Etymology
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punctuation (n.)

1530s, "pointing of the psalms" (for the purpose of singing them), from Medieval Latin punctuationem (nominative punctuatio) "a marking with points in writing," noun of action from past-participle stem of punctuare "to mark with points or dots," from Latin punctus, past participle of pungere "to prick, pierce" (from suffixed form of PIE root *peuk- "to prick"). Meaning "system of inserting pauses in written matter" is recorded from 1660s.

The modern system of punctuation was gradually developed after the introduction of printing, primarily through the efforts of Aldus Manutius and his family. ... Long after the use of the present points became established, they were so indiscriminately employed that, if closely followed, they are often a hindrance rather than an aid in reading and understanding the text. There is still much uncertainty and arbitrariness in punctuation, but its chief office is now generally understood to be that of facilitating a clear comprehension of the sense. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
[P]unctuation is cold notation; it is not frustrated speech; it is typographic code. [Robert Bringhurst, "The Elements of Typographic Style," 2004]
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punctuate (v.)

in reference to writing and printing, "to indicate pauses or stops by conventional signs" called points or marks of punctuation, 1818, probably a back-formation from punctuation. Hence, figuratively, "interrupt at intervals" (1833); "to emphasize by some significant or forceful action" (1883). Related: Punctuated; punctuating. An earlier, rare or isolated use, of the word in the sense of "to point out" is attested from 1630s, from Medieval Latin punctuatus, past participle of punctuare, from Latin punctus.


 

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*peuk- 
also *peug-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to prick."

It forms all or part of: appoint; appointment; bung; compunction; contrapuntal; expugn; expunge; impugn; interpunction; oppugn; pink; poignant; point; pointe; pointillism; poniard; pounce; pugilism; pugilist; pugnacious; pugnacity; punch (n.1) "pointed tool for making holes or embossing;" punch (n.3) "a quick blow with the fist;" punch (v.) "to hit with the fist;" puncheon (n.2) "pointed tool for punching or piercing;" punctilio; punctilious; punctual; punctuate; punctuation; puncture; pungent; punty; Pygmy; repugn; repugnance; repugnant.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek pyx "with clenched fist," pygme "fist, boxing," pyktes "boxer;" Latin pugnare "to fight," especially with the fists, pungere "to pierce, prick."
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backslash (n.)
punctuation symbol introduced for computer purposes, by 1977, from back (adj.) + slash (n.).
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emoticon (n.)

"pictorial representation of a facial expression using punctuation or other keyboard characters," by 1994, apparently from emotion + icon.

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comma (n.)

punctuation mark, 1520s as a Latin word, nativized by 1590s, from Latin comma "short phrase or clause of a sentence or line of poetry," from Greek komma "clause in a sentence," also ""stamp, coinage," literally "piece which is cut off," from koptein "to strike, smite, cut off; disable, tire out," which is perhaps from PIE root *kop- "to beat, strike, smite" (see hatchet (n.)), or perhaps Pre-Greek.

Like colon (n.1) and period it was originally a Greek rhetorical term for a part of a sentence, and like them it has been transferred to the punctuation mark that identifies it. In reading aloud the punctuation mark is used to admit small interruptions in continuity of speech for the sake of clarity, but its purpose is to indicate grammatical structure.

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semicolon (n.)
punctuation-mark, 1640s, a hybrid coined from Latin-derived semi- + Greek-based colon (n.1). The mark itself was (and is) in Greek the point of interrogation.
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colon (n.1)

"punctuation mark consisting of two dots, one above the other, used to mark grammatical discontinuity less than that indicated by a period," 1540s, from Latin colon "part of a verse or poem," from Greek kōlon "part of a verse," literally "limb, member" (especially the leg, but also of a tree limb), also, figuratively, "a clause of a sentence," a word of uncertain etymology.

The meaning evolved in modern languages from "independent clause" to the punctuation mark that sets it off. In ancient grammar a colon was one of the larger divisions of a sentence.

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virgule (n.)

thin sloping line similar to a modern slash, used as a comma in medieval MSS and still in modern text to indicate line breaks in poetry, 1837, from French virgule (16c.), from Latin virgula "punctuation mark," literally "little twig," diminutive of virga "shoot, rod, stick." The word had been borrowed in its Latin form in 1728.

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slash (n.)
"a cutting stroke with a weapon," 1570s, from slash (v.); sense of "slit in a garment" is from 1610s; that of "open tract in a forest" is first attested 1825, American English. As a punctuation mark in writing or printing, it is recorded from 1961.
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