“&” (ampersand) was from a ligature of e and t. but it looks nothing like e and t put together. Why?


1 Answer 1


To put it simply, it evolved over time and generally isn't seen as a ligature of E and t any more.

chasly on ELU offers this demonstration:

image showing Et merging into the ampersand

Other fonts may show the Et connection more clearly.

image showing different ampersands

  • 3
    It also helps to know what Roman cursive writing looked like, as opposed to the block letters that formed the basis of the uppercase letters. The Wikipedia article shows some additional details of the evolution.
    – chepner
    Jun 9, 2022 at 17:39
  • @chepner Does the & have anything to do with Roman cursive though? The "Tironian et" is a separate thing.
    – Draconis
    Jun 9, 2022 at 18:10
  • I'm referring to the first paragraph under the "History" section, which mentions Roman cursive. Tirnion "et" is mentioned later in the article as a separate shorthand symbol (which I would maybe best describe as coincidentally similar to a lowercase cursive "t"?).
    – chepner
    Jun 9, 2022 at 18:20
  • 1
    @chepner Ah, I see. I wasn't aware of that connection but feel free to write it up as another answer!
    – Draconis
    Jun 9, 2022 at 18:21
  • @spectras I very much doubt Roman cursive was taught in France up until 2013, except in highly specialised university classes. ‘Roman cursive’ is a specific thing, not just any handwritten, cursive variant of the Latin alphabet. The Old Roman cursive hasn’t been used since around the fourth century AD and is pretty much undecipherable to modern-day laypersons; and while the New Roman cursive does start to become more similar to the current Latin alphabet, it’s still very hard to read without training and has been out of use for about 1,300 years. Jun 19, 2022 at 0:12

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