Paragraph mark

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The paragraph sign or paragraph sign is placed in front of a number in legal texts and thus indicates the beginning of a new paragraph , which is denoted by the number, for example § 433 BGB. It is pronounced as "Paragraph four hundred and thirty-three of the Civil Code " (BGB).

If you want to refer to several paragraphs in a text, the sign is used in the plural, for example §§ 433  f. BGB. This is pronounced as "Paragraph four hundred and thirty-three and following of the Civil Code", §§ 433 ff. As "Paragraph four hundred and thirty-three and following of the Civil Code".

The paragraph symbol is used in German federal laws and in the state laws of most German states. Internationally, on the other hand, the division of the laws into articles is more common - as in the Basic Law of the Federal Republic and in Bavarian state laws.

In the English-language scientific literature, the § sign denotes a new paragraph also in non-legal texts.


The origin of the mark is controversial.

  • The Paragraphos ( ancient Greek παράγραφος , sc. Γραμμή programs , "next Written") was originally a horizontal line with a vertical hook forward, which was set at the beginning of a line in which ended a section. In Roman times it became a “T” or “Γ”, in the Middle Ages the latter was understood as “C” (or “K”) for caput (“beginning of section”). The paragraph characters "¶" and "§" have developed from a Gothic "C" (ℭ) according to this thesis.
  • The German palaeographer Paul Lehmann was of the opinion that the paragraph sign came from the Latin letter "C" for capitulum .
  • According to one opinion, it is a double S , which stands for the abbreviation signum sectionis ( Latin " sign of the section , section sign "). Since paper used to be very expensive, the scribes saved themselves the need to insert a new line and painted the paragraph mark as a separator (also in Latin signum separandi ) in the margin. This was written as an intertwined "SS". The common paragraph mark is said to have developed from this. This is also supported by the fact that in older linguistic usage the paragraph is also read as a "hyphen" and in many older notarizations z. B. "/ 3 /" was written instead of "§ 3". The abbreviation of the term Senatus Sententia (“sentence of the Senate”) is also being discussed as the source of the double S.
  • As a further explanation, the possibility is also mentioned that it could be a prescription of the digest character D or a combination of the paragraph mark of the Romans, which resembled the Greek letter Rho ( ϱ ), with the letter C for Caput ("main, main section" ) that was used at the beginning of a new chapter.
  • According to the concise dictionary of the Greek language of 1857, the sign is based on the Egyptian hieroglyph
    ( Transliteration : “goreh”; transcription : grḥ ) for end, completion, suspension and in a broader sense also for pause back. This hieroglyph ( U + 130A2 ) was written in red in manuscripts in ancient Egypt , often as the final sign of a text or a stanza and is therefore also referred to as a "pause sign".

Representation in computer systems and replacement


In the international Unicode character coding system , “§” is in position

  • U + 00A7 "Section sign" (paragraph sign).

In ASCII - character set the character is not, which is why many older computer systems could not readily represent it. For data processing, the character was introduced on a broad basis with the ISO 8859-1 (Latin 1) character set , where it is also in position 167 or 0xA7. It is also in this position in ISO 6937 .

In HTML , the character is encoded as follows:

  • § (hexadecimal),
  • § (decimal) and
  • § (named character).

The keysym name for use with xmodmapin the X Window System is section .


In plain TeX and LaTeX , the paragraph character is \Swritten as.


If the character cannot be displayed because it is missing in the font or character set used , it should be replaced by the word "Paragraph" (or "Paragraf").

Since the symbol can be processed, transmitted and archived with modern computer systems, a replacement is not necessary for technical reasons. Even if the keyboard used does not have the character, it can practically always be inserted using a corresponding function of the operating system or the respective text editor .

Further use

Former logo of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Justice until 2018

The paragraph symbol replaced the letter "s" in the logo of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Justice .

Many law firms use the paragraph symbol in their logo or the like. In addition, it is often used as a general symbol for legal matters.


  • Christian Ahcin: The paragraph - an obscure subject of law. To the history of a character . JZ 1991, pp. 915-917.

Web links

Wiktionary: Paragraph characters  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Paragraph symbols  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. Heike Kleiner, Gernot Kieckhäfer: The paragraph §. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  2. Cornelis Menke, Johannes Westkamp: Notes on writing papers in English ( Memento of the original from March 15, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Bielefeld 2015, p. 22 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Compare paragraph definition, meaning., accessed on March 23, 2018
  4. Marion Lenke: Did you know? This is behind the characters &, @, #,% and § , May 13, 2016
  5. Irmgard Fees: Medieval History - Punctuation. A digital introduction. 4 Chapter and paragraph marks. University of Augsburg, accessed on March 23, 2018
  6. ^ Rainer Hannig: Large Concise Dictionary Egyptian-German: (2800–950 BC). Von Zabern, Mainz 2006, ISBN 3-8053-1771-9 , p. 973.