Grawlix | Definition, Meaning, Use & Examples

Grawlix (also called “obscenicon” or “symbol swearing”) refers to the use of typographical symbols in place of an obscenity (e.g., “$%@!”).

Grawlix is frequently used in comic strips to indicate that a character is thinking or saying a swear word. It’s also used on social media platforms as a way to obscure inappropriate language. Grawlix can be used by itself or as part of a sentence.

Examples: Grawlix

“Where the %@#! is my car? I parked it right here.”

“I hate this @&#$?&! song.”

How is grawlix used?

Grawlix is a string of typographical symbols, most commonly ampersands (“&”), at signs (“@”), exclamation points (“!”), question marks (“?”), percentage symbols (“%”), hash or pound symbols (“#”), and dollar signs (“$”). These symbols are used in no particular order.

Because grawlix consists solely of symbols, it’s only ever written and cannot be used in spoken communication. However, in speech, grawlix is usually represented by the word “bleep” (in reference to the electric sound commonly used to censor expletives and sensitive information in recorded audio).

Grawlix should be avoided in formal contexts like academic writing. However, it’s sometimes used in informal contexts, such as text messages (usually in the form of an emoji depicting an angry face with the mouth obscured by typographical symbols).

Examples: Grawlix in text messages
Person A: Hey, I forgot to water your plants while you were away. Sorry.

Person B: 🤬

Grawlix is also often used on social media platforms as a means of self-censorship or to subvert community guidelines and policies.

In these instances, symbols are often used to replace one or more letters in an offensive or prohibited word, rather than the entire word (e.g., “F*#K”). Sometimes, a specific symbol is used to represent a letter that it resembles (e.g., “$” is often used to represent the letter “s”). It’s also common to replace some letters (usually vowels) with asterisks (e.g., “f*ck”).

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Frequently asked questions about grawlix

What is it called when symbols are used to replace swear words?

The term grawlix refers to the use of typographical symbols in place of swear words (e.g., “$%@!”).

Grawlix is most commonly used in comic strips and on social media platforms. It typically consists of a string of symbols, such as ampersands (“&”), at signs (“@”), and exclamation marks (“!”). These symbols are used in no particular order.

What are common curse word symbols?

The string of symbols used to replace or obscure written curse words is called grawlix.

Some commonly used grawlix symbols include ampersands (“&”), at signs (“@”), exclamation marks (“!”), dollar signs (“$”), and hash symbols (“#”). It’s also common to replace some letters in an offensive word with asterisks (“*”).

What is a grawlix generator?

A grawlix generator is a tool used to create a random string of typographical symbols in order to replace or obscure a word that is considered offensive (e.g., “#@$%!”).

You can also manually write grawlixes using a limited number of symbols, including ampersands (“&”), at signs (“@”), hash symbols (“#”), and exclamation marks (“!”).

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.

1 comment

Eoghan Ryan
Eoghan Ryan (Scribbr Team)
August 22, 2023 at 10:42 PM

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