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I’m sorry if this was asked a million times before, but neither Google nor the ELU site has helped me out.

I’m wondering:

  • What’s the reason behind introducing this character?
  • What’s the difference between it and and?
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closed as general reference by Alenanno, KitFox, nohat Aug 19 '11 at 20:33

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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This post may be of interest to you. –  KitFox Aug 19 '11 at 19:08
    
I think the "why" point of the question is its redeeming point. And it seems to be answered pretty well in that link. –  Daniel Aug 19 '11 at 19:10
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You may also like this series on the history of the ampersand tips invisible hat to @JSB –  aedia λ Aug 19 '11 at 19:32
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wow, this is a really nice community, you turned a question that shouldn't be posted into a great discussion! –  Gabi Purcaru Aug 19 '11 at 20:20
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1 Answer 1

The character is called the ampersand, and this wikipedia article should be able to give you the info you want:

The ampersand can be traced back to the 1st century A.D. and the Old Roman cursive, in which the letters E and T occasionally were written together to form a ligature (figure 1).

As to what the difference is between "&" and "and", the accepted answer to a post (Courtesy: Kit) asking this question demonstrates this quite succinctly.

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oh great, there's an entire wikipedia article on it and I failed to find it. Thanks a lot, and sorry for asking such a silly question –  Gabi Purcaru Aug 19 '11 at 18:59
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@Gabi If it were a silly question, there wouldn't be a whole Wikipedia article on it. It's a good question, but you can't be expected to find the article if you don't know what the symbol is called. –  KitFox Aug 19 '11 at 19:10
    
And, of course, the reason that E and T were written together often enough to become a ligature is that "et" is Latin for "and." –  Phoenix Aug 20 '11 at 2:02
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Legend has it that this is the last remaining trace of Tironian shorthand: Tiro, secretary to Cicero, found various ways to abbreviate commonly used Latin words and phrases (as you'd have to, if you were trying to record Cicero's speeches). Si non e vero, e ben trovato. –  TimLymington Dec 27 '12 at 14:27
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