At Sign

Rules and Examples

at signThe at sign is most commonly used in email addresses and on Facebook and Twitter.

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The at sign looks like a lowercase letter "a" surrounded by an open circle ( @ ).

The at sign does not have a universal name.

Some common names for the at sign in the English language are:
  • at sign
  • commercial at
  • commercial a
  • apetail
  • at
  • about

Many languages have nicknames for the symbol based on its shape.

Nickname Meaning Language of Origin
aapstert monkey's tail Afrikaans
snabel elephant's trunk Danish
kissanhnta cat's tail Finnish
affenschwanz monkey's tail German
dalphaengi snail Korean

Writing @

We make the at sign ( @ ) on most keyboards by holding the SHIFT key and pressing the 2 on the top number line.

To draw the at sign by hand, write a lowercase "a" and continue the line from the tail of the "a " all the way around. Do not close the circle at the bottom.
at symbol


The at sign comes from the Latin word "ad" which means "at."

The symbol ( @ ) may have developed from writing the word "ad" in cursive.

Rules for using the at sign

1.  Use the at sign in email (electronic mail) addresses

Beginning in 1971, the at sign became a popular symbol because of its use in email addresses.

In email addresses, the at sign means "located at."




    man on computer

2. The at sign is used on Twitter and other sites to reply to someone

  • @SamJones

  • @SallySmith

  • @BillDoe

3. The at sign is used on Facebook to "tag" someone in a post

When you "tag" someone in your Facebook post, their name is connected to your post and the post will appear on their Facebook page as well as yours.


We had a great time tonight with @RichardJohnson and @LisaScott!

The at signs will not appear in the final post. The final post will look like:

We had a great time tonight with Richard Johnson and Lisa Scott!

Other Facebook users will see the post on the original poster's page and the "tagged" friends' pages.
man at computer

4. @ = at the rate of

Historically, the at sign was used in accounting to mean "at the rate of." Grocery stores, gas stations and other businesses use the at sign to represent cost per unit.

We still use the at sign in this way, but it is now most commonly associated with the internet.

Examples:grocery shopping
  • Eggs @ $3.50/dozen

    Purchase eggs at the rate of $3.50 per dozen

  • 25 gallons @ $2.99/gallon

    25 gallons of gas at the rate of $2.99 per gallon

  • 5 hours @ $13.00 an hour

    5 hours at the rate of $13.00 per hour

These were the uses of the at sign. Now that you know them, it is time to practice! Read and do exercises.

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