How should the "^" symbol be pronounced? I searched on the internet but couldn't find an answer.

  • 3
    Are you asking about a symbol which stands alone, or one in combination with a letter (eg ô)? [Although, I suppose, a good answer will include both]
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 16:07
  • 64
    It depends on context. It's a caret, a hat, the exponentiation ("raised to") symbol, or one of several others, depending on how it's being used.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 17:55
  • 14
    @Hot Licks, that should be an answer. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 22:05
  • 11
    As a programmer, I pronounce it XOR.
    – pipe
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 0:36
  • 5
    I'd go with caret, as a safe default, unless you’re using it for a specific purpose (in which case you might call it a circumflex, a hat, the exponentiation symbol, and so on).
    – al45tair
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 15:02

6 Answers 6


That looks like a caret symbol.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caret ...

The caret /ˈkærət/ is an inverted V-shaped grapheme.

It is the spacing character ^ in ASCII [...] and other character sets that may also be called a hat, control, uparrow, or less frequently chevron, xor sign, to the power of, pointer [...] or wedge.

Officially, this character is referred to as circumflex accent in both ASCII and Unicode terminology (because of its historical use in overstrike), whereas caret refers to a similar but lowered Unicode character: U+2038 CARET.

From Computer Desktop Encyclopedia ...

caret — The small up-facing arrow on the "6" key (shift-6) on a typewriter keyboard. Also called a "hat," it is used as a symbol for several different operations. The mathematical expression 2^12 means 2 to the 12th power. It is also used as an exclusive OR operator (see XOR), and it is sometimes found as a symbol for the Control key; for example, ^Y means Ctrl-Y.

caret symbol on keyboard

  • 10
    While it "looks" like a caret (pronounced /ˈkarət/), the dictionary definition of caret is a mark "placed below the line to indicate a proposed insertion in a text" (my emphasis). The other answers given here demonstrate that there are many other words that might apply to the symbol - context (and location of the symbol on the line) mean everything! Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 8:30
  • 2
    Okay, have added more details on the subtleties.
    – k1eran
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 8:51
  • 15
    Note Thomas' answer and the comments - technically this glyph is called a circumflex in the code pages, but common usage in American English is definitely to call it a caret. Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 17:19
  • 10
    In Programming, where the ^ is often used, it is almost always referred to as a caret, except perhaps when it denotes exponentiation. The Wikipedia Page on ASCII characters also refers to it as a caret. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 8:02
  • 4
    @Chappo And this symbol is in fact often placed below the previous line, in order to point to something. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 16:31

As a diacritic, this symbol is a circumflex.

According to the linked Wikipedia article, hat, roof or house are used when the context is mathematics.

  • 3
    Indeed, this is the Unicode character U+005E: CIRCUMFLEX ACCENT. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 20:15
  • 6
    True: "Officially, this character is referred to as circumflex accent in both ASCII and Unicode terminology (because of its historical use in overstrike), whereas caret refers to a similar but lowered Unicode character: U+2038 ‸ CARET." In AmEnglish, when talking about the key on the keyboard, caret is extremely common, and most people would give a blank stare if asked to type a circumflex in a password, say. Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caret Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 17:17
  • 2
    @ToddWilcox much the same way that the AmEnglish keyboards "have a backquote or backtick", but the Portuguese ones "have a grave accent" (and an acute one too); you'd get the same blank stares if you talked about a grave accent, I guess.
    – ANeves
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 15:17

The answer depends entirely on context.

If you're doing quantum mechanics, it's called a hat and signifies that the thing it's on top of is an operator (something that acts on a wave function to derive an eigenvalue).

If you're reading French, it's a circumflex and signifies a miniscule prononciation difference that only native French speakers can hear. Also, that there probably used to be an s after the thing it's on top of (e.g. forêt - forest).

  • 3
    And if you're doing math with a limited character set, it signifies exponentiation and is spoken as "to the" or "to the power of".
    – Mark
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 21:51
  • 1
    Linguistics uses it as a modification (accent) on a character, or as a full space vowel character - [ʌ], the first vowel in hunting. The name of that symbol is also "caret", though Unicode thinks it's "small latin letter turned v" U+028C. Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 22:36
  • 2
    +1. This is the only answer that answers the question as written, which is about how to pronounce the character. (The other answers all provide names of the character, which is not the same thing: & is named "ampersand", but usually pronounced "and".)
    – ruakh
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 23:28
  • 1
    "a miniscule prononciation difference that only native French speakers can hear" I can hear it. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 12:45
  • 2
    Anyone who cannot hear the difference between French notre [nɔtʁ] and nôtre [noːtʁ] needs their ears checking. On the other hand, sur ‘on’ and sûr ‘sure’ are pronounced exactly the same, and not even native French speakers can hear any difference (even if some of them probably think they can). And in Paris (and Belgium), /ɑ/ and /a/ have basically merged, so tâche ‘task’ and tache ‘stain’ are pronounced the same, though elsewhere they’re still distinct. So to say that “only native French speakers can hear” the difference is quite incorrect, in both ‘directions’. Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 13:19

A few symbols that look like ^:

  • Well, ^ itself; in maths, I usually call it hat, but another answer says Wikipedia says it is also called roof or house; as a diacritic, I would call it a circumflex, or maybe even a hat; in French, it is called "accent circumflexe" (circumflex accent), or le petit chapeau (the little hat), so yeah, hat is just fine;
  • There is the caret, which is technically the hat below the line (‸), though this is apparently called by several other names too;
  • We have turned v (ʌ), IPA symbol for the vowel in plus (which is an open-mid back unrounded vowel), also used in some languages' orthography;
  • We have the Greek capital lambda (Λ), which is, of course, read lambda or big lambda if there is a lowercase one referring to something else in a mathematical setting; this is totally unrelated to the turned v above;
  • We have the wedge (∧), used for the wedge product (or exterior product) of differential forms in Differential Geometry, for the wedge sum of topological spaces in topology, two cases where it is read wedge, and also as the logical and, where it is read, of course, and;
  • The slightly different Unicode n-ary logical and (⋀), which is probably read and.

That should be all. Apparently, caret is the most common American pronunciation of the circumflex character ^ (says this comment). Note that ^ is used to mark the CONTROL KEY, in which case it is pronounced control (e.g., ^Y stands for Ctrl+Y, which you read control-Y).


In the INTERCAL programming language circa 1972, it's called shark or sharkfin.

For describing its appearance in ASCII (or other early character sets) rather than its meaning in any specific context (like "xor operator", "raise to power") and noting that it's not really the printer's caret as explained in another answer, sharkfin actually does a very good job of conveying which glyph to find, especially a non-tech person who has no idea what it's really called.

  • 1
    For those who don't know, INTERCAL (full name: Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym) is, like, totally a serious representative for programming languages in general. Like, not. Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 13:28

Mathematicians may be a different species but at any rate they pronounce it "upper", as in $x^i$: "x upper i". I am a mathematician professionally and this usage is very common among my colleagues.

  • 2
    I am currently looking for one (though this is common knowledge among this particular species). Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 13:36
  • 6
    An answer can rely on the specific expertise of the author. Describing that expertise should be part of the answer. Mikhail can you consider editing your answer. For example: "I am a mathematician and I and all of my colleagues use this pronunciation"
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 16:32

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