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as·​ter·​isk ˈa-stə-ˌrisk How to pronounce asterisk (audio)
 especially in plural also nonstandard  -ˌrik
plural asterisks
: 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
: 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
: 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
asteriskless adjective


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asterisked; asterisking; asterisks

transitive verb

: to mark with an asterisk : star

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
The consensus is no, but venture capitalist Vinod Khosla adds an asterisk to that thought. Rachyl Jones, Fortune, 28 Sep. 2023 And both of those teams’ wins have asterisks to them. Creg Stephenson |, al, 18 Sep. 2023 But in the world of open-source software, some still see the company’s openness with an asterisk. Emilia David, The Verge, 30 Oct. 2023 Saturday’s game is a matchup of defending conference champions, though Stephen F. Austin’s 2022 title carries a bit of an asterisk. Creg Stephenson |, al, 29 Aug. 2023 Advertisement Exhibits organized by the Hammer are identified with an asterisk. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 18 Oct. 2023 The World's 50 Best Bars: 50-1 New entries are marked with an asterisk. Connor Sturges, Condé Nast Traveler, 17 Oct. 2023 The latest edition of Southern California’s women’s soccer rivalry comes with an asterisk. Ryan Finley, San Diego Union-Tribune, 27 June 2023 In place of the other three tracks, the band left asterisks teasing each title. Hannah Dailey, Billboard, 26 Sep. 2023
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 examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'asterisk.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English asterichos, astarisces (plural), borrowed from Late Latin asteriscus, borrowed from Late Greek asterískos, going back to Greek, diminutive of aster-, astḗr "star" — more at star entry 1


derivative of asterisk entry 1

First Known Use


1612, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1733, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of asterisk was in 1612


Dictionary Entries Near asterisk

Cite this Entry

“Asterisk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a symbol * used especially to refer a reader to a note


Middle English astarisc "asterisk," derived from Greek asteriskos, literally "little star," from aster-, astēr "star"

More from Merriam-Webster on asterisk

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