Punctuation Graveyard: The Hedera

Today in Punctuation Graveyard, we resurrect the curious mark known as the hedera.

hedera

What exactly is the hedera, and why was it used?
The hedera is a lovely piece of punctuation primarily found in early Latin and Greek texts. Its purpose was to signify a break between paragraphs, as well as to look nice upon the page. Also known by some as a fleuron, the mark had a strictly ornamental use, perhaps the reason for its extinction. Whereas in these modern times we use simpler symbols such the asterisk and the pilcrow to show breaks, the more complicated hedera was a predecessor to these modern markings, albeit a more aesthetically pleasing one.

What does it look like?
The hedera can be described essentially as a floral heart, but can appear differently depending on the variant used. The word itself is Latin for ivy, and this origin clearly shows in the styling of the mark, which has a tendency to have vine-like swirls branching off from it. There are many different variants and designs of the hedera, and the mark can be placed vertically or, alternatively, rotated onto its side and displayed horizontally. For a look at the many different appearances it can take, a font exists that showcases many of its styles.

How do I use it?
The hedera was used ornamentally to signify a break in text. While it is uncommon in today’s day and age, it can still be used, and can even be found in a few typefaces. There are several ways to produce a hedera/fleuron digitally. The simplest method is to copy and paste the mark from their usage in this sentence, otherwise, it can be found as Unicode character U+2766 () for the vertical variant, or U+2767 () for the horizontal variant.

In Summary:
The hedera is a beautiful piece of ornamental punctuation which was used to show a break between text. While its usage has dwindled over the years, it has not yet completely disappeared from our midst, and can still occasionally be found in use today (such as in The Wordict’s very own website header!).hedera

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87 responses to “Punctuation Graveyard: The Hedera

  1. HULU is great! I am binge watching episodes of last Man Standing that I previously missed. That is what brought me, and apparently many other people to this page.
    Last Man Standing needs to be resurrected and brought back on the air with new episodes! Jim

  2. Last Man Standing and Tim’s previous hit show, Home Improvement
    are great sources of general knowledge.

    I had to find a way to use this wonderful punctuation mark.
    DO YOU THINK I GRASPED THE CONCEPT‽

  3. I’m also here because of LMS too. But after reading everyone’s comments I know have a new question. is there any one here who isn’t looking it up because of Last Man Standing? If so where else did you hear of it?

    • I have no idea what the hedera has to do with Last Man Standing — I don’t watch TV. So I am here to find out what this symbol means, and how to properly use it. I am a typographer, and although I know the difference between a long dash and and ellipsis and how to properly use them (as well as em dashes, en dashes, and hyphens) I thought the hedera was merely decorative. Glad I looked it up, as I frequently design ads, posters and packaging in olde-style typography, which is where I’ve seen the symbol the most. If you like ampersands, check out my personal design project: amperart.com

      Quiz: know what ### or -30- means? They both mean the same thing.

  4. Last man standing……guilty here too!😊
    Good wholesome show and that just irritates some who “resist” just to resist😞

  5. …and to think I thought I knew everything about punctuation! A typographer for over five decades, your website proves you can teach an old dog new tricks. I’ve used the hedera (not knowing it even had a name) for decorative purposes, but for today’s project I needed a paragraph separator prettier than the pilcrow, and discovered the true purpose of the “heart with a stem glyph” which I’ve always called it. Today, November 1, is National Author’s Day (yes, singular) for which I am creating my latest poster, “Fiction & Nonfiction.” I create one per month, and they always feature “the fun & fabulous ampersand.” If there’s anyone who will enjoy these, it’s got to be you and your readers. Visit AmperArt.com. And thanks for educating this old graphic designer.

    PS I will mention your wonderful website in my articles, as ampersand fans enjoy punctuation of all types.

  6. I just heard it on Last Man Standing for the first time. I’ve been riding for a long time I’ve seen it but I never knew what it was. How interesting you can learn something new from a quaint little comedy show.

  7. S6 E12. 2 minutes in
    Venessa: “Not a chance, hedera”

    Last man standing is a great show! I laughed when I saw everyone else on this sight mentioning it.
    On a personal note, I have a graduate degree and I took Latin but have never heard of a hedera. Takes a great show to teach us unique trivia.

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