as·​ter·​isk | \ˈas-tə-ˌrisk, 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from asterisk


asteriskless \-​ləs \ 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 year, Google aims to claim the mantle again with the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, minus the asterisks. Dieter Bohn, The Verge, "Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL review: the best camera gets a better phone," 15 Oct. 2018 It is filled with meetings having to do with issues in her home state, a few Senate votes, and then, discreetly tucked in at four-hour intervals, a series of asterisks. Rebecca Johnson, Vogue, "Senator Tammy Duckworth on the Attack that Took Her Legs—and Having a Baby at 50," 12 Sep. 2018 Admittedly, a methodological asterisk is at play: Last year, participants were given an open text box rather than specific diets to choose from. Sophie Egan,, "Paleo, keto, fasting, Whole30: Why food tribes are on the rise," 17 May 2018 If an asterisk is on a seasonal item, don't immediately panic. Southern Living, "WATCH: This Costco Shopping Tip Is a Game Changer," 5 Mar. 2018 There a few asterisks besides some of those names; more on that in a moment. Nina Metz,, "Who in Hollywood is using inclusion riders? Nobody's keeping track — including the group pushing for them," 19 Apr. 2018 Below, find a full list of nominees in each category, with winners signified by an asterisk (*) and italicized boldface. Mike Scott,, "Golden Globes 2018 full winners list," 8 Jan. 2018 The other big asterisk is that this special offer requires porting a number from another carrier. Chris Welch, The Verge, "Sprint offering $15 unlimited plan to those willing to switch carriers," 7 June 2018 Normally, closed caption subtitling bleeps words in a variety of different ways: phrases, such as (bleep), [expletive], or [censored] may be used, though sometimes hyphens or asterisks are substituted instead (f–k, f---, or f*** are all examples. Ace Ratcliff, SELF, "I Rely On Closed Captions to Enjoy a Show And I Don't Appreciate Netflix's Way of Censoring Them," 10 July 2018

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.

See More

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


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


see asterisk entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about asterisk

Listen to Our Podcast about asterisk

Statistics for asterisk

Last Updated

20 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for asterisk

The first known use of asterisk was in 1612

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for asterisk



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 \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


living or existing for a long time

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!