The typographical symbol dagger (†) has several meanings. Possibly its most common use is as a footnote marker.

According to You Have a Point There: A Guide to Punctuation and Its Allies (Partridge, 1953), when it is used for this purpose, it must be used for second footnotes only; the first footnote should be indicated by an asterisk (*), the third a double dagger (‡) and further footnotes other symbols or numbers.

Where does Patridge's rule fall on a scale of one to ten, where one is "this is just one guy's random opinion" and ten is "this is a widely accepted rule of English and any deviation from it is unarguably incorrect"?

This question was inspired by this Meta Stack Overflow question about the use of daggers on Stack Exchange site FAQ pages.

  • Shows you didn't check out CMoS in your research before asking.
    – Kris
    Jan 5, 2012 at 5:28
  • 2
    @Kris I think you need a subscription for it.
    – user11550
    Jan 5, 2012 at 19:26
  • 2
    @Kris, although I had heard of the Chicago guide before, I didn't know that it was considered authoritative (and I certainly didn't have a subscription to it). The resources I did check didn't address this issue at all, although I could have looked harder.
    – Pops
    Jan 5, 2012 at 23:43
  • It is not at all unusual to see the dagger used as the only note marker, or to have the asterisk skipped and the dagger and double dagger used. Often the asterisk is apt to be mistaken for text (eg, in a math treatise) and so it's use as a footnote marker is ill-advised.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 2, 2016 at 1:48
  • Well I came into this question thinking of a physical dagger and wondering of the seemingly self evident implications of a note being given with a dagger quivering may holding it up Jul 21, 2016 at 21:12

4 Answers 4


The dagger (also known as an obelisk) is properly used for the second footnote. The asterisk is for the first, and the double dagger is for the third. This is supported by several websites:

And so on. The general consensus is that the asterisk is first, the dagger is second, and the double dagger is third. I give him a 9.

Edit: I looked at the Chicago Manual of Style Online, and they gave this information:

Where symbols are used, the sequence is as follows:

  1. * (asterisk; but do not use if p values occur in the table; see 3.78)
  2. † (dagger)
  3. ‡ (double dagger)
  4. § (section mark)
  5. || (parallels)
  6. # (number sign, or pound)
  • 1
    The Chicago Manual of Style link will most likely not be viewable for those without subscriptions.
    – user11550
    Jan 5, 2012 at 0:22
  • 7
    I would say more generally that you would avoid an asterisk as a footnote if it has other uses that might confuse, not just p values. For example, if you're using it to denote ungrammaticality, then I would jump straight to the dagger. Jan 5, 2012 at 1:22
  • @BrettReynolds There is most likely more on the topic in the full article, I just removed the most relevant bits.
    – user11550
    Jan 5, 2012 at 1:23
  • @Mahnax 'removed the most relevant'?
    – Kris
    Jan 5, 2012 at 5:26
  • @Kris I mean that I took the most relevant pieces of information from the Chicago Manual of Style, not that I removed the most relevant things from my answer. Ooops.
    – user11550
    Jan 5, 2012 at 5:27

Grammar Girl offers the same advice, citing Chicago Manual of Style. She writes:

You use the symbols in a specific order that starts with the asterisk and then continues with the dagger, double dagger, section mark, parallels, and number sign. If you need more symbols, you start over in the sequence and double each symbol; for example, double asterisk, double dagger, double double dagger, etcetera.

Chicago Manual is pretty much a ten on your scale.

  • 7
    If you ever get to triple asterisks, you're using too many footnotes. Jan 5, 2012 at 0:59
  • 2
    @PeterShor: Surely too many ***! footnotes? Feb 3, 2013 at 0:28

While I generally agree with the other answers I think you have to take the context of your writing into consideration. For instance, while writing about computer related topics asterisk tends to have special meaning. Similarly parallels looks very much like two pipes, which also has special meaning.

  • 1
    I think that would enter into the question of whether to use this footnoting system at all, rather than into how to use it correctly.
    – MetaEd
    Jan 5, 2012 at 16:15
  • I agree with @MetaEd, you may be better off simply using numbered notes.
    – Hugo
    Mar 28, 2012 at 20:36

LaTeX's \@fnsymbol specifies asterisk, dagger, double-dagger, section, pilcrow, double-bar, double-asterisk, two daggers, and two double-daggers; which is close to CMoS.

I was taught (at the London College of Printing) that numbered footnotes should be used (a) when there are several per page and their usage is systematic; (b) where there is a need for cross-reference between them; or (c) where there is a need for other writers to refer to them (this covers practically all academic, research, and technical writing). Use symbols only when there are very few footnotes and when there is no reason to number them for reference.

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