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An ideogram, also known as an ideograph, is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept that is independent of any particular language, and any specific words or phrases. Some ideograms are comprehensible solely by familiarity with prior convention while others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object. The latter types are often seen as pictograms. The mathematical symbols and numerals are what is known as an ideogram. For example: 

  • 1 – ‘one’
  • 2 – ‘two’
  • 4 – + ‘plus’
  • = –  ‘equals’, and so on

In the English language, the ampersand symbol (represented as &) is used for ‘and’. For Latin, the expression is ‘et’ (as in &c for et cetera). Common ideograms frequently used include: 

  • % used for ‘percent’
  • # for ‘number’
  • § for ‘section’
  • $ for ‘dollar’
  • € for ‘euro’
  • £ for ‘pound’
  • ° for ‘degree’
  •  @ for ‘at’ or ‘at the right’, and so on. 

The reason why these are ideograms and not logograms is that they do not denote fixed morphemes. They can be read across different languages, not just English and even more interestingly, there is not always only a single way to read them. They are in some cases read as complex phrases instead of as just a single word. The term ideogram is also often used to refer to symbols of writing systems such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Chinese characters, and Sumerian cuneiform.

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