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The ^caret symbol

Have you ever wondered what’s that symbol (^) above the number 6 on your keyboard? This symbol is called caret. Pronounced in the same way as carrot, this symbol has more uses than you can think of. In this article, let us explore the uses of this mystery cap on number 6!

  Ramya Shankar  —  Grammar Tips
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Origin of the caret symbol

Caret is a Latin word which means ‘to be separated’. It is also called as circumflex. Here are a few places where caret symbol is used –

1. Computer programming languages and regular expressions

Many programming languages use ^ to match first character in a line or string. For example, ^\d{5} will match strings or patterns like “abcde” in “abcdefghi”. Similarly, for an email id, the regular expression is ^([a-zA-Z0-9_\-\.]+other regex.

Caret is also used for bitwise XOR in programming languages like C.

2. As a shortcut for Ctrl

In place of some commands like Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V and so on, some documentations use ^C, ^V respectively.

3. Phonetic marker for vowels

In some languages, the tone in which a word is said keeps changing with pitch falling down and rising from syllable to syllable or even word-to-word. This tone contouring is denoted by the ^ or caret symbol. It is useful while writing what is spoken, for example a dialogue, poem or a speech.   

Caret also comes handy when the vowels (â, ê, and ô) need to be stressed in a word in some languages. Examplelâtte. Here, a is the long vowel and hence there is a caret.

4. In mathematics

Caret symbol is used to denote angles, transforms (like Fourier transform) and unit vector (û). For example, Â, î and many more.

5. For proofreading

Most proof-readers use caret to indicate any mistakes in a document. For example,

“She could done a better job.”   Use caret to add the word ‘have’ –

“She could ^have done a better job”. This will ensure the writer knows what text has been added and where.

6. To indicate something that has been mentioned already

In the online chatting world, caret is used for various purposes –

·         To reply to someone’s post just above your post

·         To refer to a previous comment or chat again

·         To agree to a comment by another person

If a person is sending many carets together (^^^^^^^^^), it is an indication that the readers have to read or view a previously mentioned line again.

The caret symbols can be used in various combinations to form creative emoticons for the chat language. For example, ^-^, ^v^ etc…

7. To indicate exponential components

If you want to write 24 = 16, you can use caret symbol to do the same. It would look like 2^4 = 16. This technique of using caret as exponential is commonly seen in question papers and textbooks. 

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