What exactly is an ampersand?
It’s a ligature, or joining, of the letters “e” and “t,” which in Latin is “et,” or “and.” That’s why there are so many different visual styles of the character. As long as you can see (or as long as the type designer thinks he sees) an “e” and a “t,” you’ve got an ampersand. Here are some examples:
Did you know our alphabet used to have more than 26 characters?
The symbol “&” was actually part of the English alphabet in the early 1800s. School children reciting their ABCs concluded the alphabet with &. It would have been confusing to say “X, Y, Z, and.” Rather, the students said, “and per se and.” “Per se” means “by itself,” so the students were essentially saying, “X, Y, Z, and, by itself, ‘and’.”
Why is it called “ampersand”?
Over time, “and per se and” was slurred together into the word we use today: ampersand. When a word comes about from a mistaken pronunciation, it’s called a mondegreen.
Is the plus sign an ampersand?
“Plus” is a Latin word for “more.” So maybe the plus sign is a figure of sole origin, or it may have been derived from the ampersand, which in a way also means “more.” Here is my own sequence of evolution that supports the theory it is derived from the ampersand:
What does &c. mean?
“&” is for “et,” and “c.” is for “cetera.”
“Et” is Latin for “and.”
“Cetera” is Latin for “the others.”
What does U&lc mean?
UPPER & lower case, as in capital and non-capital letters. The proper terms, though not heard much anymore, are “majuscule” and “minuscule.”
The terms “upper case” and “lower case” originated in the early days of hand-set type where each character was cast on a separate piece of metal and stored in shallow drawers known as cases. Frequently there were two cases (drawers) for each font, one placed on top of the other while compositing type. The upper case contained the majuscules. The lower case contained the minuscules.
This illustration has the cases reversed—lowercase is on top—to clearly show the various sizes of boxes individual compartments needed to accommodate the quantity of each lowercase letter used for the average composition. (The uppercase compartments are all the same size.) There are more “e”s used in the English language than any other letter, hence “e” is stored in the largest box.
Our friend the ampersand is stored in the upper case (bottom in this illustration), near the lower right corner: bottom row & second box in.