of note. Commonly this will be used for a p-value between 0.1 and 0.05.
  • On a cricket
    Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

     scorecard or team list, the dagger indicates the team's wicket-keeper
    The wicket-keeper in the sport of cricket is the player on the fielding side who stands behind the wicket or stumps being guarded by the batsman currently on strike...

  • In military history
    Military history
    Military history is a humanities discipline within the scope of general historical recording of armed conflict in the history of humanity, and its impact on the societies, their cultures, economies and changing intra and international relationships....

    , a dagger is often placed next to the name of a commander who is killed in action
    Killed in action
    Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

  • The asteroid 37 Fides
    37 Fides
    37 Fides is a large main-belt asteroid.It was discovered by R. Luther on October 5, 1855, and named after Fides, the Roman goddess of loyalty.-References:...

    , the last asteroid to be assigned an astronomical symbol
    Astronomical symbols
    Astronomical symbols are symbols used to represent various celestial objects, theoretical constructs and observational events in astronomy. The earliest forms of these symbols appear in Greek papyri of late antiquity. The Byzantine codices in which the Greek papyri were preserved continued and...

     before the practice faded, was assigned the dagger.
  • In philology
    Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin...

    , the dagger indicates an obsolete form of a word or phrase.

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