Sometimes abbreviations are made by placing the terminal characters in superscript and underlining them, as in "1st," "Mc," and "No" (see examples below). What is this process called, and what is a general name for any one of these abbreviations (the abbreviation a whole, not the superscript characters alone) so made?

Example abbreviations (4)

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Image Credit: commercial art from a box of PG Tips tea (license: fair use).

  • Typographically, they are superscript and subscript as what they are traditionally known as superiors and inferiors respectively. The underlined is a US version of the UK No. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numero_sign)
    – mahmud koya
    Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 1:16
  • But these are not mere superscripts, but underlined superscripts that are paired with one (or more?) preceding characters. In your "No" example, the "N" is normal size. Read the question again. I am asking about the abbreviation as a whole, not just the superscript part.
    – Ana Nimbus
    Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 6:42
  • I was intrigued by this question and even more so when I could not find any howto example, neither in my Perrouseaux nor in my "Lexique des Règles typographiques". I guess the answer by @htmlcoderexe explains why we are not (yet) finding the technical name for this beast: it is hardly in use anymore. Abbreviations with superscript very much in use, esp. in French, but I no longer find the underline in modern documents in French. Please post here, if you find the answer yourself. Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 11:07

2 Answers 2


This seems to be known as an Ordinal Indicator.

Here's the blurb for convenience, some formatting lost from Wikipedia like the actual subscripts:

In written languages, an ordinal indicator is a character, or group of characters, following a numeral denoting that it is an ordinal number, rather than a cardinal number.

In English orthography, this corresponds to the suffixes -st, -nd, -rd, -th in written ordinals (represented either on the line 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or as superscript, st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th).

Also commonly encountered are the superscript (and often underlined) ordinal indicators º and ª, originally from Romance, but via the cultural influence of Italian by the 18th century widely used in the wider cultural sphere of Western Europe, as in 1º primo and 1ª prima "first, chief; prime quality".

The practice of underlined (or doubly underlined) superscripted abbreviations was common in 19th-century writing (not limited to ordinal indicators in particular, and also extant in the Numero sign №), and was also found in handwritten English until at least the late 19th century (e.g. "first" abbreviated 1st or 1st).

  • 2
    Re answer of @htmlcoderexe (first sentence). I don't think it would be proper to call "Mc," "No," or "St" ordinal indicators. Perhaps there is no single word that means "underlined superscripted abbreviation."
    – Ana Nimbus
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 0:54
  • @AnaNimbus as far as I have looked, there's no specific term for it. I guess that three word combination might be what you're looking for. Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 0:58

I'd be surprised if there were a name for this type of abbreviation. In British English, abbreviations have a full-stop after them. E.g. "Esq." for "Esquire". Contractions are less standardised. Modern practice in British English is usually to simply omit the full-stop. E.g. "Mr" for "Mister" (this distinction is rarely made in US English). Where the contraction causes a change in pronunciation, an apostrophe is used. E.g. "shan't" for "shall not". In the past, up until the late C19th, contractions were often shown by placing terminal letters in superscript and underlining usually followed by a full-stop - this was particularly the case in variants of secretary hand. This was done with a wide variety of words that we would not longer consider writing in this way - such as Mr., but also names (like "Wm. " for "William"). The practice persists in exceptional cases - notably with ordinals (e.g. "1st") and some Latin abbreviations (e.g. "no. " for "numero").

  • 1
    Great, do you have some source (some links perhaps?) to back this info?
    – Luciano
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 10:00

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