Designers seem to universally love ampersands. After all, what’s not to love? All those lovely swooshes and curves. Often the most unique and beloved character of a typeface, pictures featuring the symbol are all over Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Not to mention more than a few physical specimens in antique shops and at flea markets.
Once the 27th character in the alphabet, the word ampersand comes from the lazy pronunciation of the phrase “and, per se, and”. Children in English-speaking schools used to say this after the letter "z" when reciting the alphabet. Loosely, it means “and, by itself, and”.
But the symbol we know today as the ampersand is much older than the word. It’s is a graphic representation of the Latin word for “and”, which in Ancient Rome was spelled “et”. At the time, writing was a specialized skill and performed by scribes. Naturally writing in both longhand and in cursive, they connected the “e” and the “t” in likely increasingly decorative forms. If you look closely at the ampersand in certain typefaces today, you can still see the remnants of those letters.