AskDefine | Define virgule

Dictionary Definition

virgule n : a punctuation mark (/) used to separate related items of information [syn: solidus, slash, diagonal, stroke, separatrix]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The diagonal slash character - /, used to separate parts of text, and to represent the word per in expressions such as feet/second.





  • /viʁ.ɡyl/|lang=fr
  • /viR.gyl/


fr-noun f
  1. comma (punctuation mark)
  2. decimal point (see usage notes)
    En Europe continentale, la virgule permet de noter la partie décimale; pi vaut environ 3,1415. — In continental Europe, the comma is used to denote the decimal part; pi is about 3.1415.''

Usage notes

  • In France, a comma is used to separate the whole and decimal parts of a decimal, while a point (dot) is used to mark off thousands, the opposite notation to that used in English-speaking countries. So "100,000.9" ("one-hundred thousand point 9") is written in French as "100.000,9".
  • In mathematics, the translation is "decimal point", but "comma" can be a more appropriate translation. For example, il y a trois décimales après la virgule translates as there are three decimal places after the decimal point, but En France, on sépare la partie entière et la partie décimale avec une virgule is better translated as In France, you separate the whole and decimal parts with a comma rather than ... with a decimal point, as the former explains which symbol is used and the latter is misleading.

Derived terms




virgule f|p
  1. Plural of virgulă commas

Extensive Definition

The slash ( / ) is a punctuation mark. It may also be called a virgule, diagonal, forward slash, oblique dash, slant, separatrix, or scratch comma. It is distinguished from another punctuation mark, the solidus or shilling mark, in that the slash is more nearly vertical.


This symbol goes back to the days of ancient Rome. In the early modern period, in the Fraktur script, which was widespread through Europe in the Middle Ages, one slash (/) represented a comma, while two slashes (//) represented a dash. The two slashes eventually evolved into a sign similar to the equals sign (=), then being further simplified to a single dash or hyphen (–).


In English text

The most common use is to replace the hyphen or en dash to make clear a strong joint between words or phrases, such as "the Hemingway/Faulkner generation". Yet very often it is used to represent the concept or, especially in instruction books.
The virgule is also used to indicate a line break when quoting multiple lines from a poem, play, or headline. In this case (and only in this case), a space is placed before and after the virgule. For example: "Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, / But bears it out even to the edge of doom".
In an ordinary prose quotation, such a spaced virgule is sometimes used to represent the start of a new paragraph.
British English particularly makes use of this alternation with a hyphen in forming abbreviations. Many examples are found in writings during the Second World War. For example, 'S/E' means 'single-engined', as a quick way of writing a type of aircraft. And in the US, "O/O" is used by trucking firms or taxicabs to mean "owner-operator" (or "owned and operated by"). Notice that the phrase has a hyphen, whereas the abbreviation uses the slash.
In the U.S. Government, office names are abbreviated using slashes, starting with the larger office and following with its subdivisions. In the State Department, the Office of Commercial & Business Affairs in the Bureau for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs is referred to as EEB/CBA.
The slash is often used, perhaps incorrectly, to separate the letters in a two-letter initialism such as R/C (short for radio control) or w/o (without). Purists strongly discourage this newer use of the symbol. However, since other uses of the slash with individual characters are highly context-specific, confusion is not likely to arise. Other examples include b/w (between or, sometimes, black and white), w/e (whatever, also weekend or week ending), i/o (input-output), and r/w (read-write).
There are usually no spaces on either side of a slash or virgule. Typical exceptions are in representing the start of a new lines when quoting verse, or a new paragraph when quoting prose, etc. The Chicago Manual of Style (at 6.112) also allows spaces when either of the separated items is a compound that itself includes a space: Our New Zealand / Western Australia trip. (Compare use of an en dash used to separate such compounds.)


When highlighting corrections on a proof, a copy editor will either write what he thinks should be changed—or why it should be changed—in the margin. He separates his comments with a slash called a separatrix.
In addition, when marking an uppercase letter for conversion to lowercase, an editor will put a slash through it and write lc or l/c in the margin.


The solidus and virgule are distinct typographic symbols with decidedly different uses. The solidus is significantly more horizontal than the virgule. The character found on standard keyboards is the virgule and while most people lump the two characters together (and when there is no alternative it is acceptable to use the virgule in place of the solidus), they are different. The solidus is used in the display of ratios and fractions as in constructing a fraction using superscript and subscript as in “123⁄456”; the virgule is used for essentially any other textual purpose.


A slash followed by a dash is used to denote the conclusion of currency. For example, on a check or a hand-written invoice, somebody may write $50/- to denote the end of the currency. This keeps anybody from adding further digits to the end of the currency.


A slash is typically used to denote a spare, knocking down all ten pins in two throws, when scoring ten-pin bowling, candlepin bowling and duckpin bowling.



On Unix-like systems and in URLs, the slash is to separate directory and file components of a path:
A leading slash represents the root directory of the virtual file system; it is used when specifying absolute paths:
It is sometimes called a "forward slash" to contrast with the backslash \, which MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows systems also accept as a path delimiter. The slash would have been the preferred path delimiter, but MSDOS 2 added the backslash to allow paths to be typed into the command shell while retaining compatibility with CP/M—before directories were supported—where the slash was chosen as the command-line option indicator. For instance you could still use the "wide" option to the "dir" command by typing "dir/w", yet you could run the program "w" in the subdirectory "dir" with "dir\w".
Although the command shell was the only part of MSDOS that required this, for some reason the use of backslash was propagated to most other parts of the user interface, to the point that although the underlying operating system supports either character as the path delimiter, some software programs do not accept the slash as a path delimiter.


