Introduction:

If you work in any type of information technology (designer/developer/support etc...) you will have to understand how to write or read some type of computer code. In computer code, a lot of different signs and symbols are used. For example, ' ? ' or ' . ' .People are so used to only having to write these code signs/symbols that they don't actually know what the names of many of these signs/symbols are. For example ' ? ' is called a 'question mark' and ' . ' is called a 'point' or 'dot' with numbers and 'full stop/period' with words. Not knowing these names can be a problem if you are speaking to somebody about computer code.

In this online exercise on code signs/symbols, we will look at what the English names are for these computer code signs/symbols. Where a symbol/sign is called more than one name, we will use in this exercise the most commonly used name and give their other names in the 'extra info' section in the quiz below.

Click here to go to the second part of this exercise on 'Computer code sign/symbol names'


Exercise: Code sign/symbol names

In the following conversation between two work colleagues, Juan asks Peter what the names are of different signs and symbols used in computer code. The names of the signs and symbols are in bold.

Focus on the names of these different signs and symbols and then do the quiz at the end to check that you both understand their meaning and remember them.

Juan:'Do you know what one of the biggest problems is with computer code?'

Peter:'No, what?'

Juan:'I can never remember the names in English of some of the signs or symbols that are used in computer code. It's not a problem when writing the symbol, but you sound stupid when you have to write or type the symbol when talking to someone, because you don't know its name. For example, what do you call this symbol ' - '? Is it called a dash?'

Peter:Yes, the ' - ' is commonly called a dash in computer code, but it is also called a hyphen when writing in both English and in computer code. And you call this symbol ' _ ', an underscore.

Juan:I knew that. What's the name for the little star symbol?

Peter:Do you mean ' * ' this?

Juan:Yes.

Peter:' * ' is called an asterisk.

Juan:And the ' @ ' symbol which you use in email addresses?

Peter:The ' @ ' symbol is called an at sign.

Juan:Another symbol I have seen, is this ' / '.

Peter:The ' / ' symbol is called forward slash, because its top part is leaning forward.

Juan:So I suppose the ' \ ' symbol is called backslash because the top part is leaning back?

Peter:That's right. It's called backslash.

Juan:And what do you call this symbol ' # '?

Peter:It has many names, it's often called the pound sign in America, but everywhere else, ' # ' is called hash.

Juan:And the ' ( ' and ' ) ' symbols?

Peter:They are called parentheses, although they are sometimes called brackets (but not in America). The ' ( ' symbol is normally called open parenthesis and the ' ) ' symbol, close parenthesis.

Juan:I am confused. I thought that the brackets symbols were ' [ ' and ' ] '?

Peter:They are type of brackets, and although they are sometimes called brackets in America, the ' [ ' and ' ] ' symbols are normally called square brackets. There are another two types of brackets that are used. ' < ' and ' > ' are called angle brackets and ' { ' and ' } ' are normally called curly brackets. With all types of brackets, the first bracket is called 'open' and the second bracket is called 'close'. So, for example, ' < ' is called 'open angle bracket' and ' ] ' is called 'close square bracket'. Does that make sense?

Juan:I think so.



Quiz: Computer code sign & symbol names part 1

Below you will find the names (which are in bold) of each of the above signs & symbols which we have looked at in the above text. Now choose the sign/symbol from the question's selection box which you believe is the correct sign/symbol for the name. Only use one sign/symbol once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. The sign/symbol that is called a Forward Slash, is    
         

Forward slash:
(sign/symbol) The ' / ' sign/symbol is also called a 'slash'. But because there is also a sign/symbol like this ' \ ', to stop confusion it is more common to call ' / ' a 'forward slash' and ' \ ' a 'backslash'. In Spanish: "barra".

