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I did some research but didn't find an answer to it.

The asterisk seems to be a common symbol on the web for marking input or user interaction as required. Most likely it has it's origins in print where the asterisk is common to refer to a footnote and this pattern is transferred to the web as the explanation text like '* = required' is very often at the end of a form.

My question is: Is the asterisk (*) the common symbol for all languages on the web? If not, in which languages is it different?

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I think is more about location than language. In Portuguese, Brazil, it is. –  Renato Dinhani Conceição Mar 30 '12 at 14:17
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It's a universal typographical mark denoting a footnote or a warning. –  dnbrv Mar 30 '12 at 14:49
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We've had a similar question before: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/10468/… . I would be very careful if planning to use anything other than an asterisk as such a mark. –  Ben Brocka Mar 30 '12 at 14:54
    
@BenBrocka Thanks. I've seen this one but it doesn't answer my question. –  greenforest Mar 30 '12 at 15:04
    
That's why I didn't close it as a dupe. Not sure there's a definitive answer out there though. "All Languages" might be asking a bit much, but for web forms most conventions are born of English and Western conventions since...well, we got here first. –  Ben Brocka Mar 30 '12 at 15:10

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Meaning of asterisk depends on the context.

Examples:

  • In the context of user interaction with website form fields an asterisk means "a required field".
  • In the context of marketing documents it means "see that small text below for contract details".
  • In the context of mathematical equation it can be a convolution operator.
  • In the context of operating systems it means a wildcard for text replacement patterns.
  • In the sense explained above the meaning is different for various languages: the language of computer interfaces, the language of mathematics, the language of marketing, etc.

The sign itself has the same meaning across foreign languages and is understandable as long as the user expects the context and knows the specialized language.

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In the context of mathematical equation it usually means that somebody doesn't know what the correct typographical mark for multiplication sign is. And the question is specifically about forms. –  dnbrv Mar 30 '12 at 15:31
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@dnbrv thanks, I got your point. Asterisk can however be a multiplication symbol for programming languages. –  Refineo Mar 30 '12 at 15:40
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When talking about languages, the asterisk is sometimes used to mark incorrect usage (e.g. ****I eated an apple****), so that the reader does not have to read the whole thing to understand which are the good and bad examples. –  marcus Apr 3 '12 at 19:31

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