- the sign (‘), as used: to indicate the omission of one or more letters in a word, whether unpronounced, as in o’er for over, or pronounced, as in gov’t for government; to indicate the possessive case, as in man’s; or to indicate plurals of abbreviations and symbols, as in several M.D.’s, 3’s.
- a digression in the form of an address to someone not present, or to a personified object or idea, as “O Death, where is thy sting?”
- the punctuation mark ‘ used to indicate the omission of a letter or number, such as he’s for he has or he is, also used in English to form the possessive, as in John’s father and twenty pounds’ worth
- rhetoric a digression from a discourse, esp an address to an imaginary or absent person or a personification
mark indicating omitted letter, 1580s, from Middle French apostrophe, from Late Latin apostrophus, from Greek apostrophos (prosoidia) “(the accent of) turning away,” thus, a mark showing where a letter has been omitted, from apostrephein “avert, turn away,” from apo- “from” (see ) + strephein “to turn” (see ).
In English, the mark often represents loss of -e- in -es, possessive ending. It was being extended to all possessives, whether they ever had an -e- or not, by 18c. Greek also used this word for a “turning aside” of an orator in speech to address some individual, a sense first recorded in English 1530s.
A mark (‘) used with a isn’t, don’t, we’ll).or to indicate possession (“the student’s comment,” “the people’s choice”) or in a to show where letters have been left out (