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comma

[kom-uh]
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noun
  1. the sign (,), a mark of punctuation used for indicating a division in a sentence, as in setting off a word, phrase, or clause, especially when such a division is accompanied by a slight pause or is to be noted in order to give order to the sequential elements of the sentence. It is also used to separate items in a list, to mark off thousands in numerals, to separate types or levels of information in bibliographic and other data, and, in Europe, as a decimal point.
  2. Classical Prosody.
    1. a fragment or smaller section of a colon.
    2. the part of dactylic hexameter beginning or ending with the caesura.
    3. the caesura itself.
  3. Music. the minute, virtually unheard difference in pitch between two enharmonic tones, as G♯ and A♭.
  4. any of several nymphalid butterflies, as Polygonia comma, having a comma-shaped silver mark on the underside of each hind wing.

Origin of comma

1520–30; < Late Latin: mark of punctuation, Latin: division of a phrase < Greek kómma piece cut off (referring to the phrase so marked), equivalent to kop- (base of kóptein to strike, chop) + -ma noun suffix denoting result of action (with assimilation of p)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for comma

comma

noun
  1. the punctuation mark(,) indicating a slight pause in the spoken sentence and used where there is a listing of items or to separate a nonrestrictive clause or phrase from a main clause
  2. music a minute interval
  3. short for comma butterfly

Word Origin

C16: from Latin, from Greek komma clause, from koptein to cut
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 comma

n.

1520s as a Latin word, nativized by 1590s, from Latin comma "short phrase," from Greek komma "clause in a sentence," literally "piece which is cut off," from koptein "to cut off," from PIE root *kop- "to beat, strike" (see hatchet (n.)). Like colon (n.1) and period, originally a Greek rhetorical term for a part of a sentence, and like them it has been transferred to the punctuation mark that identifies it.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

comma in Culture

comma

A punctuation mark (,) used to indicate pauses and to separate elements within a sentence. “The forest abounds with oak, elm, and beech trees”; “The bassoon player was born in Roanoke, Virginia, on December 29, 1957.”

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.