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The tilde ( ˜ or ~; ) is a grapheme with several uses. The name of the character comes from Spanish, from the Latin titulus meaning a title or superscription, though the term “tilde” has evolved in that language and now has a different meaning in linguistics. The tilde is colloquially known as a 'squiggly' by people who do not know its name.

It was originally written over a letter as a mark of abbreviation, but has since acquired a number of other uses as a diacritic mark or a character in its own right, and there are a number of Unicode characters for these different roles.In the latter capacity (especially in lexicography), the tilde or swung dash ( ) is used in dictionaries to indicate the omission of the entry word. It is also used in online chat situations to denote sarcasm.

Diacritical use

In languages, the tilde is a diacritical mark (~) placed over a letter to indicate a change in pronunciation, such as nasalization.

It was first used in the polytonic orthography of Ancient Greek, as a variant of the circumflex accent, representing a rise in pitch followed by a return to standard pitch.

Later, it was used to make abbreviation in medieval Latin documents. When an ‘n’ or ‘m’ followed a vowel, it was often omitted, and a tilde (i.e., a small ‘n’) was placed over the preceding vowel to indicate the missing letter – compare with the development of the umlaut as an abbreviation of ‘e’ – this is the origin of the use of tilde to indicate nasalization. The practice of using the tilde over a vowel to indicate omission of an "n" or "m" continued in printed books in French as a means of reducing text length until the 17th century. It was also used in Portuguese and Spanish. The tilde was also used occasionally to make other abbreviations, such as over the letter "q" to signify the word qué ("what").In Portuguese the, tilde, called "til," is placed over the letters A and O, although it was used over the letter U ("ũ") as an abbreviation for "um" during the Renaissance and shortly thereafter.

The tilded "n" ("ñ", "Ñ") developed from the digraph "nn" in Spanish. In this language, ñ is considered a separate letter called eñe (IPA ['eɲe]), rather than a letter-diacritic combination; it is placed in Spanish dictionaries between the letters n and o. In addition, the word tilde can refer to any diacritic in this language; for example, the acute accent in José is also called a tilde in Spanish. Current languages in which the tilded "n" ("ñ") is used for the palatal nasal consonant include:

It is also as a small "n" that the tilde originated when written above another letters, marking a Latin "n" which had been elided in old Galician-Portuguese. It indicates nasalization of the base vowel: mão "hand", from Lat. manu-; razões "reasons", from Lat. rationes. Current languages and alphabets in which the tilde is used as a sign of nasalization include:

Languages and alphabets that use the tilde for other purposes:

Similar characters

There are a number of similar characters; the Unicode characters similar to the tilde are:
Character Code point Name Comments
U+0303 COMBINING TILDE Used for diacritics (shown combined)
U+223C TILDE OPERATOR Used in mathematics


The swung dash (~) is used in various ways in punctuation:


In some languages (though not English), a tilde-like wavy dash may be used as punctuation (instead of an unspaced hyphen or en-dash) between two numbers, to indicate a range rather than subtraction or a hyphenated number (such as a part number or model number). For example, 12~15 means "12 to 15", ~3 means "up to three" and 100~ means "100 and greater." Japanese and other East Asian languages almost always use this convention, but it is often done for clarity in some other languages as well. Chinese uses the wavy dash and full-width em dash interchangeably for this purpose. In English, the tilde is often used to express ranges and model numbers in electronics but rarely in formal grammar or type-set documents, as a wavy dash preceding a number sometimes represents an approximation (see the Mathematics section, below).


The —Unicode U+301C—is used for various purposes in Japanese. Note, however, that in practice the —Unicode U+FF5E—is often used instead of the wave dash, because the Shift JIS code for the wave dash, 0x8160, which is supposed to be mapped to U+301C [30221][30222], is not mapped to U+301C but mapped to U+FF5E [30223] in Code page 932—Microsoft's Code page for Japanese, a widely-used extension of Shift JIS. In other platforms such as Mac OS and Mac OS X, 0x8160 is correctly mapped to U+301C, but it is generally difficult, if not impossible, for computer users in Japan to type U+301C, especially in legacy, non-Unicode applications. Also, the wave dash glyph in JIS/Shift JIS [30224] is almost identical to the Unicode reference glyph for U+FF5E [30225], while the reference glyph for U+301C [30226] is roughly its “mirrored” version. Nevertheless, the Japanese wave dash is still formally mapped to U+301C as of JIS X 0213. Those two code points have the identical or very similar glyph in several fonts, reducing the confusion and incompatibility.

