National Ampersand Day is celebrated on September 8 each year to honor ‘&,’ a Latin character and a logogram that depicts the conjunction ‘AND.’ The ampersand has been in use since the first century A.D. Although most people don’t give much thought to this symbol, it has a long and illustrious history. Even if you don’t consider yourself a language nerd, we think it’s the perfect day to celebrate.
History of National Ampersand Day
The ampersand’s origins can be traced back to the Latin word ‘et,’ which means ‘and.’ The letters ‘E’ and ‘T’ in this word were occasionally put together to form a ligature (a character consisting of two or more joined letters). The writer saved time by writing the word in this manner, with one letter flowing seamlessly into the next — a type of cursive or joined-up writing.
It is impossible to say when this symbol was initially written down, although an early example has been discovered as graffiti on a wall in Pompeii, preserved by the Vesuvius eruption in 79 A.D. Tracing the evolution of symbols across time might be challenging, but with the ampersand, the job has already been done for us by Jan Tschichold, a typographer born in Leipzig in 1902. Tschichold dedicated an entire study to the evolution of the ampersand in his 1953 monograph ‘The Ampersand: its genesis and development,’ in which he collected hundreds of examples of the sign throughout history, charting its evolution from ancient graffiti to the familiar ‘&’ used today. There are examples from the 8th century in this collection that are immediately recognized as the modern ampersand.
The name ‘ampersand’ is shockingly modern for such an ancient symbol. It is derived from an alteration of ‘and per se and,’ meaning ‘and (i.e. ‘&’) by itself creates the word and,’ which was once repeated by schoolchildren to aid in learning the sign.
In 2015, Chaz DeSimone, an author, designer, and typographer, established National Ampersand Day. His AmperArt initiative considers the ampersand to be an art form. He established this day to celebrate the ampersand sign, which he uses as a fun art project.
National Ampersand Day timeline
Marcus Tullius Tiro adds the words “and, per se, and” at the end of his alphabet recitation, as well as a shorthand symbol to represent it.
The ampersand first appears as a character at the end of the Latin alphabet, as in Byrhtferð's letter list.
Printers in Europe make extensive use of both italic and Roman ampersands after the invention of the printing press.
The ampersand is described as “a sign interchangeable with the conjunction ‘and’” in the “Concise Manual On Typography.”
National Ampersand Day FAQs
Why is ampersand called ‘ampersand’?
Etymology. The name ampersand is a perversion of ‘and (&) per se and,’ which literally means ‘and (i.e. ‘&’) by itself creates the word and.’ The symbol ‘&’ is formed from the ligature of the Latin word for ‘and,’ ‘ET’ or ‘et.’
When should ampersands be used?
The ampersand could be used to indicate that the ‘and’ in a listed item is part of the item’s name rather than a separator (for example, “Rock, pop, rhythm & blues, and hip hop”). And in names that are abbreviations of themselves, such as ‘AT&T’ or ‘A&W.’
Does an ampersand count as a word?
Of course, an ampersand is a word (look at it in all its wordy grandeur), but ‘&’ is a symbol.
National Ampersand Day Activities
Research and teach others online
You can begin by looking for a book that features an ampersand as the 27th character and sharing it on social media so that others can learn more about the symbol's history and evolution. Use the hashtag #AmpersandUses to share your ampersand uses.
Explore more ways of writing ampersand
Celebrate National Ampersand Day by learning more about the logogram and typographical symbol, ‘&.’ And from what you learn, try to write an ampersand in as many ways as you can.
Use a lot of ampersands in your writing!
If you want to celebrate this holiday, make sure to use ampersands in everything you write, or create logos with a flamboyantly designed ampersand.
5 Facts You Don’t Know About The Ampersand
Created by a slave
A few credit Marcus Tullius Tiro, slave and assistant to Cicero, a Roman lawyer, author, and orator, with developing the ampersand — he is also credited with creating the first Latin shorthand system, which lasted over 1,000 years.
Used to raise money for earthquake victims
Font Aid was established in 1999 to generate cash for disaster relief victims — during a Font Aid event, designers collaborate to produce and sell a glyph with ampersand inclusiveness.
Once a letter of the English alphabet
The letter ‘Z’ was not always the final letter in the English alphabet but, instead, the ampersand — it's unclear when it was removed from the alphabet.
It’s a logogram
While the ampersand is commonly used in place of the word ‘and’ (which is a conjunction), it is actually a logogram, which is a character that symbolizes a regularly used word or phrase in shorthand.
Among the most commonly used special characters passwords
The ampersand is really a common symbol for passwords — it was ranked ninth place in terms of the most often used special character in a password.
Why We Love National Ampersand Day
The most beautiful character
The ampersand is without a doubt the most beautiful character in the English language. The single character can be seen in a variety of outfits, ranging from the simple E- to T-style representations that are just so pleasing to the eyes.
Ampersands have a wide range of usage
Ampersands serve a variety of functions. Titles and business names are two common examples (especially in the areas of architecture, consulting, engineering, and law).
Used for shorthand
When space is limited, the ampersand can be used as a shorthand symbol. If you're writing on a little piece of paper or working inside tables or spreadsheets, using the ampersand instead of ‘and’ is tolerated grammatically.
National Ampersand Day dates