The slash (/)—sometimes called a slant, a solidus, a stroke, or a virgule—is a commonly employed symbol in the English language. Whatever you want to call this piece of punctuation, its role in English has greatly changed over time.
The word slash first entered English in the late 14th century as a verb to describe the cutting movement of a weapon, a word derived from the Middle French esclachier, meaning “to break.” The noun form of slash came into the language in the 1500s, but it was not until much later (the 1960s) that the term “slash” was used to represent the (/) symbol we know and love today.
Compare this with “virgule,” which entered English in the 1830s from the French word for “comma.” In medieval manuscripts, a virgule or slash was often used in place of today’s comma. Chaucer notably used virgules to represent caesuras in his Middle English manuscripts. We still have traces of this usage in modern written English; line breaks in poetry and songs are denoted by the slash, often with a space on either side. (Learn more about the comma here.)
Slashes are commonly used to signify alternatives as in “and/or” and “his/her,” and they can also appear in place of the word “and,” as in “She’s a writer/producer/actor.” Slashes are used in abbreviations like “a/c” (account current, air conditioning), ”w/o” (without), “w/r/t” (with respect/regard to), and “c/o” (care of, cash order, certificate of origin), and they’re also used in place of the word “per” in phrases like “50 miles/hour.” Additionally, slashes separate numbers in written English as in dates and fractions.
Further uses of the slash have developed relatively recently in the technological sphere. Every URL for every website you visit contains what we call slashes or forward slashes (/), not to be confused backslashes (\), which point in the opposite direction and are primarily used in programming languages. In fact, to distinguish the old slash (/) from the newer technical backslash (\), the term “forward slash” entered English in the 1980s as a retronym, much in the same way that “snail mail” became a term for what was once just called “mail.”
An interesting aspect of this popular symbol is its ability to be verbalized in various ways depending on the context. You can be in a “love/hate” relationship (slash not pronounced), or you can “love-slash-hate” someone (slash pronounced). In the UK you might call this same predicament a “love-stroke-hate” situation. Some English-language writers have fun with the slash, directing their readers to say it aloud by typing out the word “slash” or “stroke” where the symbol (/) would logically belong.
Like many typographic symbols, the slash has found its very own special place in pop culture. Around the mid-1980s when computers started becoming prevalent, the term “slash fiction” emerged in English. Slash fiction is a type of fan fiction, usually appearing on online forums, that pairs two same-sex characters together in a romantic relationship. This genre got its name because oftentimes the characters featured in this sort of fan fiction are separated by a (/) symbol in the title or description of the story. Pride and Prejudice fans out there—if you click on a “Bingley/Darcy” link in a Jane Austen forum, be prepared for what you are about to read.
How do you use the slash? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.
excellent facts about slash …nice guys
[...] ‘SLASH’ forward and/or backward or playing in a RockNRoll Band — Different Strokes for different folks — Retronym or some other brand. — And How do you KNOW someone’s comments? — Is it Biblical or otherwise Bland? –>>L.T.Rhyme This entry was posted in DICTCOMHOTWORD, L.T.Rhyme and tagged LT, LTRhyme, the HOT WORD on March 7, 2013 by LTRhyme. [...]
SLASH useage is well understand good job
Wonderful article on the virgule (my name for this fascinating punctuation mark from here on out).
And since the advent of MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System), there arrived the Back Slash, which begat the Forward Slash (the subject of this fine article), a new name given only to not confuse the two. Wonderful.
This confusion of usages of good English words can have disastrous effects. There’s a whole world of difference between “He’s having a slash” and “He’s having a stroke.”
You have to call the ambulance to the correct one – it’s a life/death decision.
It is also used for division when typing out a mathematical equation (“10/5=2″). How long has that been the case?
Unlike other abbreviation methods, slashes actually simplify life. Seldom do they add any confusion.
This might be interesting to some of you!
In Arabic, the slash is not really integrated in the written language. But we do use it to indicate that a sentence is repeated as above. E.x:
A: السلام عليكم
A: How are you?
B: Good, and //
It’s used a lot in drafting for reports where the status of a field in a table is repeated. Instead of repeating the whole word just put a (//).
It’s used by teachers on the board when giving a lecture. Students will copy the board, writing the actual sentence in place of the (//). Because their notes are more important than the text on the board.
Backslash is too technical for my new pen name. LOL, solidus must be more solid than virgule which you-stroke-I must confuse to a comma w/c is its French origin. I was using this often in or/and for my checks. Very helpful when you forget/lost your I.D. I’m a slalsh fan forever. He he he.
Very informative and useful especially for non-native speakers like I am.
Thanks a lot.
The slash is also used in math, representing division.
