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Late 18th century: alteration of and per se and '& by itself is and', chanted as an aid to learning the sign.
A corruption of ‘and per se and’, an old phrase that used to be chanted by schoolchildren as a way of learning the character &. Per se is Latin for ‘by itself’, so the phrase can be translated ‘& by itself is and’. The word is recorded from the mid 19th century, while the symbol itself is based on a Roman shorthand symbol for Latin et ‘and’.
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