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An apostrophe is a punctuation mark that primarily serves to indicate either grammatical possession or the contraction of two words. It can also sometimes be used to pluralize irregular nouns, such as single letters, abbreviations, and single-digit numbers.
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, in punctuation
apostrophe: see punctuation; abbreviation.


, figure of speech
apostrophe, figure of speech in which an absent person, a personified inanimate being, or an abstraction is addressed as though present. The term is derived from a Greek word meaning “a turning away,” and this sense is maintained when a narrative or dramatic thread is broken in order to digress by speaking directly to someone not there, e.g., “Envy, be silent and attend!”—Alexander Pope, “On a Certain Lady at Court.”
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



comma written above the line, used in writing for various functions: (1) In French, Italian, English, and other languages the apostrophe is used to indicate the omission of a vowel (the French I’homme instead of le homme, the English “don’t” instead of “do not,” and so on).

(2) In the orthography of the Nenets language it is used to indicate glottal stops.

(3) The apostrophe is used in transcription to convey glottal stops (in Semitic and other languages), to indicate soft consonants, and so on.

(4) In Russian writing it is used in places where foreign languages use apostrophes in proper names (Jeanne d’Arc, O’Casey); in the 1920’s and 1930’s the apostrophe was also used in place of the “hard sign” Ъ (pod’ezd instead of podЪezd).



a word or group of words naming the person or object to which speech is addressed. Apostrophe may be used within or outside a sentence. It is not bound grammatically to the other parts of a sentence. Apostrophe is widely used in literary language to convey dialogue. For example:

(Famusov:) “Sergei Sergeich, can this be you!”

A. S. Griboedov, Woe From Wit

It is also used in the speech of the narrator to address an individual. For example:

“And you, exile,” I thought, “weep on your vast, free steppes.”

M. Iu. Lermontov, Bela

Or it may be used to address an inanimate object:

“Loosen up, shoulder! Swing, arm!

You, wind, blow in the face from afternoon on!”

A. V. Kol’tsov, “The Mower”

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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