It is related to your miles per gallon or miles/gallon example. The way you determine miles per gallon is divide gallons into miles. For example, if you used 5 gallons to go 100 miles that would 20 miles per gallon or:
100 miles/5 gallons = 20 miles/gallon.
Piece of cake.
The slash is also used in math to represent division.
In your example miles per gallon, you determine miles/gallon by dividing gallons into miles. For example, if you go 100 miles and used 5 gallons; 5 is divided into 100 to determine 20 miles per gallon.
100 miles/5 gallons = 20 miles/gallon.
piece of cake.
It’s also called an oblique
Love it as always.
I recall in the dim and distant past being introduced to Latin poetry and having to put a caesura to break the line of a poem into two parts. We used a double slash to denote the caesura.
This may require some investigation. In films and media the slash is used as an device in the depictions of morse code where the operator on the receiving end would after receiving each letter would then split the message into words. Was it called a slash then?
Great explanation, guys. I wonder if I could see similar take-off on the dash (-)?
I always thought the virgule was the same as the “backslash” versus the slash.
Or as in …. Axl, Izzy, Duff, Steve and /
I use it to denote that I or one of my cohorts have bowled a spare! Also, I use it to symbolize that mathematical division needs to occur; it can be directly translated to: ‘divided by’, or ‘per’.
Also, the slash is 1/2 of an ‘X’.
I can’t take it anymore, so I am slashing my wri/sts.
Well done! Keep up the great/excellent work!!
It is also used in command line operations in UNIX and Linux operating systems to signify directories. cd / will take you to the root directory. A typical file may be located in /usr/bin/drinking/
Now ‘Slash fiction’ is getting replaced with two new terms on teenage fanfiction sites – Yoai/Yuri. Yoai is for gay male fanfics and Yuri is lesbian fiction. The terms come from Japan as it’s a genre of book over there.
I had no idea its called a “virgule”! Great facts on the versatile “/”.
Afnan Linjawi on March 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm
Mr Afnan, what you are referring to is called a “ditto” sign represented by inverted commas – like ” but placed slightly in the middle of the writing sentence.
I have often thought that virgule is composed of two Latin words that can be translated as a man’s staff, as in walking stick. A “/” looks like one. Additionally, the wizard Gandolph might come from the Old English verb gangan, to walk or wander, and –dolph meaning something like walking staff. So Gandolph is the wizard who wanders Middle Earth aided by the use of his rod.
I don’t remember when I started using the /, or why I started putting W/, to shorten the word with. I think it must have been something I learned in English class. If I am wrong for using the W/ to shorten the word, please let me know and I will quit using it that way. I use it so I can put more letters with another word when I need the extra space for another word. If I am correct in using W/ to shorten the word, could you tell me if, or where I could have gotten it, could it have been while I was taking English classes.
Perfect! Just loved it, Hot Word!
Afnan (comment on on March 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm),
Interesting comment on the uses of slashes for “duplicating” content! I am a native Spanish speaker and we do use the same technique… But using the “ditto mark” (similar to slash, but not quite) or simply double quotes (as in “) for the same purpose.
Are you sure it is slashes you use in arabic? I ask because I know how influential arab culture has been on Spain and vice versa… Are we indeed using different characters for the same purpose? Check the Ditto Mark and its uses here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ditto_mark
guns/roses is nothing w/o the /
Enjoyed the article AND the comments. Would greatly appreciate same treatment of hyphen/dash.
Around the mid-1980s when computers started becoming prevalent, the term “slash fiction” emerged in English. Slash fiction is a type of fan fiction, usually appearing on online forums, that pairs two same-sex characters together in a romantic relationship.
Not quite. The term “slash-fiction” has been around (and popular among fan fiction writers/readers) since at least the seventies: http://fanlore.org/wiki/Slash. And began spreading via the word of photocopied fan-produced ‘zines, well before computers had become the most common medium for sharing fan fiction.
I like this article, and by the way, interesting fact Afnan Linjawi.
@ Scarlet R
It’s Yaoi, not Yoai. It’s an acronym for ‘Yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi’ (No peak/climax, no punch line, no meaning). The term slash for fanfic is still predominately used for Western products, while fans of Japanese culture are more predisposed to use Yaoi. These terms are actually very complex, and ‘Yaoi’ isn’t as commonly used in Japan as people may think. Also, for fanfic, if you use Yaoi or Yuri, it implies that there is explicit sexual content, not just that a gay romance is taking place.
This was an interesting article about the slash for me. I learned a lot of information I had no idea about before. Thank you dictionary.com!
How about slash movies? They’re also referred to as “slasher” movies, but are accepted as “slash flicks” as well.
