Tilde the squiggly line – what does it mean?

It is common to see a squiggly line (∼) placed above a letter. Back in the 12th century, Spanish writers began placing a squiggly line above letters to show that they were doubled in a way to save paper. 

In 1522, the technique of doubling an “n” became clear enough to signify that only that letter was being doubled. That stayed the norm until 1918, when the Spanish alphabet was revised, and the squiggly line (which had been used for all occurrences of “n” doubling in various languages) became an official character.

What does the squiggly line mean?

Have you ever looked at your computer keyboard and thought about what some symbols mean? One of those symbols is the Tilde, commonly known as the “squiggly” or “twiddle.” It is a special character (∼) that appears on keyboards below the Esc key (escape key).

Tilde or Squiggly Line
The Tilde, also known as the Squiggly Line

In modern times, the Tilde or Squiggly line is used in various computer-related contexts, from mathematics to programming to file systems, directories, and even web addresses. 

What does the squiggly line mean in text

The squiggly line can be replaced with terms like ‘roughly’ or ‘approximately.’ Adding extra syllables doesn’t change the meaning. Writing the terms is easier than working your fingers on the keyboard to make the Tilde symbol. In modern times, teenagers especially use the Tilde symbol to express their ideas as it looks cooler than using old-time words like approx. 

What does it mean in math

There are two basic grounds for the appearance of a squiggly line in mathematics — When drawing an interval, only one type of squiggly line should be used. Also, a squiggly line might be used to identify an element of the set.

Squiggly line meaning in music

Squiggly lines appear next to the chord in music notation for arpeggios if the chord notes are performed in rapid succession rather than all at once. How quickly or slowly every note will sound depends on the squiggle’s span and direction.

What does the squiggly line mean in statistics

Tildes are commonly used to signify “has distribution (of),” for example, “the random variable has distribution (the standard normal distribution) in statistics.”

How to make the n with the squiggly line over it on Macbook?

There are two entirely distinct methods to generate a ~ over the letter n, and it can be a bit puzzling. Mathematicians use the squiggly-line sign primarily, although it may also be used as a special character in word processor systems or text files. 

Press and hold down the “option” and “n” keys to make this sign on your Mac keyboard. You will first see a tilde to indicate ” ” then enter an “n” in lowercase.  

This is a shortcut key combination to make n with squiggly (ñ) on MacBook:

Press and hold Alt/Option key + n, release and hit the letter “n” to get the ñ. 

The video below will help you get it right on your MacBook. 

How to make the n with the squiggly line over it on Windows?

To get started, press the Num Lock key to activate the numeric keypad. If your Windows device does not have a Num lock key, you can press and hold the Fn and F11 keys simultaneously on your keyboard. Now, press and hold the ALT key and type 164 to make a “” letter, and then type n to get the ñ symbol. 

Refer to the video below to use the Tilde character on your Windows device

How to make the n With the squiggly line pver it on iOS Device?

Using the n with a squiggly line on your iOS device is pretty easy. Just follow the steps below:

  1. Open any instant messenger app on your iOS device and start typing to get the device keyboard on the screen. 
  2. As soon as your device’s keyboard comes up, press and hold the letter “n.” 
  3. A bubble will emerge over the letter “n” in a second. 
  4. Now, you will have to slide your finger to the ñ. 
  5. Remember, you will need to slide without letting go of pressing your finger on the n letter. 

To get the uppercase with a squiggle, you can redo the previous process, but first, you need to make your keyboard uppercase by pressing the upward arrow on your keyboard. 

What is the purpose of a Tilde?

As for the definition of the Tilde, it is a grapheme that can be used in a variety of ways. The name Tilde comes from the Latin word titulus, meaning “title” or “superscription,” and was the source of the character’s English name. Most commonly, it’s used as an accent in conjunction with a base letter, but because of its history, it can also be used on its own for different contexts. 

Additionally, the tilde is a diacritic symbol put over a letter in various languages to signify a shift in pronunciation.

Pronunciation of tilde 

As for its pronunciation, the Tilde is pronounced as TILL-duh or TILL-dee. Those who don’t want to get into the complex pronunciation of the word choose to call it a twiddle or a squiggle. 

Using tilde in a sentence as an approximation

There are several ways to express “roughly” or “approximately,” but one of the most common is the usage of the swinging dash (~), a tilde, or a squiggle. For example, I think the wedding party comprises ~20 guests. 

Frequently asked questions

Now that we know what does the squiggly line mean and its use cases let’s get down to other related queries about the Tilde. 

What does ∼ mean?

The wavy or squiggly line is called a Tilde. In the 12th century, Spanish scribes began using the Tilde to denote doubled letters to conserve paper. Later, the n-mark evolved into an actual letter in the Spanish alphabet, and it was used just over that letter at first. The Tilde, which denotes nasality in Portuguese, is placed over vowels. While in mathematics, the Tilde is used to denote negation.

What is the squiggly dash used for?

The squiggly dash is used before a number in the text to suggest an approximate value or a rough value of something. For example, there will be ~10 students in the class. 


We hope this guide helps you understand what does the squiggly line mean. As you must have understood, the symbol has varied uses throughout history and present times; it shows up in different contexts. What do you use the Tilde for? Let us know in the comments!

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About Steve

Hi, I'm Steve. I've worked for the past 8 years in a major furniture retailer in the UK, so I know my way around a desk or two. On the weekends, I spend time with my kids or I'm probably outside in the garden doing something or other!

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