The slash (/), also known as a stroke and by the technical term solidus, is a sign used as a punctuation mark and for various other purposes. It is often called a forward slash, a retronym used to distinguish it from the backslash (\). It has many other names.
- 1 History
- 2 Usage
- 2.1 In English text
- 2.2 Emoji
- 2.3 Abbreviations
- 2.4 Proofreading
- 2.5 Arithmetic
- 2.6 Currency
- 2.7 Bowling
- 2.8 Computing
- 2.9 Genealogy
- 2.10 Dates
- 2.11 Fiction
- 2.12 Library science
- 2.13 Linguistics
- 2.14 Address
- 2.15 Numbering
- 2.16 Music
- 2.17 Physics
- 2.18 Other alternations with hyphen
- 2.19 Gender-neutrality
- 3 Alternative names
- 4 References
- 5 External links
The slash goes back to the days of ancient Rome. In the early modern period, in Fraktur script, which was widespread through Europe in the Middle Ages, one slash (/) represented a comma, while two slashes (//) represented a dash. In Western orthography, the two slashes initially evolved into a double oblique hyphen (⸗), that further evolved into a double hyphen, similar to the equals sign (=), before being simplified to a single dash (–).
In English text
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The slash is most commonly used as the word substitute for "or" which indicates a choice (often mutually-exclusive) is present. (Examples: Male/Female, Y/N, He/She. See also the Gender-neutrality in Spanish and Portuguese section below.) The slash is also used to avoid taking a position in a naming controversy, allowing the juxtaposition of both names without stating a preference. An example is the designation "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac" in the official U.S. census, reflecting the Syriac naming dispute. The Swedish census has come to a similar solution, using "Assyrier/Syrianer" to refer to the same ethnic group.
Another use of the slash is to replace the hyphen or en dash to make a clear, strong joint between words or phrases, such as "the Hemingway/Faulkner generation".
The slash is also used to indicate a line break when quoting multiple lines from a poem, play, or headline; or in an ordinary prose quotation, the start of a new paragraph. In this case, a space is placed before and after the slash. For example: "Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks / But bears it out even to the edge of doom". When used this way, the mark is called a virgule. It is thinner than a solidus if typeset.
There are usually no spaces either before or after a slash: "male/female". Exceptions are in representing the start of a new line when quoting verse, or a new paragraph when quoting prose. The Chicago Manual of Style (at 6.104) also allows spaces when either of the separated items is a compound that itself includes a space: "Our New Zealand / Western Australia trip". (Compare use of an en dash used to separate such compounds.) The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing prescribes "No space before or after an oblique when used between individual words, letters or symbols; one space before and after the oblique when used between longer groups which contain internal spacing", giving the examples "n/a" and "Language and Society / Langue et société".
Multiple forward slashes in succession are used as emoji by Japanese internet users to convey shyness or embarrassment, resembling how blushing is drawn in manga. These are often placed at the end of a statement.
The slash is often used to separate the letters in a two-letter initialism such as R/C (short for "radio control") or w/o ("without"). Other examples include b/w ("between" or, sometimes, "black and white"), w/e ("whatever", also "weekend" or "week ending"), i/o ("input/output"), r/w ("read/write"), n/a ("not applicable") and even a one-letter initialism w/ ("with"). British English in particular makes use of the slash instead of the hyphen in forming abbreviations. Many examples are found in writings during the Second World War. For example, "S/E" means "single-engined", as a quick way of writing a type of aircraft.
In the U.S. government, office names are abbreviated using slashes, starting with the larger office and following with its subdivisions. In the State Department, the Office of Commercial & Business Affairs in the Bureau for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs is referred to as EEB/CBA.
When highlighting corrections on a proof, a proofreader will write what he or she thinks should be changed—or why it should be changed—in the margin. They separate the comments with a slash called a separatrix.
When marking an uppercase letter for conversion to lowercase, a proofreader will put a slash through it and write lc or l/c in the margin.
Used between numbers slash means division, and in this sense the symbol may be read aloud as "over". For sets, it usually means modulo (quotient group). Proper typography requires a more horizontal line and the numbers rendered using superscript and subscript, e.g. “123⁄456”.
Currency exchange rate notation uses slash in this manner, for example the exchange rate for the euro in U.S. dollars is quoted as "EUR/USD x", which means the value of a euro divided by the value of a U.S. dollar is x.
Before the decimalisation of currency in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth of Nations, currency sums in pounds, shillings, and pence were abbreviated using the '£' symbol, the "s." symbol, and the "d." symbol (collectively £sd) referring to the Roman Libra, solidus, and denarius. The 's.' was at one stage written using a long s, ſ, that was further abbreviated to the ∕ symbol, and the "d." was suppressed. Thus, £1∕19∕11d meant "one pound, nineteen shillings and eleven pence", "2∕6" meant "two shillings and six pence", and "5∕-" meant "five shillings". This usage led to the names solidus and shilling mark for this character. The format was then adopted to denote amounts in other currencies, such as those in the pre-decimalisation Indian rupee-anna-pie currency system.