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Forward slash:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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2. The signs/symbols that are called Curly Brackets, are        
         

Curly brackets:
(sign/symbol) The ' { } ' signs/symbols are also called 'curly braces' or just 'braces'. When you want to say which of the two 'curly brackets' you want somebody to use you say 'open curly bracket' for ' { ' and 'close curly bracket' for ' } '. In Spanish: "llaves".

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Curly brackets:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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3. The sign/symbol that is called an Asterisk, is       
         

Asterisk:
(sign/symbol) The ' * ' sign/symbol is sometimes called a 'splat' or 'star'. But neither of these names are commonly used. In Spanish: "asterisco".

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Asterisk:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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4. The sign/symbol that is called a Hash, is    
         

Hash:
(sign/symbol) The ' # ' sign/symbol is also called the 'pound sign' in America, but because it is easy to confuse this name with the name and symbol for British currency (which is called the 'pound'), most people in the world just call it 'hash'. It is also called the 'number sign', but not in computer code. In Spanish: "almohadilla/numeral".

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Hash:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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5. The signs/symbols that are called Square Brackets, are    
         

Square brackets:
(sign/symbol) The ' [ ] ' signs/symbols are also just called 'brackets'. But because there are also other types of brackets (e.g. curly brackets ' { } ' etc...), to stop confusion it is better to call ' [ ] ' by the name 'square brackets'. When you want to say which of the two 'square brackets' you want somebody to use you say 'open square bracket' for ' [ ' and 'close square bracket' for ' ] '. In Spanish: "corchetes / paréntesis cuadrados".

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Square brackets:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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6. The sign/symbol that is called an Underscore, is    
         

Underscore:
(sign/symbol) The ' _ ' sign/symbol is sometimes called an 'understrike' or 'underdash'. But neither of these names are commonly used. In Spanish: "guion bajo / barra baja".

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Underscore:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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7. The sign/symbol that is called a Dash, is    
         

Dash:
(sign/symbol) In English the ' - ' sign/symbol has many different names. With computer code it normally called a 'dash'. But it is also called in computer code by some people 'hyphen'. Normally, 'hyphen' is used when writing English, where you want to connect to words together (e.g. 'co-worker' or 'face-to-face' etc...). This sign/symbol has a different name when used in mathematical calculations, 'minus' (e.g. '10 - 6 = 4'). In Spanish: "raya / guion largo".

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Dash:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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8. The signs/symbols that are called Parentheses, are    
         

Parentheses:
(sign/symbol) The singular noun for one 'parentheses' (e.g. ' ( ' or ' ) ' ) is 'parenthesis'. When you want to say which of the two 'parentheses' you want somebody to use you say 'open parenthesis' for ' ( ' and 'close parenthesis' for ' ) '. Some people also call these signs/symbols 'brackets'. In Spanish: "paréntesis".

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Parentheses:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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9. The sign/symbol that is called an At Sign, is    
         

At sign:
(sign/symbol) The ' @ ' sign/symbol is called either the 'at sign' or just 'at' (especially when you are telling somebody an email address). When speaking to people about computer code (not email addresses), it is better to use 'at sign'. In Spanish: "arroba".

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At sign:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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10. The signs/symbols that are called Angle Brackets, are    
         

Angle brackets:
(sign/symbol) When you want to say which of the two 'angle brackets' (' < > ') you want somebody to use you say 'open angle bracket' for ' <' and 'close angle bracket' for ' > '. These signs/symbols have different names when used in mathematical calculations/equations. ' < ' is called 'less than' and ' > ' is called 'more than', (e.g. 'i < contact.length'). In Spanish: "paréntesis angulares".

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Angle brackets:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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11. The sign/symbol that is called a Backslash, is    
         

Backslash:
(sign/symbol) The ' \ ' sign/symbol is always called 'backslash' (because the top part leans/points backwards). When the top part of this type of sign/symbol leans/points forwards, like this ' / ', it is called a 'forward slash' or 'slash'. In Spanish: "barra invertida/inversa".

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Backslash:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.