This should be an easy question to answer.

In my program, I am building a structure which will hold the symbol which identifies a string literal. I want to give the element a meaningful name that will be clear to those coming after me.

My problem is that I can't recall what is the correct technical term for the symbol which denotes a string literal and servers the "quotation" mark function.

My mind keeps going to "delimiter", but I don't think that's correct since that specifies a separation in a list of items.

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    This shouldn't be migrated from programmers.stackexchange at all imho. Come back home, question!
    – Falcon
    Aug 9, 2011 at 14:45
  • It is a programming terminology question. While I can see it being germane to both sites, I thought that programmers may have more of an insight, since it is a rather esoteric computer programming reference. Aug 9, 2011 at 14:51
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    Correct usage in normal (as apposed to programming) language: cs.sfu.ca/~ggbaker/reference/characters/#single Aug 9, 2011 at 15:36
  • Programming terminology? My impression was that this question is about what to call ". If I misread, I'm sorry. I'll flag this question for a moderator to review it here and we can coordinate an "un-migration" if needed.
    – Adam Lear
    Aug 9, 2011 at 16:02
  • I don't see a partiular problem with this question—even if @Anna and I are reading this question wrong, it still looks like a [single-word-request].
    – waiwai933
    Aug 9, 2011 at 18:32

6 Answers 6


According to wikipedia the commonly used term is "bracketed delimiter":

Most modern programming languages use bracket delimiters (also balanced delimiters, or quoting) to specify string literals. Double quotations are the most common quoting delimiters used

  • I thought there was another, single word.... I may be mistaken. I'll let the question simmer a bit more before accepting this answer, to see if any other terms pop up! Thanks! Aug 9, 2011 at 14:48
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    Except if you were to say "bracket delimiter" to a C-family programmer, he'd most likely think you meant "square brackets" ( [ ] ), or possibly "curly brackets" ( { } )
    – KeithS
    Aug 9, 2011 at 15:14

I think that in this case, delimiter is actually the word you need.

While delimiter is sometimes used to mean separator in computing, it is commonly used to mean a symbol that indicates the beginning or end of a character string, word, or data item.

I like how specific bracketed delimiter (also block, region or balanced delimiters) is, but these are not expressions I've come across in 30 years of programming.

As such, if I were choosing a name for a constant which described the delimiter used for string literals, I would call it String_literal_delimiter rather than String_literal_bracketed_delimiter.

  • I think you mean "delimiter" with an i.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Aug 9, 2011 at 16:06
  • Personally I think Wikipedia's bracketed is a pointless and potentially misleading bit of tautology, since it doesn't actually add any meaning to the concept already specified by delimiter (in both cases there must be two instances of the same or a paired set of symbols). Aug 9, 2011 at 16:37
  • As a programmer, I get fussy about the difference between delimiters (e.g. quotes) and separators (e.g. commas). Jun 6, 2012 at 22:59

They're often called "inverted commas" in the UK.

  • My daughter just learned that term at elementary school a few months ago (and we're in Canada). Aug 9, 2011 at 15:47
  • inverted commas is for single quotes only i think.
    – user13107
    Jul 13, 2014 at 14:20

"Quotation marks" is correct.

Some people are calling them "double quotes" lately, but this is confusing because to some people this means a single quotation mark (") while to others it means a pair of quotation marks ("").

To further confuse matters, the term "single quotes" also appears, which to some people means apostrophes (').

In programming languages like Perl, apostrophes and quotation marks have different meanings; strings [of text, etc.] that are enclosed within quotation marks may contain embedded variables (e.g., with "pray to your $deity" the "$deity" portion will be replaced, on-the-fly, with whatever data is stored in the $diety variable), while strings that are enclosed within apostrophes are literal (e.g., with 'pray to your $deity' will simply result in the string as it is defined without any variable substitution).

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    IME as a computer programmer for 12 years, this confusion regarding "double-quotes" and "single-quotes" is rare; the major source of confusion regarding these is that in some languages, when string or character literals are surrounded in these, it's required to "double" the quotation character if you need to indicate it is part of the string. To resolve this confusion, the term "escaped" is often used to refer to a character that has gotten this treatment. High school comp sci teachers use this terminology, to say nothing of college professors and the industry.
    – KeithS
    Aug 9, 2011 at 15:20
  • A common "escape character" is the backslash (\), which is used in many languages (including Perl, C, C++, and Java, to name a few). I've been doing computer programming for more than 30 years, and my experience is different from yours regarding confusion as it seems to be a more recent matter. By "double" the quotation character, do you mean two quotation marks (that's what I understood when I read that), or something different (such as using two apostrophes)? Aug 9, 2011 at 15:40
  • I never heard of anyone confusing a "double quote" with a pair of single quotes placed before and after the quoted text. There is the possibility of confusing the generic terms "single quote" and "double quote" (vertical tick marks here) with the "paired" slanting ones beloved of some here who like to edit them into question titles. But I think that level of "orthographic pedantry" is ott given that most of us don't have easy access to the character sets required to implement full typesetting conventions. Aug 9, 2011 at 16:47

I have always called this the "string qualifier" (as opposed to "string delimitter", which to me means separator). I think Microsoft Office products use the same terminology, when exporting and importing, for example.

I don't think the term "quotation mark" or similar would be appropriate, as your qualifer may not be a quote at all (the string qualifier may be a pipe - | - or an at sign - @).

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    I agree. I don't like "quotation mark" simply because that word is associated strongly with a 'double quote'. I would rather use a name that describes its function rather than the specific symbol associated with it. It may cause confusion to say QuotationMark ="@". Does that make any sense? Aug 9, 2011 at 17:26

"Text Qualifer" is the term often used.

Delimiter is the character or sequence of characters which separates each field in a separated format (usually comma or semicolon, but often more exotic characters are used for ease of parsing such as | or ¤)

Text qualifier is the character used to denote whether a field is textual or numerical, often this is a quotation sign.

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