I wonder, why ! symbol is called exclamation mark, but = symbol is called equal sign? Is it only tradition or there is something behind?

  • 1
    In grammar we learned it as exclamation point! So there's another data point for you.
    – Robusto
    Feb 3, 2011 at 14:14
  • Here's another data point (mark well :-) - an exclamation point is one of a number of punctuation marks.
    – Ed Guiness
    Feb 3, 2011 at 14:41
  • In compsci we call it a "bang" Feb 3, 2011 at 19:53

4 Answers 4


I suppose it's in the origins.

? and ! are from the family of language punctuation marks

= is from the family of mathematical symbols or signs.

  • Interesting hypothesis. Maybe some reference to back it would be welcome.
    – Benoit
    Feb 3, 2011 at 13:22
  • @Benoit I wish I had one, but it's just my supposition.
    – Ed Guiness
    Feb 3, 2011 at 13:22
  • 3
    I think your hypothesis is good. Actually, = is no punctuation mark at all.
    – Benoit
    Feb 3, 2011 at 13:25
  • So, all signs used for punctuation are marks?
    – pmod
    Feb 3, 2011 at 13:40
  • 1
    @Pmod: There are "quotation marks" too :)
    – psmears
    Feb 3, 2011 at 13:50

I think they're called marks because they actually mark something. That a sentence is a question, an exclamation, or a quote.

But = is just a sign, it doesn't mark anything.

Again, this is just another guess.


Another difference I see is that the exclamation mark has no meaning on its own. It is merely punctuation whereas the equals sign actually adds meaning to the sentence: life "equals" goodness.

  • +1 because it is interesting, though it doesn't really answer the question IMHO
    – o0'.
    Feb 3, 2011 at 17:49
  • +1 because it makes a pertinent point. "=" means "equals", and as such is called an equals sign. Similarly "plus sign", "minus sign" etc.. The exclamation mark indicates that a sentence (or word or phrase) is an exclamation, but doesn't mean "exclamation", so there is no reason why the same noun should be used, and it turned out that we called it "exclamation mark". Similarly for "question mark" and "quotation marks".
    – Rosie F
    Jul 7, 2021 at 5:41

I cannot comment yet, as my karma will not allow it. The exclamation mark was referred to as “sign of admiration or exclamation” in the 15th century according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exclamation_mark

I think it is just convention.

If you think about the = sign, you can argue it "marks" equality. On the other hand, if you use "exclamation sign", in my mind, the street sign pops up.

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