World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


A poster and shirt promote the #tampabay hashtag (referring to the Tampa Bay Area) during the 2012 Republican National Convention.

A hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash character (or number sign), #, to form a label. It is a type of metadata tag. Words or phrases in messages on microblogging and social networking services such as Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, or VK may be tagged by entering # before them,[1] either as they appear in a sentence, e.g., "New artists announced for #SXSW2014 Music Festival"[2] or appended to it. The term hashtag can also refer to the hash symbol itself when used in the context of a hashtag.[3]

A hashtag allows grouping of similarly tagged messages, and also allows an electronic search to return all messages that contain it.

Because of its widespread use, the word, hashtag, was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014.[4][5]


  • Origin 1
  • Style 2
  • Function 3
  • Use outside of social networking websites 4
  • Websites that support hashtags 5
  • Usage 6
    • Mass broadcast media 6.1
    • Purchasing 6.2
    • Event promotion 6.3
    • Consumer complaints 6.4
    • Sentiment analysis 6.5
  • In popular culture 7
    • Adaptations 7.1
  • References 8


The number sign was often used in information technology to highlight a special meaning. In 1970 for example, the number sign was used to denote immediate address mode in the assembly language of the PDP-11[6] when placed next to a symbol or a number. In 1978, Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie used # in the C programming language for special keywords that had to be processed first by the C preprocessor.[7] Since before the invention of the hashtag, the number sign has been called the "hash symbol" in some countries outside of North America.[8][9]

The number sign then appeared and was used within IRC networks to label groups and topics.[10] Channels or topics that are available across an entire IRC network are prefixed with a hash symbol # (as opposed to those local to a server, which use an ampersand '&').[11]

The use of the number sign in IRC inspired[12] Chris Messina to propose a similar system to be used on Twitter to tag topics of interest on the microblogging network.[13] He posted the first hashtag on Twitter:

Internationally, the hashtag became a practice of writing style for Twitter posts during the

