Special Character Meaning & Definition

A special character is one that is not considered a number or letter. Symbols, accent marks, and punctuation marks are considered special characters. Similarly, ASCII control characters and formatting characters like paragraph marks are also special characters. Unlike alphanumeric characters, special characters are extremely versatile and can be used for a number of different purposes in writing, coding, and mathematical operations.

Examples of special characters

On a typical U.S. QWERTY keyboard, there are 32 special characters. These are listed in order of appearance from left to right in the table below:

Character

Description

Use

~

Tilde

Accent mark commonly used in Spanish

`

Grave accent

Accent mark commonly used in French

!

Exclamation point

Expressing strong emotion in written language; expressing logical negation in programming languages; noting factorial operation in mathematics

@

Ampersat

Connecting usernames to domain names in email addresses; expressing rates in accounting and invoicing; preceding usernames/handles on social media platforms and chat rooms

#

Octothorpe

Number sign; expressing non-executable statement in programming

$

Dollar sign

Expressing value in currency

%

Percent sign

Expressing value in percentages

^

Circumflex, caret

Expressing exponents in mathematics; shorthand for CTRL key on PCs

&

Ampersand

Symbolizing “and” in English text; combining values in spreadsheet formulas

*

Asterisk

Mathematical multiplication; indicating footnotes

(

Open parenthesis

Beginning parenthetical text

)

Close parenthesis

Ends parenthetical text

_

Underscore

Alternative to space key when spaces are not allowed

Hyphen, dash

Mathematical subtractions; creating en dashes or em dashes in written text

+

Plus sign

Mathematical additions

=

Equal sign

Mathematical equations

{

Open brace

Opening groups of statements or blocks of code in various programming languages

[

Open bracket

Beginning section of missing details in quoted text; beginning string validation in programming languages; beginning mathematical notation for intervals

}

Close brace

Closing groups of statements or blocks of code in various programming languages

]

Close bracket

Ending section of missing details in quoted text; ending string validation in programming languages; ending mathematical notation for intervals

|

Vertical bar

Delimiter in text files; redirecting a command’s output to the input of another in a command line interface (CLI); representing an OR boolean operator (double pipe)

Backslash

Separating locations in a file or network path

:

Colon

Separating the protocol from a web address in a URL; identifying a range in a spreadsheet formula; preceding a list of items in written text

;

Semicolon

Joining two related sentences in written text; finishing an instruction in programming languages; separating long items in a list in written text

Double quotation mark

Indicating a verbatim transcription of something that has been written or spoken; identifying text or data that is not part of a programming command or HTML tag

Single quotation mark, apostrophe

Containing commands or literal strings; indicating a quotation within a quotation; expressing a contraction or possessive noun in written text

<

Open angle bracket, less than symbol

Expressing the relationship between two values in which the one on the right is greater than the one on the left

,

Comma

Separating items in a list; joining independent clauses or sentences with a conjunction; separating digits in large numbers; separating values or elements in a computer program

>

Close angle bracket, greater than symbol

Expressing the relationship between two values in which the one on the left is greater than the one on the right

.

Period

Indicating the end of a declarative sentence; separating a file name from the file extension; separating sections of a URL

?

Question mark

Asking a question

/

Forward slash

Mathematical division; separating month, day, and year of a date; signifying non-executable statements in programming languages; closing tags in HTML and XML; delimiting expressions; separating locations in a file or network path; writing URLs and network addresses

 

Special characters in passwords

Special characters are often required when creating a strong password. This is because they add complexity to the password and reduce the chances that the user’s account will be hacked. Many hackers use lists of common or easily guessed phrases and combinations of characters (such as “password” and “1234”) to gain access to a user’s account, so special characters make the password less predictable. However, special characters that are used in predictable ways (like replacing “a” with “@” or “s” with “$”) have lost their effectiveness when it comes to password strength.

 

 

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Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is a Nashville-based Content Writer for TechnologyAdvice, a full-service B2B media company. She is passionate about helping brands build genuine connections with their customers through relatable, research-based content. When she's not writing about technology, she's sharing her musings about fashion, cats, books, and skincare on her blog.

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