Arroba in English: Its Origin, Meaning and Use in the Digital Age Fully Explored
By Hebe Adventures

Origin and Symbolism of the Arroba

The "at" symbol (@) has a historical origin in weight measurements in Spanish-speaking countries. Its root is found in the Arabic word "ar-rub", which means "a room". The shape of the symbol, which visually resembles a small "a" placed over a lower case "o", would be derived from the abbreviation "ad" (from the Latin "a") and would resemble the old Spanish unit of weight called " at sign".

The Evolution of the Arroba: From Peso to the Digital Age

  1. Historical Use : In pre-digital times, the "arroba" was mainly used as a measure of weight in Spain and Latin America. It represented 25 pounds, becoming a crucial element in commerce and the economy.
  2. Email Addresses : One of the most notorious uses of the "@" symbol today is in email addresses. Ray Tomlinson, considered the inventor of email, was the first to use this symbol in 1971 to separate the username from the name of the host computer, thus establishing the format we still use (for example, ).
  3. Social Networks and Tags : The "@" symbol has become synonymous with mentions or tags on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Users use it to directly address others in posts or comments, fostering interaction and connectivity.
  4. Gender Neutral Pronouns : In recent years, the "@" symbol has gained prominence in conversations about gender inclusion. Some people use it to create gender-neutral word forms that are usually gender-specific, with the intention of achieving a more inclusive language.

Various Uses and Interpretations

  1. In Email Addresses : In contemporary English, "at" is rarely used in the context of weight measurements. Its main function lies in email addresses, facilitating communication and identification of the recipient.
  2. In Social Networks : On platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, the "@" symbol is essential to tag other users, mention them in comments or send them direct messages. Also, it plays a pivotal role in creating hashtags and trends.
  3. For Gender Inclusiveness : Some writers use the "@" symbol to promote gender inclusive language. Example of this is "Latinx", a gender-neutral alternative to "Latino" or "Latina".
  4. In Measurement Conversions : Although uncommon, the term "at" may occasionally appear in English texts, particularly in conversations about trade, historical contexts, or measurement conversions.

Cultural and Linguistic Repercussions

The use of the "at" in English exemplifies the way languages evolve and adapt over time, absorbing elements from various cultures. It also highlights the interconnectedness of communication in the digital age, where symbols like "@" transcend language and cultural barriers.


In a world where communication is essential, the "at" symbol has found its place as a versatile tool in the English language. From its historical roots in weight measurements to its digital applications in email, social media, and gender-neutral language, the "at" is a constant reminder of the evolving nature of language. Whether it's tagging a friend, sending an email, or contributing to inclusion, the path of the "@" symbol is a testament to the ever-changing landscape of communication. His journey continues to enrich and connect the very fabric of global communication.

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