Point Concept

We explain what the point is, its various meanings, its origin as a spelling sign and its uses. Also, what are the cardinal points.

A point can be from an abstract concept to a specific place.

What is the point?

With the word point it is possible to refer to very different things from each other. In fact, if we look it up in the Dictionary of the Spanish Language, we will find no less than 43 different meanings, each one belonging to a specific context. However, if we try to reduce them all to their lowest common expression, we would have to conclude that with the word point we usually refer to: a sign, a place, an instant or a thing.

Thus, we call point to one of the most common orthographic signs (.), But also to a specific place within a coordinate system or map (a geographic point), or the temperature at which matter undergoes certain physical modifications (such as the boiling point, at which a liquid boils; or the freezing point, at which a liquid freezes).

Similarly, in economics, “neutral” or “equilibrium point” is used to refer to the ratio between objects produced and objects sold by a company in which its profitability is zero. In everyday language we also speak of point when we refer to something very small, or a tiny fragment of something (a point on the skin, for example).

As you will see, the word point is very versatile in our language, even though its origin is not so versatile: we have inherited it from Latin punctum, noun derived from verb pungere which translates as “prick”, “sting” or “hole”. So originally a point was a little hole, a sting.

This may be because the invention of the dot as an orthographic sign took place 200 years before Christ, by Aristophanes of Byzantium (c. 257-180 BC), an official of the famous Library of Alexandria who proposed a system of tiny pause marks, to be noted above, in the middle and below each line of text , and thus give readers respite and allow them the correct intonation when reading.

At that time, writing was carried out without interruption, and scholars had to invest part of their time in learning the correct way to interpret the stream of words, written without spaces and without signs of any kind. These signs were called comma, colon and periodus.

This idea was revolutionary, but it was not fully adopted by the Romans, so it took until the beginning of the Middle Ages for it to inspire a new system designed by Christian copyists, particularly Isidore of Seville (c. 556-636). In this new system, the three types of signs were “high point”, “middle point” and “low point”, to denote a long, medium and short pause.

Cardinal points

The Cardinal points are four extremes of a Cartesian orientation system, which allows us to locate ourselves on a map or any other representation of the earth’s surface, identifying the directions of the north, east, west and south (as well as their respective combinations: northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest, etc.).

This system was born in Ancient Rome, as a reference for the construction of cities, in which there was always a main street that passed through the center of the city, connecting the north and south of it: these streets were called thistles, and from there comes the idea of ​​what cardinal, that is to say, of the fundamental or the important thing. Thus, the cardinal points would be the fundamental points of any terrestrial map.

Point as a punctuation mark

dot spelling sign
The period can be used alone or as part of other punctuation marks.

The period is part of several punctuation marks, and in itself is also an important reading mark. It is written as a small round mark immediately at the bottom of the letters, after which there must be a space and it must begin with a capital letter.

It is also found within exclamation marks (!) And question marks (?), Which is why it is usually capitalized after them as well.

The other occurrences of the period between the punctuation marks are as follows:

  • Point and followed. This period (.) Appears at the end of a certain sentence, to indicate to the reader that the idea has concluded and that a new one is coming, so you must make an intermediate pause, longer than the comma. The next thing that is written must be capitalized and a single space separating it.
  • New paragraph. Similar to the previous one, this point (.) Appears only at the end of paragraphs, since it indicates the end of one set of ideas and the beginning of a new one, so we must pause longer. The next thing that is written must go on a separate line and begin with capital letters.
  • Final point. A period (.) That ends the texts. After him nothing goes, since it is only used when we have finished writing. As simple as that.
  • Two points. In this case, two points appear one above the other (:), calling for a relatively short pause, after which there are usually enumerations, examples, explanations or something previously announced. They are the sign of attention to the reader par excellence, since they usually indicate that something is coming next.
  • Ellipsis. It is about three points followed at a short interval (…), which serve to introduce, as its name indicates, suspense. That is, to accuse the omission of part of the text, or a mark of silence when speaking, or in any case the feeling that something has been left unsaid, that is, suspended.
  • Semicolon. Perhaps the most complex of the signs listed here, it introduces a median pause into the text, not as long as the full stop, but longer than the comma, and after its appearance there is usually a change of perspective or of themes within the same set of ideas.