AskDefine | Define punctuation

Dictionary Definition



1 something that makes repeated and regular interruptions or divisions
2 the marks used to clarify meaning by indicating separation of words into sentences and clauses and phrases [syn: punctuation mark]
3 the use of certain marks to clarify meaning of written material by grouping words grammatically into sentences and clauses and phrases

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /pʌŋk.tʃuˈeɪ.ʃən/, /pVNk.tSu"eI.S@n/
  • Rhymes: -eɪʃǝn


  1. A set of symbols and marks which are used to clarify meaning in text by separating strings of words into clauses, phrases and sentences.

Derived terms

Related terms


set of symbols

Extensive Definition

Punctuation is everything in written language other than the actual letters or numbers, including punctuation marks (listed at right), inter-word spaces and indentation.
Punctuation marks are symbols that correspond to neither phonemes (sounds) of a language nor to lexemes (words and phrases), but which serve to indicate the structure and organization of writing, as well as intonation and pauses to be observed when reading it aloud. See orthography.
In English, punctuation is vital to disambiguate the meaning of sentences. For example, "woman, without her man, is nothing," and "woman: without her, man is nothing," have greatly different meanings, as do "eats shoots and leaves" and "eats, shoots and leaves."
The rules of punctuation vary with language, location, register and time, and are constantly evolving. Certain aspects of punctuation are stylistic and are thus the author's (or editor's) choice. Tachygraphic language forms, such as those used in online chat and text messages, may have wildly different rules.


The earliest writing had no capitalization, no spaces and no punctuation marks. This worked as long as the subject matter was restricted to a limited range of topics (for example, writing was initially used for recording business transactions). Expanding the use of writing to more abstract concepts required some way to disambiguate meanings. Until the 18th century, punctuation was principally an aid to reading aloud; after that time its development was as a mechanism for ensuring that the text made sense when read silently. for two new punctuation marks: the "question comma" and the "exclamation comma". The patent application entered the national phase in Canada only, advertised as lapsing in Australia on 27 January 1994 and in Canada on 6 November 1995 .


Apart from the ASCII punctuation marks in its Basic Latin range
Unicode has the General Punctuation (U+2000–206F) and Supplemental Punctuation (U+E000–E0FF) ranges.


See also

Further reading

  • Unicode reference tables:
    • General Punctuation
    • CJK Symbols and Punctuation
    • CJK Compatibility Forms
    • Small Form Variants
    • Halfwidth and Fullwidth Forms
  • Ethiopic Script
punctuation in Arabic: علامات الترقيم
punctuation in Min Nan: Phiau-tiám-hû-hō
punctuation in Bulgarian: Пунктуация
punctuation in Czech: Interpunkční znaménko
punctuation in Danish: Tegnsætning
punctuation in German: Satzzeichen
punctuation in Estonian: Kirjavahemärgid
punctuation in Spanish: Signo de puntuación
punctuation in Esperanto: Interpunkcio
punctuation in Basque: Puntuazio zeinu
punctuation in Persian: نشانه‌های نوشتاری
punctuation in French: Ponctuation
punctuation in Korean: 문장 부호
punctuation in Ido: Puntizo
punctuation in Indonesian: Tanda baca
punctuation in Icelandic: Greinarmerki
punctuation in Italian: Punteggiatura
punctuation in Hebrew: פיסוק
punctuation in Latvian: Interpunkcija
punctuation in Lithuanian: Skyryba
punctuation in Marathi: विरामचिन्हे
punctuation in Malay (macrolanguage): Tanda baca
punctuation in Dutch: Leesteken
punctuation in Japanese: 約物
punctuation in Polish: Interpunkcja
punctuation in Portuguese: Pontuação
punctuation in Russian: Знаки препинания
punctuation in Northern Sami: Gaskamearka
punctuation in Simple English: Punctuation
punctuation in Slovak: Interpunkcia
punctuation in Slovenian: Ločilo
punctuation in Finnish: Välimerkki
punctuation in Swedish: Skiljetecken
punctuation in Tamil: நிறுத்தக்குறிகள்
punctuation in Thai: เครื่องหมายวรรคตอน
punctuation in Turkish: Noktalama işaretleri
punctuation in Ukrainian: Пунктуація
punctuation in Walloon: Sene di pontiaedje
punctuation in Chinese: 标点符号

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

alphabet, ampersand, angle brackets, apostrophe, braces, colon, comma, dash, decimal point, diacritical mark, diagonal, dot, ellipsis, end stop, exclamation mark, full stop, hyphen, letter, parens, parentheses, period, point, punctuation marks, question mark, quotation marks, quotes, reference, reference mark, semicolon, single quotes, solidus, stop, tittle, virgule, writing system, written character
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