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 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 To ensure that the moral quality of the names of our thoroughfares is as high as possible, figures who committed misdeeds outside the board’s criteria are also included, marked with an asterisk. Gary Kamiya, San Francisco Chronicle, "These S.F. streets are named for people who were morally suspect, or worse, by school board standards," 5 Feb. 2021 Brennan wondered if that would cause the cross country community to put an unspoken asterisk on her accomplishments. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Park City cross country skier Rosie Brennan sitting atop the World Cup hill," 19 Dec. 2020 Does that put an asterisk next to his name for all time? Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Tiz the Law shows greatness, but if colt wins Triple Crown, should there be an asterisk?," 2 Sep. 2020 The asterisk -- the footnote -- is there because, for this promise of hope to be fulfilled, enough people have to agree to get vaccinated. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, "Gupta: Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 is like PPE at a molecular level," 19 Dec. 2020 The previous single-day case record also had an asterisk: 17,065 on Nov. 27. Robert Higgs, cleveland, "Cleveland confirms 242 new cases of COVID-19 coronavirus, one new death: Tuesday update," 9 Dec. 2020 One asterisk is for the two players on two-way contracts. Dallas News, "Mavericks miss out on third star but shore up glaring weakness with offseason moves," 23 Nov. 2020 In other words, no asterisk regardless of what awaits in Orlando. Mike Singer, The Denver Post, "Nikola Jokic still not in the country, but Nuggets “working on getting” him back before Orlando," 1 July 2020 Chicago appears now as but a faded, solemn asterisk on the great Orr’s résumé. Globe Staff,, "Boston has said goodbye to big stars before, none bigger than Babe Ruth," 21 Mar. 2020 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

21 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Asterisk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2021.

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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 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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