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  1. the sign ('), as used: to indicate the omission of one or more letters in a word, whether unpronounced, as in o'er for over, or pronounced, as in gov't for government; to indicate the possessive case, as in man's; or to indicate plurals of abbreviations and symbols, as in several M.D.'s, 3's.

Origin of apostrophe1

1580–90; < Middle French (with pronunciation later altered by confusion with apostrophe2), replacing earlier apostrophus < Late Latin (> Middle French) < Greek apóstrophos (prosōidía) eliding (mark), literally, (mark) of turning away, verbid of apostréphein to turn away, equivalent to apo- apo- + stréphein to turn; see strophe
Related formsap·os·troph·ic [ap-uh-strof-ik, -stroh-fik] /ˌæp əˈstrɒf ɪk, -ˈstroʊ fɪk/, adjective


noun Rhetoric.
  1. a digression in the form of an address to someone not present, or to a personified object or idea, as “O Death, where is thy sting?”

Origin of apostrophe2

1525–35; < Late Latin < Greek apostrophḗ a turning away, equivalent to apostroph- (verbid of apostréphein; see apostrophe1) + noun suffix
Related formsap·os·troph·ic [ap-uh-strof-ik, -stroh-fik] /ˌæp əˈstrɒf ɪk, -ˈstroʊ fɪk/, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for apostrophic

Historical Examples

  • Mrs. Hemans is a poet also, but too stiltified and apostrophic,—and quite wrong.

    Life of Lord Byron, Vol. IV

    Thomas Moore

  • He remembered the apostrophic close of a novel in which the heroine dies after much emotional suffering.

    April Hopes

    William Dean Howells

British Dictionary definitions for apostrophic


  1. the punctuation mark ' used to indicate the omission of a letter or number, such as he's for he has or he is, also used in English to form the possessive, as in John's father and twenty pounds' worth

Word Origin

C17: from Late Latin, from Greek apostrophos mark of elision, from apostrephein to turn away


  1. rhetoric a digression from a discourse, esp an address to an imaginary or absent person or a personification
Derived Formsapostrophic (ˌæpəˈstrɒfɪk), adjective

Word Origin

C16: from Latin apostrophē, from Greek: a turning away, digression
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for apostrophic



mark indicating omitted letter, 1580s, from Middle French apostrophe, from Late Latin apostrophus, from Greek apostrophos (prosoidia) "(the accent of) turning away," thus, a mark showing where a letter has been omitted, from apostrephein "avert, turn away," from apo- "from" (see apo-) + strephein "to turn" (see strophe).

In English, the mark often represents loss of -e- in -es, possessive ending. It was being extended to all possessives, whether they ever had an -e- or not, by 18c. Greek also used this word for a "turning aside" of an orator in speech to address some individual, a sense first recorded in English 1530s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

apostrophic in Culture



A mark (') used with a noun or pronoun to indicate possession (“the student's comment,” “the people's choice”) or in a contraction to show where letters have been left out (isn't, don't, we'll).

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.