In decimalised currency, a solidus followed by a dash is used at the conclusion of the currency amount if subunits are not included. For example, on a hand-written invoice, one may write "$50∕-" (equivalent to $50.00) to denote the end of the currency amount. This keeps anybody from adding further digits to the end of the number.
The slash is sometimes called a "forward slash" to contrast with the backslash, "\", which is also used for the same purpose in DOS, Windows and OS/2 systems. Due to DOS and Windows users often seeing far more backslashes than normal ones, they sometimes incorrectly assume that a backslash is normal and thus incorrectly refer to a slash as a "backslash", or feel that they need to say "forward slash" to ensure the correct one was understood. It is not unknown for people to say "forward backslash" and even "reverse backslash" as back formations. With the increased visibility of slashes in Internet URLs and increased use of Unix systems (such as OS X and Linux), slashes have again become more common for most computer users.
Slashes are used in URLs in a way similar to the separator in file systems (often a portion corresponds to a file on a Unix server with exactly the same name):
Many Internet Relay Chat and in-game chat clients use the slash to distinguish commands, such as the ability to join or part a chat room or send a private message to a certain user. The slash has also been used in many chat mediums as a way of expressing an action or statement in the likeness of a command.
- /join #services – to join channel "#services"
- /me sings a song about birds – often also a command to say "<username> sings a song about birds," rather than "[Username]: Sings a song about birds"
- /endrant – to signify the end of a rant
/s – to denote the previous text Sarcastic.
The slash is used as a reply on instant messages representing "OK" or "check" or "got it" and also implying "thanks".
In Second Life chat the slash is used to select the communications channel allowing users to direct commands to various virtual objects listening on different channels (e.g. "/42 on" could be a message in local chat directing the house lights to turn on).
In Minecraft chat the slash is used for executing console commands and plugin commands.
- In most programming languages, / is used as a division operator. Rexx uses // (two slashes) as a modulo (division integer remainder) operator. Starting with version 2.2, Python uses // for integer division, rounding down.
- MATLAB and GNU Octave also have the ./ (a dot and a slash) to indicate an element-by-element division of matrices.
- In SGML and derived languages such as HTML and XML, a slash is used to indicate a closing tag. For example, in HTML, </em> ends a section of emphasized text that had been started with <em>.
- Slashes are used as the standard delimiters for regular expressions, although other characters can be used instead.
- Slashes are sometimes used to show italics, when no special formatting is available. Example: /Italic text/
- IBM JCL uses two slashes to start each line in a batch job stream (except for /* and /&).
- Windows, DOS, some CP/M programs, OpenVMS, and OS/2 all use the slash to indicate command-line options. For instance the "wide" option is added to the dir command by typing "dir/w" (no space is necessary). Compatibility with this is why DOS added the backslash path separator, because otherwise one could not run a program in a different directory, since the program name always ended at the slash.
As a very common character, the slash was originally incoded in ASCII with the decimal code
2F in hexadecimal). Therefore, it is represented in Unicode by the codepoint with the same value,
U+002F ("solidus"). The variants
U+2044 ("fraction slash") and
U+2215 ("division slash") are also available. The XML/HTML entity
/ is another way to input the (regular) slash.
The GEDCOM Standard for exchanging computerized genealogical data uses slashes to delimit surnames. Example: Bill /Smith/ Jr.
Slashes around surnames are also used in Personal Ancestral File.
Certain shorthand date formats use / as a delimiter, for example "16/9/2003" 16 September 2003.
In the UK there used to be[when?] a specialised use in prose: 7/8 May referred to the night which starts the evening of 7 May and ends the morning of 8 May, totalling about 12 hours depending on the season. This was used to list night-bombing air-raids which would carry past midnight. Some police units in the USA use this notation for night disturbances or chases. Conversely, the form with an en dash, 7–8 May, would refer to the two-day period, at most 48 hours. This would commonly be used for meetings.
ISO 8601 provides a standard method of expressing dates and times which resolves ambiguities caused by the different formats historically used by different countries. According to this norm, dates must be written year-month-day using hyphens, but time periods are written separated by a solidus: 1939-09-01/1945-05-08, for example, would be the duration of the Second World War in the European theatre, while 2010-09-03/12-22 might be used for the autumn term of a northern-hemisphere school, from September the third to December the twenty-second, both in 2010. Instead of the solidus in some applications a double hyphen is used, e.g. 1939-09-01--1945-05-08, which would allow the use of the duration in filenames.
The slash has been used as the title of a novel by Greg Bear, / (Slant). The "Slant" was added on to give people something to call the book, but it has ultimately become the accepted title in many book lists.
The slash is also the symbol for a wand in NetHack.
In cataloging, as prescribed by the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, a slash is used to separate the title from the statement of responsibility (e.g., author, director, production company). The slash is flanked by a single space on either side. This form may be seen on catalog cards as well as electronic catalogs, depending on how items are chosen to display.
