1. A star-shaped figure (*) used chiefly to indicate an omission, a reference to a footnote, or an unattested word, sound, or affix.
2. Mathematics A symbol used to indicate multiplication, as in 2 * 3 = 6.
tr.v. as·ter·isked, as·ter·isk·ing, as·ter·isks
To mark with an asterisk.
[Middle English, from Late Latin asteriscus, from Greek asteriskos, diminutive of astēr, star; see ster-3 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: The phonological phenomenon of metathesis involves the transposition of sounds or syllables in a word. Metathesis is responsible for the common rendering of ask as aks or ax. (This issue is discussed comprehensively at ax.) Similarly, one sometimes hears asterisk pronounced with the "sk" transposed to produce a (ks) sound, as though the word were spelled asterix or astericks. Then, perhaps because this symbol is often written as one of a series (as ***, for example), some people apparently infer that astericks is the plural of a singular asterick, pronounced with just a final (k) sound. In 2014, the Usage Panel overwhelmingly preferred the traditional pronunciation for asterisk, although 24 percent found the asterix pronunciation acceptable and 19 percent found asterick acceptable. A mere 7 percent personally preferred the asterix pronunciation, and only 6 percent preferred the asterick one. See Usage Note at ax2.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.