  1. ^ "Using hashtags on Twitter". Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  2. ^ "Best Practices for Hashtags | Twitter Developers". 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  3. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary - Hash". Oxford English Dictionary. June de 2014. 
  4. ^ Hashtag' added to the OED – but # isn't a hash, pound, nor number sign"'". The Register. 13 June 2014. 
  5. ^ "New words notes June 2014". Oxford English Dictionary. June de 2014. 
  6. ^ "PDP-11 assembly language". 2011-08-03. Retrieved 2014-08-25. 
  7. ^ B.W.Kernighan & d.Ritchie (1978).  
  8. ^ Bourke, Jane (2004). Communication Techonology Resource Book. Ready-Ed Publications. p. 19.  
  9. ^ Hargraves, Orin (2003). Mighty fine words and smashing expressions : making sense of transatlantic English. Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. pp. 33, 260.  
  10. ^ "Channel Scope". Section 2.2. RFC 2811
  11. ^ . Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  12. ^ "#OriginStory". Carnegie Mellon University. 2014-08-29. 
  13. ^ Parker, Ashley (June 10, 2011). "Twitter’s Secret Handshake". The New York Times. Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  14. ^ Chris Messina ("factoryjoe") (August 23, 2007). "Twitter post". 
  15. ^ "Stowe Boyd, Hash Tags = Twitter Groupings". Retrieved 2013-09-19. 
  16. ^ "The Secret of Twitter's Trending Hashtags With Insight and Tips". Retrieved 2014-12-03. 
  17. ^ "What is a (#) Hashtag?". Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  18. ^ "The Twitter Rules". Twitter, Inc. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  19. ^ The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2013-09-24). #Hashtag" with Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)""". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-08-25. 
  20. ^ "Instagram banned hashtags". 7 November 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  21. ^ Gabriel Snyder (Oct 15, 2009). "Anarchy in the Machine: Welcome to Gawker's Open Forums". Gawker. 
  22. ^ Zachary M. Seward (Oct 15, 2009). """Got a #tip? Gawker Media opens tag pages to masses, expecting "chaos. Nieman Journalism Lab. 
  23. ^ Marco Wisniewski (February 6, 2012). "Hashtags in Orkut communities". Orkut. 
  24. ^ Michael Schneider (Apr 21, 2011). "New to Your TV Screen: Twitter Hashtags". TV Guide. 
  25. ^ Todd Wasserman (Dec 3, 2012). "McDonald's Releases First TV Ad With Twitter Hashtag". Mashable. 
  26. ^ Gregory Ferenstein (April 15, 2011). "Twitter TV Hashtag Tips From Twitter's Own Expert". Fast Company. 
  27. ^ "Twitter Chatter Correlates With TV Ratings, But Is That Good Or Bad News For Nielsen?". 2013-03-22. Retrieved 2013-09-19. 
  28. ^ Ryan Lawler (June 10, 2012). "Twitter’s Hashtag Pages Could Be The New AOL Keywords — But Better". Techcrunch. 
  29. ^ Heather, Kelly (12 February 2013). "Twitter and Amex let you pay with a hashtag". CNN. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  30. ^ "Sync with Twitter". Amex Sync. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  31. ^ Akwagyiram, Alexis (17 May 2012). "Are Twitter and Facebook changing the way we complain?". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  32. ^ Maynard (2014). "Who cares about sarcastic tweets? Investigating the impact of sarcasm on sentiment analysis". Proceedings of the Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation. 
  33. ^ Anna Mehler Paperny (Apr 13, 2011). "Jack Layton's debatable 'hashtag' #fail". The Globe and Mail. 
  34. ^ "Canadians atwitter throughout debate". CBC News. Apr 13, 2011. 
  35. ^ Zach Baron (November 3, 2010). "The Ten Best Quotes From Kanye West's Epic Hot 97 Interview With Funkmaster Flex". The Village Voice. 
  36. ^ Rizoh (Jul 7, 2011). "A Brief History Of Hashtag Rap". Houston Press. 
  37. ^ David Mendez (May 22, 2013). "The Lonely Island Puts Hashtag Rap In Its Place (Looking at You, Drake)". Tucson Weekly. 
  38. ^ Jeremiah Tucker (December 17, 2010). "Jeremiah Tucker: Hashtag rap is 2010's lamest trend". Joplin Globe. 
  39. ^ "Twitter / nickbilton: My first byline on A1 of the ...". Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  40. ^ "Birds Eye launches Mashtags - social media potato shapes". The Grocer. 
  41. ^ Medina, Jennifer (May 27, 2014). "Campus Killings Set Off Anguished Conversation About the Treatment of Women".  
  42. ^ Gooden, Beverly (September 10, 2014). "WhyIStayed: Woman behind Ray Rice-inspired hashtag writes to past self, other abuse victims". Today. 
  43. ^ Lopate, Leonard & Gooden, Beverly (September 10, 2014). "#WhyIStayed". The Leonard Lopate Show. 
  44. ^ June 11, 2010 8:05 am (2010-06-11). "Twitter Supports World Cup Fever with Hashflags". Retrieved 2014-08-25. 
  45. ^ "What are Hashflags?". 2014-06-10. Retrieved 2014-08-25. 
  46. ^ Ben Woods (2014-06-10). "Twitter brings back hashflags just in time for World Cup 2014 kick-off". Retrieved 2014-08-25. 
  47. ^ Kim, Erin (2012-07-31). "Twitter unveils 'cashtags' to track stock symbols - Jul. 31, 2012". Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  48. ^ "Twitter makes stock symbol $ 'cashtag' links official, following # and @". The Verge. 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  49. ^ Tom Meltzer (1 August 2012). "How to say 'hashtag' with your fingers".  
  50. ^  
  51. ^  


In August 2012, British journalist Tom Meltzer reported in The Guardian about a new hand gesture that mimicked the hashtag, sometimes called the "finger hashtag", in which both hands form a peace sign, and then the fingers are crossed to form the symbol of a hashtag.[49] The emerging gesture was reported about in Wired by Nimrod Kamer,[50] and during 2013 it was seen on TV used by Jimmy Fallon, and on The Colbert Report among other places.[51]

In July 2012, Twitter adapted the hashtag style to make company ticker symbols preceded by the dollar sign clickable (as in $AAPL), a method that Twitter dubbed the "cashtag".[47][48] This is intended to allow users to search posts discussing companies and their stocks.

