Posted by: Jack Henry | November 21, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Odd Abbreviations

Dear Editrix,

I know that the Symitar editorial staff regulates the use of our abbreviations in our software and our documentation. And I know that the editors use established abbreviations found in the various style guides that we base our standards on. But what bathtub were abbreviators drinking gin out of when they came up with the following “abbreviations” that are commonly used:

· pound = lb. (There’s no L or B in pound although when you put on too many pounds it might feel like you’re in L.)

· number = no. (They got the N right, but they were O so wrong with the rest.)

· ounce = oz. (Ignore the man behind the curtain.)

Mr. Dachshund in San Diego

Dear Mr. D,

As I responded to you personally, I figured these abbreviations were related to Latin, especially considering the Periodic Table of Elements (such as Na for sodium and Fe for iron) and how many of those abbreviations come from Latin. Here are some really interesting details about all three, especially the information about using no. for number.

From The Week:

Lb is an abbreviation of the Latin word libra. The primary meaning of libra was balance or scales (as in the astrological sign), but it also stood for the ancient Roman unit of measure libra pondo, meaning "a pound by weight." We got the word "pound" in English from the pondo part of the libra pondo but our abbreviation comes from the libra. The libra is also why the symbol for the British pound is £ — an L with a line through it.

"Ounce" is related to the Latin uncia, the name for both the Roman ounce and inch units of measurement. The word came into English from Anglo-Norman French, where it was unce or ounce, but the abbreviation was borrowed from Medieval Italian, where the word was onza.

From Wikipedia: [KC – See the link for unedited material.]

The numero sign or numero symbol, , is a typographic abbreviation of the word number(s) indicating ordinal numeration, especially in names and titles. For example, with the numero sign, the written long-form of the address "Number 22 Acacia Avenue" is shortened to "№ 22 Acacia Avenue", yet both forms are spoken long.

In English, the abbreviation "No." of "numero" is often used in place of the word "number".

Yours truly,


Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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