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asterisk

[as-tuh-risk]
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noun
  1. a small starlike symbol (*), used in writing and printing as a reference mark or to indicate omission, doubtful matter, etc.
  2. Linguistics. the figure of a star (*) used to mark an utterance that would be considered ungrammatical or otherwise unacceptable by native speakers of a language, as in * I enjoy to ski.
  3. Historical Linguistics. the figure of a star (*) used to mark a hypothetical or reconstructed form that is not attested in a text or inscription.
  4. something in the shape of a star or asterisk.
  5. any factor or element that makes an otherwise outstanding achievement somewhat doubtful or less impressive: Two favorites were injured in practice, so his win comes with an asterisk attached.
  6. a minor or insignificant person or thing: his unlikely rise from an asterisk in the polls to the winning candidate.
verb (used with object)
  1. to mark with an asterisk.

Origin of asterisk

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin asteriscus < Greek asterískos, diminutive of astḗr star

Pronunciation note

While asterisk is usually said as [as-tuh-risk] /ˈæs tə rɪsk/, with the [s] /s/ in the final syllable preceding the [k] /k/, a metathesized pronunciation is also heard, in which the [s] /s/ and [k] /k/ change places producing [as-tuh-riks] /ˈæs tə rɪks/. This pronunciation, resulting in part from analogy with plural forms like kicks and sticks, can sometimes lead to a false analysis of [as-tuh-riks] /ˈæs tə rɪks/ as a plural pronunciation, with a corresponding singular [as-tuh-rik] /ˈæs tə rɪk/. The metathesized pronunciation, although occasionally heard among educated speakers, is usually considered nonstandard, as is the pronunciation of the singular form with no [s] /s/ in the final syllable.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for asterisk

asterisk

noun
  1. a star-shaped character (*) used in printing or writing to indicate a cross-reference to a footnote, an omission, etc
    1. (in historical linguistics) this sign used to indicate an unattested reconstructed form
    2. (in descriptive linguistics) this sign used to indicate that an expression is ungrammatical or in some other way unacceptable
verb
  1. (tr) to mark with an asterisk

Word Origin

C17: from Late Latin asteriscus a small star, from Greek asteriskos, from astēr star
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 asterisk

n.

"figure used in printing and writing to indicate footnote, omission, etc.," late 14c., asterich, asterisc, from Late Latin asteriscus, from Greek asterikos "little star," diminutive of aster "star" (see astro-). As a verb from 1733.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper