Adventures in Etymology – Dinkus

In this Adventure in Etymology we find out what the dickens a dinkus is, and what to do with an asterism.


A dinkus is:

  • A small drawing or artwork used for decoration in a magazine or periodical.
  • A small ornament, usually a line of three asterisks (* * *), especially for the purpose of breaking up sections of a chapter, article, or other text

It comes from German Ding (thing), from Old High German thing [ðinɡ] (thing, object, matter, case), from Proto-West Germanic *þing (court session, lawsuit, affair, matter, thing, object), from Proto-Germanic *þingą (date, appointment, meeting, assembly, matter, issue) [source].

Words from the same roots include thing in English, ding (matter, thing) in Dutch, þing [θiŋk] (assembly, meeting, council, parliament) in Icelandic, and ting (thing, court of law, legislative assembly) in Swedish [source].

Dinkus should not be confused with dingus, which can refer to something whose name you’ve forgot, i.e. a thingamajig, whatchamacallit, etc in North American and South African. In the USA and Canada it can also refer to a foolish, incompetent, or silly person [source].

Dingus was possibly borrowed from Dutch and/or Afrikaans dinges (thingamajig, whatshisname) and ding (thing).

An asterism is:

  • A rarely used typographical symbol (⁂, three asterisks arranged in a triangle), used to call attention to a passage or to separate subchapters in a book (like a dinkus).
  • An unofficial constellation (small group of stars that forms a visible pattern).

It comes from Ancient Greek ἀστερισμός [ˈæs.təˌɹɪz.əm] (a group of stars), from ἀστήρ [asˈtir] (star, planet, illustrious person, starfish) [source].

Asterism is also the name of a Japanese band:

The word asterisk (*) comes from the same roots, via Late Latin asteriscus (small star and Ancient Greek ἀστερῐ́σκος [as.teˈris.kos] (small star) [source].

Two asterisks on top of each other (⁑) are apparently used in texts to denote emphasis, comments, footnotes, corrections, or other similar annotations [source].

Parc Asterix

Incidentally, Asterix, the Gaulish hero of the comic books by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, gets his name from the French word astérisque (asterisk) combined with the Gaulish word *rīx (king) [source].

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One thought on “Adventures in Etymology – Dinkus

  1. Growing up in South Africa “dingus” was an Afrikaans childhood name for penis, akin to the English word “dick”.

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