How to pronounce # in a proper way?

Currently, I know it's used to pronounce "pound" in US English, "hash" in British English, "sharp" for C#--a programming language, and number sign to list items. Not sure if I'm right or not.

Also, I lives in non-English speaking country and many pronounce "hashtag" for this symbol, though I'm suspicious about this.

I'd be glad if you can list more examples about this.


Update: To be clear: The question is about the pronunciation, not how it came from.

  • I think this may not necessarily answer your question thoroughly, but check this blog post by Dictionary.com out. – RexYuan Jun 30 '15 at 7:01
  • Thanks Rex. It discovers some stories and reminds me the music sign of #. It did help! – p3nchan Jun 30 '15 at 7:10
  • The OP knows and accepts four definitions, and is "suspicious" about a fifth. Doesn't sound as if he has a problem with multiple definitions. – Brian Hitchcock Jun 30 '15 at 10:36
  • As for how you describe this symbol by itself (in AmE) for the various contexts: pound sign, number sign, sharp,_and _hash mark (except when it's hashtag.) – Brian Hitchcock Jun 30 '15 at 10:40
  • Thanks BrianHitchcock. For @tchrist, I don't know when to pronounce the correct one so I just asked if there's an answer did exist. – p3nchan Jun 30 '15 at 11:18

The name of the symbol in AT&T patent filings is "octothorp," but no one ever says this. If it precedes a number, say "number" as in "#2 pencils." If you're talking about a telephone key pad or if it follows a number say "pound" or "hash" (if you are using US or UK English respectively) as in "enter your password followed by the # sign" or "a 5# bag of sugar." If it's in a tweet say "hashtag."

For speculations on whether # symbol is called "pound" because it replaced the £ symbol in telegraphy and telephony I recommend the following: language log

  • I like the examples you used, and it's pretty clear with that. Thanks! – p3nchan Jun 30 '15 at 11:22
  • Very likely that # was called "pound" before it appeared on the typewriter because the shift key wasn't introduced until after ITA 1 was in use in the US. – deadrat Jun 30 '15 at 11:45
  • The name "octothorp" was originally a joke, played by some AT&T technical employees, that got loose in the world. (And the pranksters didn't say anything until—I believe—they had retired and couldn't suffer any consequences.) You can find the story, told by one of the instigators of the prank, somewhere on the internet. – Peter Shor Jun 30 '15 at 11:54

In Britain it's generally pronounced hash, and in America I believe generally pound. Pound in Britain more commonly refers to the currency. Pronunciation varies depending on the context.

In a tweet it would be pronounced hashtag as is "Off to the bake shop #buyingsomecake" which would be pronounced "Off to the bake shop, hashtag buying some cake"

In musical notation it would be pronounced sharp, as in "Can you play that in the key of F#" - "can you play that in the key of eff sharp"

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.