Like the obelisk, the asterisk is an ancient, multi-purpose typographical symbol used in science and literature. Its many uses include being a multiplication symbol, a reference mark for a footnote, a wildcard, a symbol denoting emphasis, a mask for keyed-in passwords, bullet points, or simply decoration.

Like the Christian cross or a Rorschach Inkblot Test, the asterisk means whatever we want it to mean.


Telephone keypad screen asterisk
Typically seen on a telephone keypad

PC keyboard asterisk
Typically seen on a PC keyboard

Display screen asterisk
'Courier' font typically seen on a PC screen

An asterisk, the typographical symbol also known as a 'star', commonly has five or six points, depending on the country and font.

The arms may be rectangular with straight edges, pattéed with straight or curved edges, or bulbous. (For the asterisk shown above on the left, the number of 'points', the arm shapes, and the vertical alignment, depend on the font used by your internet browser.)

Where there are six points, this is usually a St. Andrew's Cross with a vertical bar - similar to the Star of Life - and frequently seen on a PC keyboard. As a special-purpose key on a telephone keypad, the bar is usually horizontal.

The asterisk looks a bit like a snowflake, which mysteriously always has six points. Even more mysterious, is why in winter, when frost collects on your car's windows, the front and back windows have thicker frost than the side windows. And perhaps the deepest mystery in life, is why the asterisk on the PC keyboard differs from the asterisk on the telephone keypad.

See also:
Iota Chi Iota Chi
star-of-life Star of Life
baptismal Baptismal

The Rorschach Inkblot Test is used by psychologists to examine a person's personality characteristics and emotional functioning


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