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March 16, 2022

Obelus /ˈäbələs/ noun

Definition: In ancient times, the Greeks used the word obelus as a noun. Back then, it described two specific two symbols that were used in ancient texts to show a question about a written passage. We know one symbol as a short horizontal line or dash. 

The second symbol has a horizontal line with a distinction. There is a dot above and below the dash used to depict the obelus. We commonly know this symbol as the division symbol used in the American mathematics system.

Etymology: The first recorded use of the word was in Middle English, Late Latin, and Greek around the 14th century. Middle English and Late Latin speakers originally derived obelus from the Greek language as obeló and odelós. They use the word to depict a symbol to mark passages in books believed to be spurious.

In a Sentence

The obelus is one of the first mathematical symbols we learned in algebra.

Add an obelus to the end of a written passage to show the writer you have questions.

In writing, we use an obelus between two words to create a hyphenated word.


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