noun (1)
apos·​tro·​phe | \ ə-ˈpä-strə-(ˌ)fē How to pronounce apostrophe (audio) \

Definition of apostrophe

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a mark ' used to indicate the omission of letters or figures, the possessive case (as in "John's book"), or the plural of letters or figures (as in "the 1960's") In the contraction "can't," the apostrophe replaces two of the letters in the word "cannot.".


noun (2)

Definition of apostrophe (Entry 2 of 2)

: the addressing of a usually absent person or a usually personified thing rhetorically Carlyle's "O Liberty, what things are done in thy name!" is an example of apostrophe.

First Known Use of apostrophe

Noun (1)

1705, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1533, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for apostrophe

Noun (1)

French & Late Latin; French, from Late Latin apostrophus, from Greek apostrophos, from apostrophos turned away, from apostrephein — see apostrophe entry 2

Noun (2)

Latin, from Greek apostrophē, literally, act of turning away, from apostrephein to turn away, from apo- + strephein to turn

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Time Traveler for apostrophe

Time Traveler

The first known use of apostrophe was in 1533

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Cite this Entry

“Apostrophe.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apostrophe?src=search-dict-hed. Accessed 26 January 2020.

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More Definitions for apostrophe


apos·​tro·​phe | \ ə-ˈpä-strə-fē How to pronounce apostrophe (audio) \

Kids Definition of apostrophe

: a mark ʼ used to show that letters or figures are missing (as in “can't” for “cannot” or “ʼ76” for “1776”) or to show the possessive case (as in “Mike's”) or the plural of letters or figures (as in “cross your t's”)

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More from Merriam-Webster on apostrophe

Spanish Central: Translation of apostrophe

Nglish: Translation of apostrophe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of apostrophe for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about apostrophe

Comments on apostrophe

What made you want to look up apostrophe? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to express in a more acceptable way

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