- Gone with the Wind / by Margaret Mitchell.
- Star Trek II. The Wrath of Khan [videorecording] / Paramount Pictures.
In linguistic notation for the transcription of speech, slashes are used to enclose phonemic values. Slashes specifically denote phonological transcription, in contrast with square brackets for phonetic transcription.
Slashes (or virgules) are used in addresses of places. E.g. 8/A Pushkar Society, to specify the eighth Apartment (bearing Number 8) in Building A of a multi-building residential complex named Pushkar Society. However, 8-A or # 8A will mean Section or Wing A of Apartment 8. In this sense, the slash stands for of.
Slashes (or virgules) are used to indicate the serial number of an article in a set of a finite number of articles. E.g. "page #17/35" in a document indicates the seventeenth out of a total of 35 pages in a document/chapter/book. Also, the marking "#333/500" on one of many packages indicates that the package so identified is three hundred thirty-third out of 500 numbered packages. Slashes (or virgules) are used to separate a score from the maximum possible score (of marks). Thus, a score of 65/100 in a mark-list indicates scoring of 65 marks out of 100. Also, "He scored 7/10 in German". In this sense, the slash stands for "out of".
Slashes (virgules) are used in music as an alternative to writing out specific notes where it is easier to read than traditional notation, or where the player can improvise. They are commonly used to indicate chords either in place of or in combination with traditional notation, and for drummers as an indication to continue with the previously indicated style.
In quantum field theory, a slash through a symbol, such as ⱥ, is shorthand for γμaμ, where a is a covariant four-vector, the γμ are the gamma matrices, and the repeated index μ is summed over according to the Einstein notation.
Other alternations with hyphen
Besides the varied usage with dates, the slash is used to indicate a range of serial numbers which have the hyphen already as part of their alphanumeric symbol set. The primary example is the US Air Force serial numbers for aircraft. These are usually written, for example, as "85-1000", for the thousandth aircraft ordered in fiscal year 1985. To designate a series of serial numbers, the slash is used, as in 85-1001/1050 for the first fifty subsequent aircraft.
In Portuguese and Spanish, as well in other West Iberian languages, many feminine forms are very similar to the masculine ones, differing only by an extra desinence, usually an "-a". For instance, the feminine of "pintor" ("male painter" both in Spanish and Portuguese) is "pintora". These two forms can be joined together through a slash: pintor/a. Proponents of gender-neutral language assert that this composed form should be used when the sex of the person referred to is unknown or when a description fits both sexes. Alternatives include using an at-sign (@) or an a-e ligature. For example, one might write "hij@" instead of "hijo/a" (hijo and hija meaning son and daughter respectively) and "jefæ" rather than jefe/a (meaning boss). Traditionally, speakers of these languages (and others from the Romance family) employ the masculine form in this sense, even when the description is also suitable for a woman.
Although parentheses are longer and less specific than a slash, they are the preferred punctuation marks in Portuguese, so "painter" (meaning male or female) is usually written as "pintor(a)". Prominent Portuguese grammar references don't mention any use of the slash, but at least one proposal of gender-inclusive Portuguese does incorporate the sign. According to Portuguese With Inclusion of Gender, a slash should be used instead of parentheses. Slashes should not be used when an at-sign ("@") or an a-e ligature ("æ") are more appropriate.[clarification needed]
A similar pattern exists in German. The names of most professions are masculine (usually ending in -er) and become female by suffixing -in. Thus, in order to be gender-neutral, some think it is necessary to write constructions such as Arzt oder Ärztin ([male] doctor or female doctor), or use a slash, e.g. Sekretär/-in or Sekretär/in (secretary). Problems arise in case of words like Arzt where the explicitly female form also gets an umlaut (female: Ärztin), in case of words like Chinese (Chinese [person]) and Sekretäre (secretaries) where the -e at the end gets dropped (female: Chinesin, Sekretärinnen), and in case of reading slashed forms.
|forward slash||A retronym, used to categorically distinguish it from a backslash|
|fraction bar or just bar|
|over||When the symbol is used to indicate division|
|per||When used to indicate derived units (e.g., 3 m/s, read, "three meters per second") or prices (e.g., $5/dozen, read, "five dollars per dozen")|
|right-leaning stroke|
|separatrix||When used by proofreaders to separate comments in the margin.|
|shilling mark||May be more slanted than the slash|
|solidus||May be more slanted than the slash|
|stroke||In British English this is often used when reading the character aloud, although this term is also used to mean any single mark or dash in general. It is common to hear someone say "this stroke that", whereas a North American speaker is more likely to say "this slash that". However, the term slash is usually used in the UK when reading computer pathnames. Stroke is also commonly used among the North American amateur radio community.|
|virgule||When the sign, enclosed by space characters, is used to separate verses.|
|virgula suspensiva||When the sign, enclosed by space characters, is used to separate verses.|
|whack||Some speakers use this term only for the backslash ("\").|
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- Duckpin Scoring
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