as·​ter·​isk | \ ˈa-stə-ˌrisk How to pronounce asterisk (audio) , especially in plural also nonstandard -ˌrik \
plural asterisks

Definition of asterisk

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the character * used in printing or writing as a reference mark, as an indication of the omission of letters or words, to denote a hypothetical or unattested linguistic form, or for various arbitrary meanings
2 : the character * thought of as being appended to something (such as an athletic accomplishment included in a record book) typically in order to indicate that there is a limiting fact or consideration which makes that thing less important or impressive than it would otherwise be But the men's triumph came with an asterisk: The Soviets, three-time gold medalists, had boycotted the Games.— Brad Young
3 : someone or something considered too minor for prominent mention : footnote At fifty-four, he had followed war from the hills of Italy to the islands of the Pacific to the mountains of Korea, and countless other places already becoming asterisks in the history books.— William Prochnau


asterisked; asterisking; asterisks

Definition of asterisk (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to mark with an asterisk : star

Other Words from asterisk


asteriskless \ ˈa-​stə-​ˌrisk-​ləs How to pronounce asterisk (audio) \ adjective

Did you know?


If someone asked you to associate the word asterisk with a heavenly body, you would probably have no problem relating it to a star - even if you didn't know that the word asterisk derives from "asteriskos," a Greek word meaning "little star." "Asterisk" has been a part of the constellation of English since at least the late 1300s, but it is far from the only shining star in our language. The Greek forms astēr, "astro," and "astrum" (all of which mean "star") still cast their light in English by way of such words as "asteroid," "astral," and "disaster" (which originally meant "an unfavorable aspect of a planet or star"). Even "star" itself is a distant relative of "asterisk."

Examples of asterisk in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This one has a bit of an asterisk, since Country House did not cross the wire first but was elevated as the winner when Maximum Security was disqualified for veering out at the top of the stretch. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, 8 May 2022 Their existence in the party means that the Democrats’ governing trifecta forever has an asterisk. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 18 Feb. 2022 This high-performing 3-year-old Thoroughbred will always have an asterisk by his name because of medication abuses that caused extreme controversy following the horse's Derby win and connection to Bob Baffert. Natasha Dado,, 6 Dec. 2021 The legacy of that defense will forever carry an asterisk the 2022 group can still avoid. Michael Casagrande |, al, 20 Apr. 2022 In late fall 2021, with Medina Spirit's finish at the 2021 Run for the Roses under investigation, Churchill Downs opted for an asterisk in place of the winning thoroughbred's name when placing its order for the collectible glasses. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, 22 Feb. 2022 Kamila Valieva’s strong figure skating short program performance deserves an asterisk. Los Angeles Times, 16 Feb. 2022 For example, finding the dollar sign or an asterisk is pretty straightforward. Yoni Heisler, BGR, 18 Apr. 2022 Howard Schultz may have the interim asterisk next to his CEO title these days, but that hasn’t stopped him from setting down a big agenda for restoring the fortunes of Starbucks. Alan Murray, Fortune, 7 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The game validated all of the improvement that was asterisked by the low level of Ohio State's competition since the loss to Oklahoma. Mary Kay Cabot,, 31 Oct. 2017 The movie made $60 million domestically (another $40 million internationally, asterisked by the fact that this was the era before international box-office dominated performance) on a budget of $66 million. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 May 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'asterisk.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of asterisk


1612, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1733, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for asterisk

Noun and Verb

Middle English, astarisc, from Late Latin asteriscus, from Greek asteriskos, literally, little star, diminutive of aster-, astēr

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The first known use of asterisk was in 1612

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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Asterisk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for asterisk


as·​ter·​isk | \ ˈa-stə-ˌrisk How to pronounce asterisk (audio) \

Kids Definition of asterisk

: a symbol * used in printing or in writing especially to refer a reader to a note usually at the bottom of a page

More from Merriam-Webster on asterisk

Nglish: Translation of asterisk for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of asterisk for Arabic Speakers


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