I too wonder if I am using the w/ correctly to mean “with.” I would appreciate it if anyone knows if this is correct usage. Great stuff!
Bholland: You said slashes seldom do they add any confusion. I feel exactly the opposite. Too often, the relationship hinted at in the slash is unclear. I typically see people use the slash at work when they’re not sure what the relationship is themselves, and they hide behind a vague slash. Or it’s just lazy, unclear writing. Examples:
“You should remove/delete that record.” (Which one?)
“Look up the patient with his name/ID.” (Does that mean pick one or use both?)
“If a truck arrives with dirt/gravel, make sure the driver weighs/registers.” (So if he has dirt OR gravel, make sure he weighs AND registers?)
Parker: The guy’s name is “Gandalf.” And the name is originally Norse. Tolkien pulled it from the Catalogue of Dwarves (in the Völuspá). Cheers!
Oops. Sloppy paraphrasing to Bholland. I should have written “You said slashes seldom add any confusion.”
Great!!! learned alot, I have wonder about this, now I have new ways of using it and it is right before i did not know for sure.
I have to point out how awful it is that the slash is used to mean “and” a lot these days. E.g. it should be “actor-director”, not “actor/director”, because the person is both, not just one or the other. If you want to indicate “and” with one character, there’s the ampersand: &.
I agree with Ol’ Jas. Things like “Nip/Tuck” use the slash for absolutely no purpose. Pronouncing the slash or not, it sounds ridiculous.
Webranger, slash vs. stroke was brilliant.
—The word slash first entered English in the late 14th century as a verb to describe the cutting movement of a weapon, a word derived from the Middle French esclachier, meaning “to break.” —
Maybe … that isn’t a known. The Oxford Dict. Online says “perhaps”:
The word slash first entered English in the late 14th century as a verb to describe the cutting movement of a weapon, a word derived from the Middle French esclachier, meaning “to break.”
we don’t need you to tell us how to use a slash; we can use it anyway we want to as long as the intended audience or whoever will read your message or etc, will be able to derive the meaning. people are in charge of connotation, not you or some centralized entity.
I use the slash quite often when I’m writing notes w/a pen and paper. Writing w/o a slash would really slow me down.
/ is just : ‘ I (when) s/oshed ‘.
Or, plain : ‘ /azy ‘ !
b f o / ( that’s : bent fwd /aughing ! )
Anshuman Vora . Mumbai .
( Not inc/ined, hence re/axing… )
nice i like it and thank u…
It adds new petal to my blossom of knowledge.
And We also it in mathematics for division sign; in writing phonetic symbols.
Thank you guys.
It is also used along with hyphen ( /- ) to denote ‘by order’ at the end of notice. It is also used to delimit the digits when the amout in rupees is mentioned e.g. Rs.50/-
b/w = between. This has been an ongoing argument at my place of work, but I feel strongly that it’s correct, quick & useful.
This has, of course, led to the wonderful labelling of a singer/dancer/actor as a “Slashie”
Love JB’s G’n'R reference!
Please cite your sources!!! Would love to see sources associated with this great article.
It was a great description on Slash, It’s very nice.
The entry seems to sanction the use of the slash without spaces between the paired subjects, except when used as a “caesura” in poetry. Is this the rule?
I learned of the ’slash’ in highschool learning how to take short hand.
In India, (i’m not sure about other places) we sometimes read it as ‘bar’.
This is mostly seen in addresses for eg: Xlll / 856 is read as “Twenty three bar 8-5-6″
Btw, thanks for your informative article
I don’t know whether to use either slash/stroke,
I mean, would it be slash-slash-stroke…
I am a professional editor of scientistific and engineering documents. I come across many a misused slash in this endeavor! Many authors always use “and/or”–even when they actually mean one or the other. The slash is often used to replace the “and” or the “or” as in sit/stand or fish/birds when it isn’t really appropiate. Looks like the scientific community LOVES the slash–I’m starting to believe they think it’s cool.
Thanks for the info and the proof–now I have a reference to show to the author who wants to discuss/argue the point.
Strange that the word “oblique” (as I was taught) is not mentioned as a name for this piece of punctuation. My English Teacher refused to accept it as a valid form of punctuation and said using it was an abbreviation for lazy people.
As for “forward slash” or “back slash” it depends on whether you are looking at it, writing it and whether you are right or left handed.
The predominant writing and reading is from left to right, and a right-handed person would normally produce this symbols starting at the top and scribing it backwards to the left, thus making it is a “back slash.” That would, logically, make a written “back slash” a forward one. However, it depends on how you “look” at it the finished product of course.
Apologies for being verbose, but this little “mark” is also one of the only known written symbols that can produce a slight, but distinct, movement of the head or eyebrows when reading the text in which it is included.
