We all use it every day mainly in email and social media. The dutch call it: apenstaartje “monkey’s tail”, the danish say: snabel - ”elephant’s trunk”, the polish - małpa meaning “monkey” and the korean - dalphaengi “snail”. The @ symbol became an integral part of our daily digital lives.
So, have you ever wondered how that happened?
It looks like the use of the @ symbol can be traced to the Latin language where it could have been used in place of the “ad” word which meant “at” or “towards”. It could have also been used in the accounts from that time. However, there is not much proof to confirm this theory.
The Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages, before the invention of printing presses, every letter of a word had to be painstakingly transcribed by hand for each copy of a published book. The monks that performed these long, tedious copying duties looked for ways to reduce the number of individual strokes per word for common words . It was a fusion of 2 letters in the latin preposition “ad”.
The earliest proof of the use of the @ symbol was found in a Bulgarian translation of a Greek chronicle written by Constantinos Manasses in 1345. Held today in the Vatican Apostolic Library, it features the @ symbol in place of the capital letter alpha "Α" in the word Amen. Why it was used in this context is still a mystery