The 'tilde' key, or (~) is commonly found in programming and in other languages to express repetition of characters, for example, 'Woooo!' would become 'Woo~!' and in Japanese text, the tilde is commonly used to portray a flirtatious mood. It can also be used to show approximation, e.g. '1~20'.

However, is there any use of the tilde as a punctuation in the English language? Would it be appropriate to use it to convey emotion, or express repetition or is there a certain use of the tilde other than approximation between two numbers?

  • 3
    I have only seen it to mean approximately, and in an informal piece: "He ordered ~20 pieces." I wouldn't write it in a business letter or in fiction. In American English, it's not used to express a range of numbers; the en-dash is used for that (1–20). Feb 22 '17 at 17:15
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    I haven't seen the tilde used or to signify a repetition of characters.... usually in math, if we want to designate a repetition of numbers we put a line above the last decimal to indicate it will keep repeating that. Also, it isn't just the Japanese that use the ~ as part of their writing. The Koreans and Chinese use it too for same reasons. Additionally, it also adds the connotation that the statement was said with kindness. In terms of American English, I don't recall it's usage for much of anything as everyone else said outside of approximations.
    – ggiaquin16
    Feb 22 '17 at 18:14
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    You can use it to spell a word taken from Spanish that happens to have a tilde in it. Feb 25 '17 at 7:31

Other than indicating approximations for dates and numbers (e.g., ~100 CE), I am not aware of any commonly-recognized uses for the tilde. If you use it for other purposes in a text, I'd recommend putting in extra context to make the meaning clear early on in the text.


The tilde symbol is commonly used for:

  • Expressing approximations.

  • Mathematical and programming processes.

It generally is never used in fiction and would probably confuse the reader because of that. However, it has more uses in other languages. In Chinese with instant messaging stuff, sometimes you can put a little '~' on the end of your sentence to be cool, casual, and stuff, but that's not done in English. Also, the Chinese keyboard on your phone gives a lot of these crazy faces like ~\ (≧▽≦) /~ that use the tilde.

I wouldn't use it in fiction unless you absolutely have to. It isn't used in the context of fiction and generally in English, only used for approximation.

  • yea, the only time I would add it to a story would be if I am quoting something from someone who is Chinese or Japanese and this person adds it in and the reader of the note goes uhh what is with the ~ or something lol or if they are using Spanish words... but in terms of english, it just osn't something that is used.
    – ggiaquin16
    Feb 22 '17 at 21:52

It seems that in old manuscript documents the tilda represented the repetition of 'm' or 'n' as shown in the example here (Susannah). [From parish register of St Mary-in-the-Marsh in Kent.]

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