Sure, I know what an asterisk is. But when I used the word in plural form last post, it looked funny. Asterisks? Asterics? Asterix? No, that last is a cartoon character.
As it turned out, I did have it right, but looking at it got me thinking about where it came from and about its uses in general.
I did see the "aster" or star element in the word once I really looked at it. At first, I associated to the word 'disaster', but that was probably because of the "risk" at the end of the word. But there is nothing threatening about an asterisk. It simply comes from the Greek asteriskos (ἀστερίσκος), meaning "little star".
It turns out that there isn't a huge amount that is known about the origin of the asterisk, and probably less that can be substantiated. But I did in the course of my wanderings find this cool website called
Typographic Marks Unknown , which takes a look at all those little symbols on the page that we forget to be curious about through overfamiliarity. The page cites the Bringhurst Bible and says that our little star appeared in Sumerian pictographs, and has been used as a symbol for at least 5000 years.