In Japanese, the wave dash is also used to separate a title and a subtitle in the same line, as a colon is used in English.

When used in conversations via email or instant messenger it may be used as a sarcasm mark or, in East Asia, as an extension of the final syllable to produce the same effect as “whyyyyyy” with “why〜〜” (as mentioned above, Windows users would most probably type it as “why~~”: notice the difference between U+301C 〜 and U+FF5E ~). Used at the end of a word or sentence in text communications, it often denotes something said in a sing-song voice, or similar to the use in instant messengers and email, depending on context.


In mathematics, the tilde operator (Unicode U+223C), sometimes pronounced “twiddle”, is often used to denote an equivalence relation between two objects. Thus “x ~ y” means “x is equivalent to y”. (Note that this is usually quite different from stating that x equals y.) The expression “x ~ y” is sometimes read aloud as “x twiddles y”, perhaps as an analogue to the verbal expression of “x = y”.

There are two common contexts in which “~” is used to denote particular equivalence relations: It can be used to denote the asymptotical equality of two functions. For example, f(x) ~ g(x), means that limx→∞ f(x)/g(x) = 1. Additionally, in statistics and probability theory, ~ means “is distributed as”. See random variable.

There is also a triple-tilde, ( ) which is often used to show congruence, an equivalence relation in geometry.

A tilde can also be used to represent Similarity. In modern Geometry, polygons can be similar to one another, and similarity can be expressed as e.g. Triangle ABC ~ (is similar to) Triangle DEF. This is often used to relate polygons that have a geometric similarity to others, such as when using ratios and proportions to compare polygons.

