The symbol (#).
(chiefly US) The hash or square symbol (#), used mainly in telephony and computing.
Origin of octothorpe
- Coined in the 1960s by researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories octo– (probably in reference to the eight endpoints of the lines in the symbol) -thorpe (perhaps from thorp in reference to the resemblance of the symbol to a village surrounded by fields) (or after James Francis Thorpe because one of the researchers was an advocate of the restoration of Thorpe's Olympic medals)
From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition
- Origin disputed. Reportedly a jocular coinage by Bell Labs supervisor Don Macpherson in the early 1960s, from octo- (“eight"), with reference to its eight points, + -thorpe (after 1912 Olympic medalist Jim Thorpe, in whom Macpherson was interested). However, Doug Kerr attributes octatherp to a practical joke by engineers John C. Schaak, Herbert T. Uthlaut, and Lauren Asplund upon himself and Howard Eby.
- The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories (1991) supports octotherp as the original spelling, and telephone engineers as the source.