General Question

CyanoticWasp's avatar

How can I look up the words that describe various symbols?

Asked by CyanoticWasp (19991 points ) December 19th, 2009

You see symbols and things of all kinds all the time:
Division sign ÷
Degree mark °
Trademark™
Pilcrow ¶

If you don’t know what the word is for the symbol (as I didn’t for the pilcrow—I always just used to call it until now had awkwardly called it “that paragraph marker backwards-P thing”), how can you look up the word for it? For that matter, it doesn’t have to be “a symbol”, it could be almost anything. I mean, if you don’t know what a pad eye is, or a clevis pin, or a spinnaker or a crescent wrench—when you see the words you can easily google the thing or its definition / description, or ask someone, using the words. But when you see the thing itself and don’t know it, how do you look it up?

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13 Answers

hearkat's avatar

I just did a Wikipedia search for Punctuation and that gives a list. I find that with some patience, I can usually find what I am looking for on Wikipedia. I have done that for those oval-shaped country code bumper stickers and the symbols used on consumer products, etc.

janbb's avatar

There are dictionaries of signs and symbols in the library which depict the symbol and then the nomenclature.

dpworkin's avatar

charmap.exe and unicode give you a way to work backward from symbol to nomenclature.

janbb's avatar

@pdworkin I thought I told you I trademarked “nomenclature.”

dpworkin's avatar

where’s the™? You mean nomenclature™! Hah ha! Now it’s mine. No backsies.

janbb's avatar

I call “no fair.” Mommmmm!

janbb's avatar

You have to teach me how to do superscript.

dpworkin's avatar

make me

janbb's avatar

i’m telling.

Forgive us @CyanoticWasp – Me ‘n pd just like to have fun.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Thanks, @hearkat, I hadn’t been to Wikipedia for that reason before, but you’re right: there’s a wealth of information there.

I had seen those books in the library, @janbb. I should have specified in the Q that I was looking for a way to do the lookups online somehow.

Good idea, @pdworkin. I’ve used charmap.exe (Programs / Accessories / System Tools / Character Map on most Windows systems—I just realized that I can run it from a “Run” prompt and “charmap.exe”, too… I should have realized that years ago). I hadn’t ever noticed that charmap gives you the name of the symbol! Of course. It’s so simple… now.

Thanks again all. Those were good answers.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@janbb, it’s all fun until someone gets hurt. I can tell you how, if you need advice and don’t already know.

janbb's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Been there, done that.

MarkyMark's avatar

@CyanoticWasp My search technique is go to Google and type a description of the thing I saw into the search field. E.g. “that paragraph marker backwards-P thing” brings up pilcrow in the search results (it works I checked). For a spinnaker I’ll say “huge, colorful, parachute-like sail used for sailing downwind” or go “list of sails on a yacht”. If that doesn’t work on a normal search then go to Google Images and maybe a picture of the thing will come up.

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