In 2010, Twitter introduced "hashflags" during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.[44] They reintroduced the feature on June 10, 2014, in time for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.[45][46] When a user tweets a hashtag consisting of the three letter country code of any of the 32 countries represented in the tournament, Twitter automatically embeds a flag emoticon for that country.


In September 2014, in response to the "blame the victim" public reactions to videotaped footage of NFL player Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino, Beverly Gooden shared on Twitter her own story of domestic abuse, using the hastag #WhyIStayed, and encouraged others to share theirs.[42][43]

In May 2014, Twitter users began using the hashtag #YesAllWomen to raise awareness about personal experiences of sexism and violence against women.[41]

Bird's Eye foods released in 2014 a shaped mashed potato food that included forms of @-symbols and hashtags, called "Mashtags".[40]

"Hashtag heel" is a moniker used by WWE wrestler Dolph Ziggler.

On September 13, 2013, a hashtag, #TwitterIPO, appeared in the headline of a New York Times front page article regarding Twitter's initial public offering.[39]

The term "hashtag rap", coined by Kanye West,[35] was developed in the 2010s to describe a style of rapping which, according to Rizoh of Houston Press, uses "three main ingredients: a metaphor, a pause, and a one-word punch line, often placed at the end of a rhyme".[36] Rappers Nicki Minaj, Big Sean, Drake and Lil Wayne are credited with the popularization of hashtag rap, while the style has been criticized by Ludacris, The Lonely Island[37] and various music writers.[38]

During the April 2011 Canadian party leader debate, then-leader of the New Democratic Party Jack Layton referred to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's crime policies as "a hashtag fail" (presumably "#fail").[33][34]

In popular culture

The use of hashtags also reveals things about the sentiment an author attaches to a statement. This can range from the obvious, where a hashtag directly describes the state of mind, to the less obvious. For example, words in hashtags are the strongest predictor of whether or not a statement is sarcastic[32]—a difficult AI problem.

Sentiment analysis

Hashtags are often used by consumers on social media platforms in order to complain about the customer service experience with large companies. The term "bashtag" has been created to describe situations in which a corporate social media hashtag is used to criticise the company or to tell others about poor customer service. For example, in January 2012, McDonald's created the #McDStories hashtag so customers could share positive experiences about the restaurant chain. The marketing effort was cancelled after just two hours when McDonald's received numerous complaint tweets rather than the positive stories they were expecting.[31]

Consumer complaints

Political protests and campaigns in the early 2010s, such as #OccupyWallStreet and #LibyaFeb17, have been organized around hashtags or have made extensive usage of hashtags for the promotion of discussion.

Companies and advocacy organizations have taken advantage of hashtag-based discussions for promotion of their products, services or campaigns.

Organized real-world events have also made use of hashtags and ad hoc lists for discussion and promotion among participants. Hashtags are used as beacons by event participants in order to find each other on both Twitter and, in many cases, in real life during events.

Stencil graffiti promoting the hashtag #OccupyForRights

Event promotion

Since February 2013 there is a collaboration between the social networking site Twitter and American Express that makes it possible to buy discounted goods online by tweeting a special hashtag.[29] American Express members can sync their card with Twitter and use the offers by tweeting and look for a response in a tweet with the confirmation from American Express.[30]


The increased usage of hashtags as brand promotion devices has been compared to the promotion of branded "keywords" by AOL in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as such keywords were also promoted at the end of commercials and series episodes.[28]

While personalities associated with broadcasts, such as hosts and correspondents, also promote their corporate or personal Twitter usernames in order to receive mentions and replies to posts, usage of related or "branded" hashtags alongside Twitter usernames (e.g., #edshow as well as @edshow) is increasingly encouraged as a microblogging style in order to "trend" the hashtag (and, hence, the discussion topic) in Twitter and other search engines. Broadcasters also make use of such a style in order to index select posts for live broadcast. Chloe Sladden, Twitter's director of media partnerships, identified two types of television-formatted usage of hashtags: hashtags which identify a series being broadcast (i.e. #SunnyFX) and instantaneous, "temporary" hashtags issued by television personalities to gauge topical responses from viewers during broadcasts.[26] Some have speculated that hashtags might take the place of (or co-exist with) the Nielsen television ratings system.[27]

Since 2010, television series on various television channels promote themselves through "branded" hashtag bugs.[24] This is used as a means of promoting a backchannel of online side-discussion before, during and after an episode broadcast. Hashtag bugs appear on either corner of the screen, or they may appear at the end of an advertisement[25] (for example, a motion picture trailer).

