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15 names of the @ (at-symbol) in different languages

Various names of the @ symbol in different languages

Contrary to what some people think, the @ symbol isn’t a product of the digital age. And it certainly wasn’t invented by Ray Tomlinson, the inventor of email! The @ sign is actually very old. Tomlinson, however, made it popular by including it in the format of the email address.

The emergence of the symbol in language isn’t very clear and has been lost in time. After being incorporated in the email address and, thus, becoming popular, interest in finding the origins have revealed that the symbol has been in use for hundreds of years. Come to think of it, Ray Tomlinson actually saved the @ sign from extinction!

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For centuries, businessmen in English speaking countries have employed the symbol to indicate “cost per unit”, as in “50 apples @ $10”, and that’s why it’s called “at”. But for other languages, the symbol was foreign and had to be assimilated because of its modern day usage in the email address. And people around the world have come up with interesting names for it.

Most names are based on the shape of the symbol – it looks like alphabet a’s tail has rolled up on itself, right? And obviously, we humans will bring in animal references. Here are some weird, creative and downright funny names of the “at” symbol from popular languages around the world.

Czech and Slovak

It’s called zavinac which means “rollmops” – pickled herring fillets rolled over pickled gherkins or green olives.

Rollmops - pickled herring

Image Source: By Ra Boe – selbst fotografiert DigiCam C2100UZ, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Danish

Informal names are “elephant’s trunk” (snabel) or “pig’s tail” (grisehale).

Dutch

One of the names is “little monkey’s testicle” (apeklootje).

Finnish

Somehow the Finns have linked the symbol with cats – miau, miuku, miau merkki, kissanhnta (“cat’s tail”). They also call it “a monkey’s tail” (apinanhanta) and “mouse’s tail” (hiirenhanta).

French

The French call it arobase and, sometimes, escargot, since according to them, the symbol looks like the shell of a snail.

German

Trust the German’s to come up with longest words! The at-sign is Affenschwanz (monkey’s tail) in German.

Hebrew

Since the sign resembles something that is rolled up, it’s shablool (“snail”) or strudel (“strudel”).

Hungarian

They call it kukac which means “a small worm”.

Indonesian

Indonesian speakers keep it simple. It’s called the “uh” sign in the language.

Korean

It looks like a snail to them and that’s what they call it, dalphaengi.

Italian

The Italians too think of it as a snail chiocciola.

Snail on a leaf

Polish

Malpa (monkey) is what they call it in Polish.

Swedish

The elephant is carrying the alphabet ‘a’. In Swedish it’s snabel-a which means “a with a elephant’s trunk”.

Turkish

It’s called kulak (ear). Some even call it ohr which is “ear” in German.

Elephant with curled trunk

What do you call it in your language? Let us know.

End Notes: Ray Tomlinson, the inventor of email, didn’t create the @ sign. It was already on the 33 Teletype keyboard he used. The symbol was located on the letter ‘P’ and had to be accessed with the shift key.

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