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The sign "/" is a punctuation mark called a slash or forward slash in American English or stroke in UK English. Other terms used include virgule, diagonal, right-leaning stroke, oblique dash, slant, separatrix, scratch comma, slaok, over, slak, or whack. In Unicode, the slash is called a SOLIDUS (U+002F), even though the slash is usually distinguished from the solidus (or shilling mark), in that the former is more nearly vertical. The slash has been confused with the backslash, for example in television or radio advertisements where a URL is spoken. The backslash, "\", has a similar appearance, but with the stroke transverse: upper left to lower right.


This symbol goes back to the days of ancient Romemarker. In the early modern period, in the Fraktur script, which was widespread through Europe in the Middle Ages, one slash (/) represented a comma, while two slashes (//) represented a dash. The two slashes eventually evolved into a sign similar to the equals sign (=), then being further simplified to a single dash or hyphen (–).


In English text

The most common use is to replace the hyphen or en dash to make clear a strong joint between words or phrases, such as "the Hemingway/Faulkner generation". Often it is used to represent the concept "or", especially in instruction books. Its other common usage represents the concept of "and".

The virgule is also used to indicate a line break when quoting multiple lines from a poem, play, or headline. In this case (and only in this case), a space is placed before and after the virgule. For example: "Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, / But bears it out even to the edge of doom".

In an ordinary prose quotation, such a spaced virgule is sometimes used to represent the start of a new paragraph.

UK English particularly makes use of stroke instead of hyphen in forming abbreviations. Many examples are found in writings during the Second World War. For example, 'S/E' means 'single-engined', as a quick way of writing a type of aircraft. And in the USA, "O/O" is used by trucking firms or taxi-cabs to mean "owner-operator" (or "owned and operated by"). Notice that the phrase has a hyphen, whereas the abbreviation uses the slash.

In the USA Government office names are abbreviated using slashes, starting with the larger office and following with its subdivisions. In the State Department, the Office of Commercial & Business Affairs in the Bureau for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs is referred to as EEB/CBA.

In The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing, no space before or after an oblique when used between individual words, letters or symbols; one space before and after the oblique when used between longer groups which contain internal spacing:
  • n/a
  • Language and Society / Langue et société

The slash is often used, perhaps incorrectly, to separate the letters in a two-letter initialism such as R/C (short for radio control) or w/o (without). Purists strongly discourage this newer use of the symbol. However, since other uses of the slash with individual characters are highly context-specific, confusion is not likely to arise. Other examples include b/w (between or, sometimes, black and white), w/e (whatever, also weekend or week ending), i/o (input-output), and r/w (read-write).

The slash is also used in some abbreviations such as w/ (with).

There are usually no spaces either before or after a slash. Typical exceptions are in representing the start of a new line when quoting verse, or a new paragraph when quoting prose, etc. The Chicago Manual of Style (at 6.112) also allows spaces when either of the separated items is a compound that itself includes a space: Our New Zealand / Western Australia trip. (Compare use of an en dash used to separate such compounds.)

The slash is also used to avoid taking a position in a naming controversy, allowing the juxtaposition of both names without stating a preference. An example is the designation "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac" in the official US census, reflecting the Syriac naming dispute. The Swedish census has come to a similar solution, using Assyrier/Syrianer to refer to the same ethnic group.


When highlighting corrections on a proof, a proofreader will write what he or she thinks should be changed — or why it should be changed — in the margin. They separate the comments with a slash called a separatrix.

When marking an uppercase letter for conversion to lowercase, a proofreader will put a slash through it and write lc or l/c in the margin.


The solidus and virgule are distinct typographic symbols with decidedly different uses. The solidus is significantly more horizontal than the virgule. The character found on standard keyboards is the virgule and while most people lump the two characters together (and when there is no alternative it is acceptable to use the virgule in place of the solidus), they are different. The solidus is used in the display of ratios and fractions as in constructing a fraction using superscript and subscript as in “123456”; the virgule is used for essentially any other textual purpose.

For numbers it means division, and for sets it usually means modulo ( quotient group ) .


A slash followed by a dash is used to denote the conclusion of currency. For example, on a check or a hand-written invoice, somebody may write $50/- to denote the end of the currency. This keeps anybody from adding further digits to the end of the number.


A slash is typically used to denote a spare, knocking down all ten pins in two throws, when scoring ten-pin bowling, candlepin bowling and duckpin bowling.



On Unix-like systems and in URL, the slash is to separate directory and file components of a path:


A leading slash represents the root directory of the virtual file system; it is used when specifying absolute paths:


It is sometimes called a "forward slash" to contrast with the backslash \, which MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows systems also accept as a path delimiter, although it is also sometimes incorrectly called a backslash.

Microsoft Windows, MS-DOS, like CP/M, use slash to indicate command-line options. For instance you add the "wide" option to the "dir" command by typing "dir/w".


Many Internet Relay Chat and in-game chat clients use the slash to distinguish commands, such as the ability to join or part a chat room or send a private message to a certain user. The slash has also been used in many chat mediums as a way of expressing an action or statement in the likeness of a fake command.

/join #services – to join channel "#services"

/me sings a song about birds.



In computer programming, the slash is Unicode and ASCII character 47, or 0x002F. Note that ISO and both designate this character as the “SOLIDUS”, while calling the solidus “FRACTION SLASH”, in direct contradiction to long-established English typesetting terminology.It is used in the following settings:

  • In most programming languages, / is used as a division operator. Starting with version 2.2, Python uses // (two slashes) for integer division, rounding down.
  • MATLAB and GNU Octave also have the ./ (a dot and a slash) to indicate an element-by-element division of matrices.
  • Comments in C, C++, C#, Java, PHP, CSS, and SAS begin with /* (a slash and an asterisk), and end with */ (the same characters in the opposite order).
  • C99, C++, C#, PHP, and Java also have comments that begin with // (two slashes) and span a single line.
  • In SGML and derived languages such as HTML and XML, a slash is used to indicate a closing tag. For example, in HTML, </em> ends a section of emphasized text that had been started with <em>.
  • Slashes are used as the standard delimiters for regular expressions, although other characters can be used instead.
  • Slashes are sometimes used to show italics, when no special formatting is available. Example: /Italic text/


Certain shorthand date formats use / as a delimiter, for example "9/16/2003" (in United Statesmarker usage) or in most other countries "16/9/2003" September 16, 2003.

In the UK there used to be a specialised use in prose: 7/8 May referred to the night which starts the evening of 7 May and ends the morning of 8 May, totalling about 12 hours depending on the season. This was used to list night-bombing air-raids which would carry past midnight. Some police units in the USA use this notation for night disturbances or chases. Conversely, the form with a hyphen, 7-8 May, would refer to the two-day period, at most 48 hours. This would commonly be used for meetings.

The International Standard ISO 8601, in attempting to resolve this ambiguity, introduced problems of its own. According to this norm, dates must be written year-month-day using hyphens, but time periods are written as two standard dates separated by a slash: 1939-09-01/1945-05-08, for example, would be the duration of the Second World War in the European theatre, while 09-03/12-22 might be used for a fall term of a Western school, from September third to December twenty-second. Instead of the slash in some applications a double hyphen is used, e.g. 1939-09-01—1945-05-08, which would allow the use of the duration in filenames.


For a specialized use of the slash in the titles of fan fiction stories, see slash fiction.
The slash has been used as the title of a novel by Greg Bear, / (Slant). The "Slant" was added on to give people something to call the book, but it has ultimately become the accepted title in many book lists.

The slash is also the symbol for a wand in NetHack.


Slashes are used to enclose a phonemic transcription of speech.


In quantum field theory, a slash through a symbol, such as a̷, is shorthand for γμaμ, where a is a covariant four-vector, the γμ are the gamma matrices, and the repeated index μ is summed over according to the Einstein notation.

Other alternations with hyphen

Besides the varied usage with dates, the slash is used to indicate a range of serial numbers which have the hyphen already as part of their alphanumeric symbol set. The primary example is the US Air Force serial numbers for aircraft. These are usually written, for example, as "85-1000", for the thousandth aircraft ordered in fiscal year 1985. To designate a series of serial numbers, the slash is used, as in 85-1001/1050 for the first fifty subsequent aircraft.

Alternative names

Sometimes the slash is called stroke (and oblique stroke) , although that may sometimes be confused with the hyphen. Stroke is used in UK English, where it is also common to hear someone say "this stroke that" instead of "this or that", whereas a North American speaker is more likely to say "this slash that". Even in the UK, slash is used when reading computer pathnames. Stroke is commonly used among the North American amateur radio community.

List of terms for the character include:
  • Common: stroke; slash; slant; forward stroke; forward slash; oblique
  • Rare: diagonal; solidus; over; slak; virgule; [[[slat]]]
  • Suggested: John Peel's Home Truths programme on BBC Radio 4 (UK) broadcast the suggestion from a 6-year-old contributor to use zig for the forward slash and zag for the backslash, the two forming a zigzag.

Comedian Richard Herring has suggested that the forward slash should be referred to as a flash, while the backward slash could be known as a blash.

Gender-neutrality in Spanish and Portuguese

In Portuguese and Spanish, as well in other West Iberian languages, many feminine forms are very similar to the masculine ones, differing only by an extra desinence, usually an '-a'. For instance, the feminine of 'pintor' (male painter both in Spanish and Portuguese) is 'pintora'. These two forms can be joined together through a slash: pintor/a. Proponents of gender-neutral language advocates of this composed form should be used when the sex of referred person is unknown or when description fits both sexes. Traditionally, speakers of these languages (and others from the Romance family) employ the masculine form in this sense, i.e. 'pintor', even the description is also suitable for a woman, a characterization of androcentrism.

Although compositions with the parentheses '()' are longer and less specific than with '/', these are the preferred signs in Portuguese. So, male or female painter is usually written as pintor(a) in this idiom. Important grammar references in the lusofonia actually does not mention any use of slashCunha & Cintra (2001). Nova Gramática do Português Contemporâneo, 3rd edition revised. Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira. ISBN 85-209-1137-4, but at least one proposal of gender-inclusive Portuguese does incorporate the sign. According to PCIG, '/' should be use instead of '()'. Slash should not be used only when '@' and 'æ' are more appropriate.


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