If you have studied languages such as Japanese, you have probably encountered the symbol “○○”.

I am told that there are two purposes for “○○”.

  1. To act as a placeholder for whatever word you like.
  2. To partially or completely censor a word that may cause offence or copyright infringement.

Personally, for (1), I use “X” in English, because that is what people use in algebra. For (2), I use “****” in English, because that seems to be one of the ways to censor a word.

What symbols are customarily used for “○○” in English?


Alright, let's try some examples.

  1. 「○○にお茶がありますか」(English: “Is there tea on the X?”)
  2. 「○○な場所がありますか」(English: “Is there a place where it is X?”)
  3. 「ウ○クの方の、中○、韓○嫌いは異常」(English: “The r-ers’ hatred toward Chi** and Ko*** is unusual.”)

I hope that helps!

  • 2
    This question seems to be a duplicate of several questions, namely english.stackexchange.com/q/192145/191178 and english.stackexchange.com/q/377319/191178. As such you need to focus this on a single use case that’s not answered by either of those.
    – Laurel
    Mar 6, 2021 at 3:20
  • I don't understand your purpose 1. Who is the "you", and on what basis are "you" to make "your" choice?
    – Rosie F
    Mar 6, 2021 at 7:24
  • Also see this question about redacted words in novels english.stackexchange.com/questions/9479/… I agree btw with @Laurel that the OP’s question covers too many things.
    – k1eran
    Mar 6, 2021 at 11:16
  • 1
    Translated examples would be useful here. To restrict the question to those who have studied Japanese seems unduly limiting.
    – Andrew Leach
    Mar 6, 2021 at 11:51

1 Answer 1


What symbols are customarily used for “○○” in English?

As you point out, the asterisk is used in English as censorship: "He's a f* * * ing idiot! I hate the t * * t." (It is usual, but not necessary, to have as many asterisks as there are hidden letters.) (NB, there is no space between the asterisks - it is simply that the formatting uses asterisks for other purposes.)

The blank / underscore is used to hide an identity "Mr ______ from _____ made some comments about the French." (This is now old-fashioned.)

The blank / underscore is also used in questions as a place holder for an answer "I never _____(to see) the incident."

Square brackets with ellipsis are used to indicate missing and unimportant words "The law states that "Any person [...] who [...] drives sheep, [...] across the bridge must pay a toll of £1.00" This might represent "Any person being an adult who herds, moves, conducts or drives sheep, cows, geese, goats, horses across the bridge must pay a toll of £1.00"

I am not sure what you mean by "whatever word you like" is a valid description, e.g. "[.......] is rather large" will only work with a restricted number of words, rather than "any I might like".

  • My mistake, I'm sorry! I should have said, “Where a number of words can be inserted.” For example, “Is there tea on the ____?” You could insert “table”, “stove”, “counter”, “tray”, etc. Again, I'm sorry for the poor description! Mar 7, 2021 at 1:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

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