If you saw “his or her” in the text, you’d read through it without any bodily inflection. However – and you can try this at home – if you see “his/her” in the text, you may not notice it, but you may physically move your head, however slightly, left-to-right, in a lateral or, more often, very small arc.
Interestingly, we, Uzbeks, also use the French word “virgule” (vergul) to mean ‘comma’…
I’ve been on a campaign in my institution to get people to stop using the slash in any formal document because it is often totally ambiguous. Generally it is used to mean “and” or “or” and thus it leaves great uncertainty e.g. the form must be signed by your supervisor/human resource manager. Does it mean both must sign it (and) or does it mean one or the other (or). Of course some of the confusion lies in the fact that “or” can be “exclusive or” (one or the other but not both) or the “inclusive or” (one or the other or both).
I have always used slashes in numeric dates; i.e., today is 3/16/13.
It sounds like Afnan Linjawi comment about the // meaning to repeat the previous line, is similar to the use of ” to denote ditto, or repeate the previous item.
Using a double slash // writing in arabic to denote repetition of the above is like using double, smaller slashes ” to indicate the same thing.
They are called “quotation marks,”or “ditto marks.”
w/ is also used for just with. But this is awesome
i love this site/ these articles/these comments. im out/cant compete.
aaahh!! the shiney! it burns!!
yes you forgot b/c (because) as an example
Hey Pretty Interesting Topic I Did Not Know All Of This About The Slash .
Most importantly, Slash has awesome hair and knows how to wail on the guitar.
Well that is so barge right there! COnfused? Ask Me!
Thank you for watching the Bizarre Channel.
Hope to see you soon!!
10 minutes later…
HELP! HELP! I”M STUCK IN A TREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
GOOD MORNING WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!lolz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Slashes are, well, INTERESTING! ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\/\/\/\\/\/\/\/\/\/////////////////////////////////////\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\/\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\/\/\/\/\/\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\///////////////////////////////////////////
I’m strongly in favor of removing this symbol from all writing. Why? People don’t know how to use it!! Commonly, it replaces OR, as in “Ask John/Mary”. But so many people use it as well to represent AND — and in this instance you will need to ask both — not one OR the other! It does make a difference. I’m a technical writer for and IT group and I’m constantly asking staff to use OR and AND instead of using the slash and I have to repeatedly ask what they really mean. Don’t abbreivate; be clear; write what you mean. I have even included it in my style guide but staff members continue to use it. It is really very rritating!! Another reason for how the English language gets continuously butchered.
Nice writing. Very informative. I use the slash frequently, but often wondered if it was correct since it has been applied in so many different ways. Thanks.
The word “slash” in reference to fanfiction was actually around a bit before the 1980s, from what I’ve heard. It originated from the Star Trek fandom (from Kirk/Spock, what else?). Its first usage was more in the 1970s, when the first K/S “zines” were being put out…a bit before the internet really came into the public consciousness, I think.
(I’ve actually noticed quite a few people correcting this…although, I suppose we’re all pretending we only know this due to some sort of completely academic interest in dubious internet subcultures, and not because…well. Yeah.)
Right or wrong, like many here, I abbreviate many multiple-syllable words with a slash, taking the lead from the well known shorthand w/o. It’s very useful in texting (where anything goes). E.g. b/f for breakfast, b/d for birthday. This works well where it makes sense such as on a birthday greeting, saying happy b/d, while other uses may serve best as just personal shortcuts, like I had b/d cake for b/f.
SLASH is also for dates o3o
w/e = Whatever
i.e. “I don’t care, whatever.” Can be said like “idc, w/e”
Oh, dear! @Talia the comments are for writing down your ideas, concerns, and questions. NOT for spamming the site with strange and confusing statements.
Read the other comments and see what you should write. This is not funny. There are students who use this website and random messages aren’t necessary.
I write with as w/ too. I think I learnt that at school. By that, I’d say w/ is a correct substitution for with. I think its short hand.
in music it means a total different thing because it is use to differenciate a musical note. like s:m:f:r / m:d:r:d:t:d. hhhhhhhh
I have recently seen n/o in a sentance that was obviously meant as and/or. Made perfect sense to me anyway.
Shows me that Engliish sybols have their roots in other laungeas.Same as Afrikaans.
/# trololol with slashesss!
i’ve also seen the “/” used in chatrooms and blogs and such to end/identify a sentence as sarcastic (or snarky, or a rant, etc. etc. etc.). e.g. “that movie was just fantastic! /sarcasm.” or “i can’t believe how many stupid people live on the internet! /rant.” i believe that use evolved from the “end” marks in HTML coding.
One word: slashing!