I think we're all familiar with the concept of syntactic elements that are opened and closed, and can be nested in some cases.


  • (), [], {}, <> et. al.
  • Parenthetic clauses, such as this one, which fall within a sentence
  • Quotation marks: "a direct quote" and 'another'

Programmers will also be familiar with examples from formal languages such as HTML tags: <p> This is a paragraph element </p>. Indentation often also often manifests this concept in programming languages.

There are also more abstract examples such as adverts on television that are split into two parts, and "frame" a portion of content (for example part 1 asks a question, part 2 answers it later).

Is there a name for this? "Parenthesis" covers a lot of it, but it doesn't really include quotation marks, nested formal language constructs (like HTML tags), or totally abstract examples like TV ads. Also, the "parenthesis" in a parenthetic clause refers to the contained element ("such as this one"), not the containing element ("Parenthetic clauses ... which fall within a sentence").

  • 1
    Not a term of art but... "enclosing elements" or an "enclosing pair"? (However, by that reckoning that which is contained would be an "enclosure," which might sound too much like a closure for your liking.) See also bookend, "one of two usually similar things that begin and end something" - a rather lovely word.
    – tmgr
    Aug 23, 2018 at 10:39

1 Answer 1


"Brackets" can be used as a generic term to cover parentheses (), angle brackets <>, square brackets [], curly brackets {} etc.

The term for a character that marks the beginning and end of a sequence of characters is a delimiter. This would include HTML tags and the like.

  • 2
    In CSV files, commas are delimiters even though they only come between data sequences. So even if the things the question asks about are one kind of delimiter, [I]delimiter[/I] doesn't only refer to what he's asking about. And of course the quotation marks he mentioned aren't usually considered brackets.
    – jejorda2
    Oct 19, 2015 at 18:55

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