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How do you say @ in French?

August 12, 2018

In September my eldest daughter Miranda is off to Grenoble for a year to learn the lingo. The other day she asked if I would phone the university there to enquire about payment for her accommodation. Happy to dust off my French and give it an airing, I rang the number and a reasonably successful conversation ensued, which ended with the woman at the other end asking for Miranda’s email so she could send her the required information. So that was OK, until I came to the @ part of the address. I didn’t want to just say à, in case she thought I meant the letter a. But I didn’t know the word in French for the symbol @; in fact it occurred to me that I didn’t know it in English either. In the end I said ‘le symbole pour à’. And the woman said ‘Oui, arobase’.

Arobase. That’s the French for @. They actually have a word for it. But we don’t. After the phone call I looked it up, and it’s simply called the at sign, or alternatively the commercial at. Don’t think much of that. I think we should call it arobase.

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5 Comments
  1. Simon Carter permalink

    I have seen this sign called an asperand. The interrobang is a symbol which could have wider usage.

  2. Ah, yes, I’ve just looked it up. Well, I never knew that. Asperand. Thanks. I think this word should become more widely known. My spell-check doesn’t know it.

  3. Peter Howell permalink

    I sent my first email while living in Sweden, in 1996. Then, they had a great word for ‘@’: ‘snabel a’, or ‘a’ with a trunk (as in elephant’s trunk). Unfortunately now they just say ‘at’.

  4. John Dunn permalink

    In Italian it’s a snail (chiocciola), while in Russian it’s a dog (sobaka).

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