July 19th, 2019

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Obelus

I never knew the division sign had a name of its own. Apparently the term also applies to more than one shape and they have various uses.

An obelus (symbol: ÷ or †, plural: obeluses or obeli) is a symbol consisting of a short horizontal line with a dot above and another dot below, and in other uses it is a symbol resembling a small dagger. In mathematics it is mainly used to represent the mathematical operation of division. It is therefore commonly called the division sign. In editing texts an obelus takes the form of a dagger mark (†) and is used as a reference mark, or to indicate that a person is dead, and often used to indicate a footnote.

The word "obelus" comes from ὀβελός, the Ancient Greek word for a sharpened stick, spit, or pointed pillar. This is the same root as that of the word "obelisk".