Apparently, this is a large asterisk for most users. Seems good to me. However, for me, it's a blinding luminous bright green diagonal block with a white star-like object in the middle! I'm using a Mac.

Does anybody know how to get rid of this unwelcome retina-jarring eyesore and turn it into a normal asterisk?

What does this new eyeball-fracking sign at the beginning of a phrase like this indicate? I'm really perplexed.

I've seen them here

Is this the new form of bold or italics?

I hope not!

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    Eyeball-fracking!! I heart that! Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 15:56
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    Perhaps we should put information about "standard notation conventions" in one of the help pages. Or maybe a dedicated meta page like the one for resources would be quicker and easier. There's also ? before a text (questionable/unacceptable to some/all speakers), and ?? (very little endorsement). A link to a standard IPA chart wouldn't go amiss there either. Anyway, I'll probably use this page now to cut&paste the symbol, since I always have to go hunting for an instance! :) Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 3:22
  • Note, by the way, that some of us have taken to experimenting with various alternatives to the ordinary asterisk, because that sign interacts in unintended ways with the Markdown syntax. I for instance use this: <sup>&lowast;</sup>. Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 13:31
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    @StoneyB If you'd like, you can use a regular asterisk. Just put a backslash before it: \* It should show up normally, even in the middle of bold and italic text.
    – user230
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 6:36
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    @snailboat 'doh! Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 11:10

2 Answers 2


From context, it appears to mean "this sentence is unacceptable"—the usual convention for asterisks.

It's Unicode character U+2733, the "Eight Spoked Asterisk", a denizen of the Dingbats block.

On my my Mac, it shows up as a large asterisk, centered in the character block. How does it look on your computer?

  • It's a blinding luminous bright green diagonal block with a white star-like object in the middle! [that seems to have been specially formatted to look like that - from the cut and paste I did from the edit box ]. Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 23:47
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    @Araucaria: sounds like a problem with your machine. It shows up as an italic-styled asterisk for me.
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 3:56

From a comment thread between myself and @tchrist:

[W]hat does the asterisk denote when ELU users prefix a word with it?

[I]t indicates an ungrammatical or impossible word or construction of some sort. This is the bogosity asterisk, and it is not so much an ELU habit as it is one of general linguistics literature.

Note however that there is another quite distinct use that linguists routinely make of “asterisk(ed) words”: a reconstructed or inputed or deduced word that the writer thinks may (or must) have existed but for which no direct written evidence actually exists, such as some hypothetical PIE word. That one is the hypothetical asterisk.

  • Is it mean to have a bright green background? Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 13:05
  • @Araucaria I don't see a bright green background. Just a larger-than-normal asterisk (which has hints of being an "image" or emoticon rather than straight text; kinda like the way LaTEX is rendered here). Here's s screenshot of what it looks like in the SE app running on iOS.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 13:13
  • Well, that seems nice and clear. Don't suppose you know what I can do to get rid of the bright green box I've got on my screen? Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 15:01
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    What OS and browser are you using (with versions)? Any special fonts installed, or software (eg desktop publishing) that would install special fonts? Might be worth asking (with screenshots) over at Super User.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 15:02
  • I'm using OS X Yosemite 10.10.1 and Firefox 35.0.1 ... Only special fonts are for IPA symbols ... Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 15:10
  • If you open the page in Safari (or Chrome or Opera if you have them), is the character still green?
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 15:16
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    Ah, no. I'll have a fiddle around with the add-ons on firefox and see what happens. Thanks :-) Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 15:18
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    When you figure out which addon is causing the trouble, it's worth posting that as an answer & accepting it, for the next guy who runs into this problem.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 15:20
  • Weird! Now I'm seeing them as bright green boxes with a blinding white star, too! As a sort of emoticon? Maybe the Apple's recent expansion of its emoticon repertoire interprets what once was a simple character as an emoticon now.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 16:35
  • It is weird isn't it? I never managed to find out what was causing that ... Commented May 2, 2015 at 16:54

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