Mass broadcast media


Websites that support hashtags

The feature has been added to other, non-short-message-oriented services, such as the user comment systems on YouTube and Gawker Media; in the case of the latter, hashtags for blog comments and directly submitted comments are used to maintain a more constant rate of user activity even when paid employees are not logged into the website.[21][22] Real-time search aggregators such as the former Google Real-Time Search also support hashtags in syndicated posts, meaning that hashtags inserted into Twitter posts can be hyperlinked to incoming posts falling under that same hashtag; this has further enabled a view of the "river" of Twitter posts which can result from search terms or hashtags.

Use outside of social networking websites

Hashtags are also used informally to express context around a given message, with no intent to actually categorize the message for later searching, sharing, or other reasons. This can help express humor, excitement, sadness or other contextual cues, for example "It's Monday!! #excited #sarcasm"

Hashtags can be used on the social network Instagram, by posting pictures and hashtagging it with its subject. As an example, a photo of oneself and a friend posted to the social network can be hashtagged #bffl or #friends. Instagram has banned certain hashtags, some because they are too generic like #photography #iPhone #iphoneography and therefore do not fulfil a purpose. They have also blocked hashtags that can be linked to illegal activities, such as drug use.[20]

Hashtags also function as beacons in order for users to find and "follow" (subscribe) or "list" (organize into public contact lists) other users of similar interest.

Hashtags intended for discussion of a particular event tend to use an obscure wording to avoid being caught up with generic conversations on similar subjects, such as a cake festival using "#cakefestival" rather than simply "#cake". However, this can also make it difficult for topics to become "trending topics" because people often use different spelling or words to refer to the same topic. In order for topics to trend, there has to be a consensus, whether silent or stated, that the hashtag refers to that specific topic.

Hashtags are mostly used as unmoderated ad hoc discussion forums; any combination of characters led by a hash symbol is a hashtag, and any hashtag, if promoted by enough individuals, can "trend" and attract more individual users to discussion using the hashtag. On Twitter, when a hashtag becomes extremely popular, it will appear in the "Trending Topics" area of a user's homepage. The trending topics can be organized by geographic area or by all of Twitter. Hashtags are neither registered nor controlled by any one user or group of users, and neither can they be "retired" from public usage, meaning that hashtags can be used in theoretical perpetuity depending upon the longevity of the word or set of characters in a written language. They also do not contain any set definitions, meaning that a single hashtag can be used for any number of purposes as espoused by those who make use of them.

Search bar in the header of a social networking site, searching for most recent posts containing the hashtag "#science".


Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake performed a sketch parodying the often misused and misunderstood usage of hashtags on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in September 2013.[19]

As well as frustrating other users, the misuse of hashtags can lead to account suspensions. Twitter warns that adding hashtags to unrelated tweets, or repeated use of a same hashtag without adding to a conversation, could cause an account to be filtered from search, or even suspended.[18]

The quantity of hashtags used in a post or tweet is just as important as the type of hashtags used. It is currently considered acceptable to tag a post once when contributing to a specific conversation. Two hashtags are considered acceptable when adding a location to the conversation. Three hashtags are seen by some as the "absolute maximum", and any contribution exceeding this risks “raising the ire of the community.”[17]

On microblogging or social networking sites, hashtags can be inserted anywhere within a sentence, either preceding it, following it as a postscript, or being included as a word within the sentence (e.g. "It is #sunny today").


Beginning July 2, 2009, Twitter began to hyperlink all hashtags in tweets to Twitter search results for the hashtagged word (and for the standard spelling of commonly misspelled words). In 2010, Twitter introduced "Trending Topics" on the Twitter front page, displaying hashtags that are rapidly becoming popular. However, Twitter has an algorithm to tackle black-hat SEO practice of making a hashtag trending.[16] The algorithm ensures that the hashtags trend naturally.

The first use of the term "hash tag" was in a blog post by Stowe Boyd, "Hash Tags = Twitter Groupings,"[15] on 26 August 2007, according to lexicographer Ben Zimmer, chair of the American Dialect Society's New Words Committee.


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.