In English it is sometimes used to represent approximation, for example ~10 would mean “approximately 10”. Similar symbols are used in mathematics, such as in π ≈ 3.14, “π is about equal to 3.14”. Since the double-tilde (; HTML entity ≈) is generally not available from the [[Computer keyboard|keyboard]], the tilde (~) has become a substitute for use in [[typing|typed]] entry. A tilde is also used to indicate “approximately equal to” (e.g. 1.902 ~= 2). This usage probably developed as a typed alternative to the [[:Image:Libra.svg|libra symbol]] used for the same purpose in written mathematics, which is an equal sign (=) with the upper bar replaced by a bar with an upward hump or loop in the middle or, sometimes, a tilde. [Also see [[Approximation]]]. The symbol "≈" is also used for this purpose. A tilde can be used on its own between two expressions (e.g. a ~ 0.1) to state that the two are of the same [[order of magnitude]]. A tilde placed below a letter in mathematics can represent a vector quantity. ===Logic=== In written mathematical [[logic]], it represents [[negation]] (e.g. “~''p''” equals “not ''p''”). Modern use has been replacing the tilde with the negation symbol (¬) for this purpose, to avoid confusion with [[equivalence relation]]s. ==Economics== For relations involving preference, economists sometimes use the tilde to represent indifference between two or more bundles of goods. For example, to say that a consumer is indifferent between bundles x and y, an economist would write x ~ y. ==Electronics== It can approximate the sine wave symbol ({{Unicode|∿}}, [[Unicode|U+]]223F), which is used in [[electronics]] to indicate [[alternating current]], in place of +, −, or {{Unicode|⎓}} for [[direct current]]. ==Computing== === Directories and URLs === In [[Unix shell]]s, the tilde indicates the current user's [[home directory]] (e.g., /home/''username''). This practice derives from the [[Lear-Siegler]] [[ADM-3A]] terminal in common use during the 1970s, which happened to have the tilde symbol and the word "Home" (for moving the cursor to the upper left) on the same key.{{Citation needed|date=November 2008}} When prepended to a particular username, the tilde indicates that user's home directory (e.g., ~janedoe for the home directory of user janedoe, typically /home/janedoe). Used in [[Uniform Resource Locator|URLs]] on the [[World Wide Web]], it often denotes a personal website on a [[Unix]]-based server. For example, might be the personal web site of John Doe. This mimics the Unix shell usage of the tilde. However, when accessed from the web, file access is usually directed to a [[subdirectory]] in the user's home directory, such as /home/''username''/public_html or /home/''username''/www. In URLs, the characters [[Percent-encoding|%7E]] (or %7e) may substitute a tilde if an input device lacks a tilde key. Thus, and will behave in the same manner. === Computer languages === The tilde is used in the [[Awk]] [[programming language]] as part of the pattern match operators for [[regular expression]]s: *''variable'' ~ /''regex''/ returns true if the variable is matched. *''variable'' !~ /''regex''/ returns false if the variable is matched. A variant of this, with the plain tilde replaced with =~, was adopted in [[Perl]], and this semi-standardization has led to the use of these operators in other programming languages, such as [[Ruby programming language|Ruby]] or the [[SQL]] variant of the database [[PostgreSQL]]. In the [[C (programming language)|C]], [[C++]] and [[C Sharp (programming language)|C#]] programming languages, the tilde character is used as an [[Operators in C and C++|operator]] to invert all [[bit]]s of an [[integer]] (bitwise NOT), following the notation in logic (an ! causes a logical NOT, instead). In C++, the tilde is also used as the first character in a [[Class (computer science)|class]]'s [[method (computer science)|method]] name (where the rest of the name must be the same name as the class) to indicate a [[destructor (computer science)|destructor]] - a special method which is called at the end of the [[Object lifetime|object's life]]. In the [[D programming language]], the tilde is used as an [[Array data structure|array]] [[concatenation]] operator, as well as to indicate an object destructor. In the [[Cascading Style Sheets|CSS]] stylesheet language, the tilde is used for the indirect adjacent combinator as part of a selector. In the [[Inform]] programming language, the tilde is used to indicate a quotation mark inside a quoted string. In [[Max/MSP]], a tilde is used to denote objects that process at the computer's sampling rate, i.e. mainly those that deal with sound. In "text mode" of the [[LaTeX]] typesetting language a stand-alone tilde can be obtained with \~{} and for use as a diacritics, e.g., like \~{n} rendering "ñ". A stand-alone tilde can also be obtained by using \textasciitilde. In "math mode" a stand-alone tilde can be written as \tilde{~} and as diacritics, e.g., \tilde{x}. For a wider tilde the \widetilde can be used. The \sim command produce a tilde-like character that is often used in [[probability]] mathematical [[equations]], and the double-tilde is obtained with \approx. In both text and math mode a tilde on its own (~) is rendering a white space with no line breaking. === Backup filenames === The dominant [[Unix]] convention for naming backup copies of files is appending a tilde to the original file name. It originated with the [[Emacs]] text editor{{Citation needed|date=July 2009}} and was adopted by many other editors and some command-line tools. Emacs also introduced an elaborate numbered backup scheme, with files named filename.~1~, filename.~2~ and so on. It didn't catch on, probably because [[version control]] software does this better.{{Citation needed|date=August 2009}} === Microsoft filenames === The tilde was part of [[Microsoft]]'s [[filename mangling]] scheme when it developed the [[File Allocation Table|VFAT]] file system. This upgrade introduced long filenames to [[Microsoft Windows]], and permitted additional characters (such as the space) to be part of filenames, which were prohibited in previous versions. Programs written prior to this development could only access filenames in the so-called 8.3 format—the filenames consisted of a maximum of eight alphanumeric characters, followed by a period, followed by three more alphanumeric characters. In order to permit these legacy programs to access files in the VFAT file system, each file had to be given two names—one long, more descriptive one, and one that conformed to the 8.3 format. This was accomplished with a name-mangling scheme in which the first six characters of the filename are followed by a tilde and a digit. For example, "Program Files" becomes "PROGRA~1". Also, the tilde symbol is used to prefix hidden temporary files that are created when a document is opened in Windows. For example, when you open a Word document called "Document1.doc," a file called "~$cument1.doc" is created in the same directory. This file contains information about which user has the file open, to prevent multiple users from attempting to change a document at the same time. === Games === In many games, the tilde key (on U.S. English keyboards) is used to open the developer console. This is true for games such as ''[[Half-Life (video game)|Half-Life]]'', ''[[Halo CE]]'', ''[[Quake]]'', ''[[Half-Life 2]]'', ''[[Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix]]'', ''[[Unreal]]'', ''[[Counter-Strike]]'' and others based on the [[Quake engine]] or [[Source (game engine)|Source engine]]. === Other uses === [[Computer programmers]] use the tilde in various ways and sometimes call the symbol (as opposed to the diacritic) a '''squiggle''' or a '''twiddle'''. According to the [[Jargon File]], other synonyms sometimes used in [[programming]] include '''not''', '''approx''', '''wiggle''', '''enyay''' (after ''[[ñ|eñe]]'') and (humorously) '''sqiggle''' ({{pron-en|ˈskɪɡəl}}). In [[MediaWiki]], three consecutive tildes (~~~) create a "signature" (which can be customised by the user), five consecutive tildes (~~~~~) result in the time in [[UTC]], and four consecutive tildes (~~~~) result in the signature followed by the time in UTC.

