I recently asked someone why they had several instances of "&c" in their writing, to which they told me that &c is another abbreviation for et cetera. I have since looked it up and understand now where this comes from, with the "&" being more than just an "and" symbol, that written correctly it is actually based on, and looks like, "et".

Apparently some people have used it this way before, but "some people have done it, especially in the past" makes it neither correct nor accepted in general. One site I came across in my research on this even states that you should not do this.

Finally, ‘etc.’ should not be written with an ampersand instead of the ‘et’ part (&c) except when an older source is being duplicated or transcribed.

That is from a description of when to use etc. from proof-reading-service.com

Is "&c" a correct way to abbreviate "et cetera" in English? Or was it a temporary slang term, similar to "aint", but which never caught on and is used to be quaint?

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    It is not in current use, but in older writings e.g. 19th century & prior it frequently appears. The modern accepted abbreviation is "etc".
    – WS2
    Apr 24, 2019 at 20:56
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    @RMac It is my understanding, from the research I had just done, that "&" refers to the Latin "et" rather than the English "and", that we just happen to say "and" because we are speaking English. Whether that is accurate, I'm not sure, but that is what I read. Supposedly, a properly written historical "&" symbol was supposed to resemble a mixture of "e" and "t" together.
    – Aaron
    Apr 24, 2019 at 21:31
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    @RMac Whether it "makes little sense or not" - it was certainly in widespread use at one time.
    – WS2
    Apr 24, 2019 at 21:31
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    @RMac The ampersand is literally a stylistic variant of the letters Et. If anything, it’s using an ampersand to represent the English word and that mixes languages. Apr 24, 2019 at 22:11
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    The reference you link saying not to use it is specific to scholarly writing ("professional proofreading services exclusively for professors, lecturers, post-doctoral researchers, research students") and its correct that "&c" isn't appropriate in that context...even though it's fine (maybe a little bit unusual) in personal/informal writing. Apr 25, 2019 at 18:19

2 Answers 2


I wouldn't call "&c." a slang term, given that even the Oxford English Dictionary used it in 1884; see page xi of this excerpt from the OED web site (my emphasis):

Hence, while the senses are numbered straight on 1, 2, 3, &c., they are also grouped under branches marked I, II, III, &c., in each of which the historical order begins afresh. Subdivisions of the senses, varieties of construction, &c., are marked a, b, c, &c.; subdivisions of these, which rarely occur, (a.), (b.), (c.), &c.

Typing "&c" as the search term into Google Books produces many more examples of its use in serious text books (Google Books link).

In its day, it was a normal abbreviation of etcetera. Only more recently has "etc." taken over from it.

  • Agreed: it's perfectly reasonable, but can appear dated now. Nov 14, 2022 at 10:30

Eh.... depends?

An abbreviation is a shortening of something (a(b) - brevere; to make brief). Etc. spelled out is et cetera.

Et cetera is composed of et ("and"; French still retains this form with an unpronounced "t", Spanish drops the final consonant and just has y) and ceter-a, the plural of ceter-us, meaning things (plural) left behind, or remains, perhaps related to the Latin cēdere "to go, move away, withdraw, yield."

So we have etc., where the space is dropped and the letters for cetera are dropped and represented by a dot .

Technically, we have a symbol for "and" and technically et=and. So, with respect to transitive relation, sure: &c., why not? There is precedent the use of numbers or symbols in abbreviations. Take for example "W3", "EC2", and neologisms such as "LGBTQ+" .

I would suggest though you leave it as a plain "etc." (dot included). "&c." seems like an affectation.

  • Nice answer. The last statement on affection feels a bit POB for me. See answer below from @SimonB.
    – ib11
    Apr 25, 2019 at 0:51
  • @ib11 Think of 'affectation' as a synonym of 'outdated, uncommon, only used idiosyncratically nowadays'
    – Mitch
    Apr 25, 2019 at 2:29

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