I read that the ampersand & started off as a ligature for "et" ("and" in Latin). An example of an ampersand that does look like "et" can be seen in this very site's logo. So how does the shape of & in the majority of fonts resemble this at all? If it doesn't, then why was this shape chosen?

I know there will be fonts with different looks, but the majority of fonts look like this and those are what I'm asking about.

  • Consider what "et" looks like in handwritten script.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 13:20
  • @HotLicks I see no similarity whatsoever.
    – kepe
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 13:22
  • 3
    See the illustrations here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ampersand Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 13:40
  • 1
    It changed little by little over time so that now it doesn't look anything like the original.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 15:06
  • 1
    Look at the top of the page. As it happens, the EL&U logotype features a particularly E + T -like ampersand.
    – tmgr
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 18:20

2 Answers 2


This intrigued me so I thought I'd play around with it.

I got the following:

enter image description here

I don't claim it's right but it wasn't too hard to come up with some continuity.

EDIT - I should have mentioned that versions 2 and 5 came directly from the Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ampersand - All the others were derived from playing around.

  • Is there any particular reason why you posted this as a separate answer, rather than incorporating both into one answer? I don’t think this continuity is quite how the & shape was historically arrived at (I think 3 and 4 developed a bit differently), but it’s not particularly far off either. Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 19:40
  • 1
    I suppose my first answer relied on quoted sources. This one is purely speculative. I didn't want to imply I was claiming validity for this by juxtaposing it with the others. Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 19:46

A bit of Googling yields the following:

Design History: Get to know your ampersands, by Kaitlyn Ellison

It was once the 27th letter of the alphabet, derived from the Roman word for and: ‘et’. When ancient Roman scribes were scribbling away in Roman Cursive around the 1st century AD, they had a tendency to connect to two letters into a ligature.

That symbol evolved over time, and by the Renaissance had developed into the calligraphic symbol that we’re so familiar with now.


Wikipedia adds the information that the origin was not from 'et' but 'Et'.

Symbols originating as ligatures

The most common ligature is the ampersand &. This was originally a ligature of E and t, forming the Latin word "et", meaning "and". It has exactly the same use in French and in English. The ampersand comes in many different forms. Because of its ubiquity, it is generally no longer considered a ligature, but a logogram.


  • Still can't see how & looks like 'Et'. Am I just missing it?
    – kepe
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 18:23

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