Another recent use of the tilde is to indicate either a "melodic" pronunciation, or a commonly recognized vocal inflection by enclosing a word or entire phrase between a pair of tilde (similar to the use of quotation marks) which indicates that such word or phrase is to be either sung as a tune, ~Happy birthday to you...~, pronounced as a jeer or taunt, ~Nyah, nyah!~, or with a common change in pitch, ~What-EVER!~.

In many online or internet communities, the tilde is used to show a sarcastic or sometimes playful connotation for the word or words to follow it.

Juggling notation

In the juggling notation system Beatmap, tilde can be added to either "hand" in a pair of fields to say "cross the arms with this hand on top". Mills Mess is thus represented as (~2x,1)(1,2x)(2x,~1)*.

Vertical tilde

Unicode has a combining vertical tilde character, at U+033E . It is used to indicate middle tone in the Lithuanian language and for transliteration of the Cyrillic palatalization sign (U+484 ) .

Tilde with keyboards

Where a tilde is on the keyboard depends on the computer's language settings according to the following chart. If the keyboard does not have the Alt Gr key it is the right-hand Alt key, and with a Macintosh either of the Alt/Option keys. Otherwise, the Alt code for tilde is 126 for US and European keyboards.

Keyboard Insert a single tilde (~) Place a tilde over a letter (e.g. ã)
English (UKmarker) Shift + #
English (USmarker) Shift + ` Control + ~, followed by the relevant letter (n, a, or o)
English (Australia) Shift + `
English (Canadamarker) Shift + `
French (Canadamarker) Alt Gr + ç, followed by the space bar (for two tildes at once Alt Gr + ç + ç). Alt Gr + ç, followed by the relevant letter.
French (Francemarker) Alt Gr + é, followed by the space bar (for two tildes at once Alt Gr + é + é). Alt Gr + é, followed by the relevant letter.
French (Switzerlandmarker) Alt Gr + ^, followed by the space bar (for two tildes at once Alt Gr + ^ + ^). Alt Gr + ^, followed by the relevant letter.
German (Germanymarker) Alt Gr + +
German (Switzerlandmarker) Alt Gr + ^, followed by the space bar (for two tildes at once Alt Gr + ^ + ^). Alt Gr + ^, followed by the relevant letter.
Hindi (Indiamarker) Shift + Alt Gr + the key to the left of 1 .
Icelandic Alt Gr + ' (same key as ?).
Italian Alt + 1 + 2 + 6 (on numeric keypad with Bloc Num)Alt + 5 (on Mac OSX).
Norwegian Alt Gr + ¨, followed by the space bar (for two tildes at once Alt Gr + ¨ + ¨). Alt Gr + ¨, followed by the relevant letter.
Polish Shift + `
Spanish Alt Gr + 4, followed by the space bar (for two tildes at once Alt Gr + 4 + 4). Alt Gr + 4, followed by the relevant letter.
Swedish and Finnish Alt Gr + ¨, followed by the space bar (for two tildes at once Alt Gr + ¨ + ¨). Alt Gr + ¨, followed by the relevant letter.
Portuguese ~ + space bar (for two tildes ~ + ~). ~, followed by the relevant letter.
Turkish Alt Gr + ü, followed by the space bar (for two tildes at once Alt Gr + two times ü ). Alt Gr + ü, followed by the relevant letter.

See also


  1. WordNet Search - 3.0
  3. Lithuanian Standards Board (LST), proposal for a zigazag diacritic.
  4. HP 5189 keyboard + HP 8055 + Vista

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