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

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Other Words from asterisk


asteriskless \ ˈa-​stə-​ˌrisk-​ləs How to pronounce asteriskless (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 Any small sample size that includes a victory over the Bengals deserves an asterisk because some of the stats are fool’s good. Mary Kay Cabot, cleveland, "Baker Mayfield and Browns offense found their identity but the 49ers’ front will try to make them lose it," 4 Oct. 2019 The author’s liberal use of asterisks to indicate asides at the bottom of pages can seem distracting at first. Susan Benkelman, Washington Post, "How pushing the boundaries of political speech can reshape society," 25 Oct. 2019 Yet this statistic was manifestly the product of a galaxy of magic asterisks. Los Angeles Times, "Column: California’s pot tax came in way below projections — and not for the reason you think," 17 Oct. 2019 The Buckeyes have looked like a team that is headed for the College Football Playoff through four games this season, but that has to come with some level of an asterisk. Stephen Means, cleveland, "What are Ohio State football’s biggest concerns heading into Nebraska?," 23 Sep. 2019 His only other start last season was also a win, but that one came with a bit of an asterisk. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Allen throws 4 TDs, Panthers beat Cardinals 38-20," 22 Sep. 2019 The board approved an amendment to the calendar that includes an asterisk on May 13, a Muslim holiday, which can become a day off if there are no national testing conflicts. Lois K. Solomon,, "One Florida school district approves weeklong Thanksgiving break," 13 Dec. 2019 Andrew Yang was on track to be an also-ran, an asterisk in the 2020 Democratic primary for president., "Donald Trump told us about the state of American politics in 2016. The fact that Yang is in the game at all tells us something about 2020.," 4 Dec. 2019 Others intentionally added characters such as dollar-signs and asterisks to avoid Facebook’s automated moderation. Sheera Frenkel, New York Times, "Whistle-Blower’s Purported Name Keeps Evading Facebook and YouTube Defenses," 14 Nov. 2019 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,, "Josh Gordon arrived in NY to meet with Roger Goodell about reinstatment," 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, "'Hellboy' Reboot in the Works With 'Stranger Things' Star David Harbour," 8 May 2017

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.

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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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Time Traveler for asterisk

Time Traveler

The first known use of asterisk was in 1612

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Statistics for asterisk

Last Updated

16 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Asterisk.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for asterisk


How to pronounce asterisk (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of asterisk

: a symbol * that is used in printed text especially to tell someone to read a note that can be found at the bottom of a page


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

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More from Merriam-Webster on asterisk

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with asterisk

Spanish Central: Translation of asterisk

Nglish: Translation of asterisk for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of asterisk for Arabic Speakers

Comments on asterisk

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


to insert between existing elements

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