Many Internet Relay Chat and in-game chat clients use the slash to distinguish commands, such as the ability to join or part a chat room or send a private message to a certain user. The slash has also been used in many chat mediums as a way of expressing an action or statement in the likeness of a fake command.
/join #services – to join channel "#services"
/me sings a song about birds.


In computer programming, the slash corresponds to Unicode and ASCII character 47, or 0x002F. Note that ISO and both designate this character as the “SOLIDUS”, while calling the solidus “FRACTION SLASH”, in direct contradiction to long-established English typesetting terminology. It is used in the following settings:
  • In most programming languages, / is used as a division operator.
  • MATLAB and GNU Octave also have the ./ (a dot and a slash) to indicate an element-by-element division of matrices.
  • Comments in C, C++, C#, Java, PHP, CSS, and SAS begin with /* (a slash and an asterisk), and end with */ (the same characters in the opposite order).
  • C99, C++, C#, PHP, and Java also have comments that begin with // (two slashes) and span a single line.
  • In SGML and derived languages such as HTML and XML, a slash is used to indicate a closing tag. For example, in HTML, </em> ends a section of emphasized text that had been started with <em>.
  • Slashes are used as the standard delimiters for regular expressions, although other characters can be used instead.
  • Slashes are sometimes used to show italics, when no special formatting is available. Example: /Italic text/


Certain shorthand date formats use / as a delimiter, for example "9/16/2003" (in United States usage) or in most other countries "16/9/2003" September 16, 2003.
In Britain there was a specialized use in prose: 7/8 May referred to the night which starts the evening of 7 May and ends the morning of 8 May, totalling about 12 hours depending on the season. This was used to list night-bombing air-raids which would carry past midnight. Some police units in the US use this notation for night disturbances or chases. Conversely, the form with a hyphen, 7-8 May, would refer to the two-day period, at most 48 hours. This would commonly be used for meetings.
The International Standard ISO 8601, in attempting to resolve this ambiguity, introduced problems of its own. According to this norm, dates must be written year-month-day using hyphens, but time periods are written as two standard dates separated by a slash: 1939-09-01/1945-05-08, for example, would be the duration of the Second World War in the European theatre, while 09-03/12-22 might be used for a fall term of a Western school, from September third to December twenty-second. Instead of the slash in some applications a double hyphen is used, e.g. 1939-09-01--1945-05-08, which would allow the use of the duration in filenames.


For a specialized use of the slash in the titles of fan fiction stories, see slash fiction.
The slash has been used as the title of a novel by Greg Bear, / (Slant). The "Slant" was added on to give people something to call the book, but it has ultimately become the accepted title in many book lists.
The Slash is also the symbol for a wand in NetHack.


Slashes are used to enclose a phonemic transcription of speech.


In physics, a slash through a symbol, like \not a is shorthand for aμγμ

Other alternations with hyphen

Besides the varied usage with dates, the slash is used to indicate a range of serial numbers which have the hyphen already as part of their alphanumeric symbol set. The primary example is the US Air Force serial numbers for aircraft. These are usually written, for example, as "85-1000", for the thousandth aircraft ordered in fiscal year 1985. To designate a series of serial numbers, the slash is used, as in 85-1001/1050 for the first fifty subsequent aircraft.

Alternative names

Sometimes the slash is called stroke (and oblique stroke) , although that may be confused with the hyphen. Stroke is most commonly used among the North American amateur radio community. The word stroke is also used in British English, where it is also common to hear someone say "this stroke that" instead of "this or that", whereas a North American speaker may say "this slash that".
List of terms for the character include, Common: slash; stroke; slant; forward slash. Rare: diagonal; solidus; over; slak; virgule; [slat]. Suggested: John Peel's Home Truths programme on BBC Radio 4 (UK) broadcast the suggestion from a 6-year-old contributor to use zig for the forward slash and zag for the backslash, the two forming a zigzag.

External links

virgule in Catalan: Barra obliqua
virgule in Danish: Skråstreg
virgule in German: Schrägstrich
virgule in Spanish: Barra (tipografía)
virgule in Esperanto: Oblikvo
virgule in Basque: Barra (ikurra)
virgule in French: Barre oblique
virgule in Korean: 슬래시
virgule in Croatian: Kosa crta
virgule in Italian: Barra (punteggiatura)
virgule in Hebrew: לוכסן
virgule in Dutch: Schuine streep
virgule in Japanese: スラッシュ (記号)
virgule in Norwegian: Skråstrek
virgule in Polish: Ukośnik
virgule in Portuguese: Barra (caractere)
virgule in Russian: Косая черта
virgule in Slovak: Lomka
virgule in Slovenian: Poševnica
virgule in Serbo-Croatian: Kosa crta
virgule in Finnish: Vinoviiva
virgule in Swedish: Snedstreck
virgule in Thai: เครื่องหมายทับ
virgule in Turkish: Eğik çizgi
virgule in Yiddish: סלעש

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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