the tilde is a diacritic and punctuation mark with its roots in western medieval writing and abbreviation. this might be the best unicode tilde character:
the tilde is commonly seen in medieval manuscripts and printed books indicating an elision of understood letters. maybe the most familiar usage is where a vowel was followed by an M or N. this 12th-century manuscript says "pharaonē antiquissimū" but it means "pharaonem antiquissimum":
this printed book from 1469 says "humanitatē appellarūt" but it means "humanitatem appellarunt":
of course, this "tilde" is more of a straight bar. the tilde we know is a swoop, as it often appears in spanish and portugese to indicate nasalized or palatilized N sounds in portuguese or spanish:
it's from those languages that we get the name "tilde":
that's the OED, and here's the Oxford Latin Dictionary:
in lexicography, the tilde is used in example quotations to stand for the word in question. you can see it used that way above! i've always thought this is somehow cognate with its use in the unix filesystem. ironically, where the original "titulus" in medieval writing was used to shorten the endings of words, in a modern latin dictionary, you will often see a tilde followed by just the ending!
if there's one thing you need to know about typography, it's that there's a lot more names and distinctions than you could possibly imagine. because the diacritic tilde appears high on the line, over another letter, there is a different name for the solo tilde that we know and love from computing and lexicography: the SWUNG DASH. i'll let wikipedia summarize:
you can't name your first child Fullwidth Tilde, because i've just called dibs on that. you may if you like call them Swung Dash.
please use this knowledge responsibly.
is there some kind of punctuation webring i can join