What Are Tildes ( ~ ) And How Do You Use Them?

Formally, the tilde is a symbol most often used to accent letters in words used in certain languages, such as in the Spanish señor. However, you might also see the tilde used sometimes in informal writing as well.

What is a tilde?

A tilde is a typographical symbol that resembles a wavy line (~). In English, it has no accepted usage in formal writing, but it may occasionally be used for a few different reasons in informal writing. This symbol is also used in math, computer programming, and to form certain letters in Spanish and Portuguese.

✏️ Example usage of a tilde

The following examples show usage of the tilde in different circumstances.

  • The boxes were stacked ~10 feet high.
  • Mary Sue looked at him and teasingly said, “Hi~”
  • We traveled to the city of São Paulo during our trip to Brazil.

When do you use a tilde?

Spanish and Portuguese words

In formal writing, you may need to use a tilde when referring to Spanish or Portuguese words. For example, the Spanish mañana (“morning, tomorrow”) and the Portuguese amanhã (“tomorrow”) are just two examples of words that use a tilde. When using a computer, most programs allow you to insert special characters (that combine the tilde with the appropriate letter) in order to type these words. When writing by hand, though, you will need to add a tilde.


In informal writing, a tilde is sometimes used before a number to mean “about” or “approximately.” For example, a sentence that reads I think my dog weighs ~20 pounds means I think my dog weighs about/around 20 pounds. This usage is likely based on the math usage of the tilde symbol to mean an approximate equivalency.

Playful speech

In informal writing, a tilde (or multiple tildes) may be used at the end of a sentence to indicate a speaker is intending to be playful or flirty. You are most likely to encounter this usage on social media or in fanfiction writing. For example, you might see a social media post that looks like this:

  • Going to be a romantic evening tonight~~~ 😘😘

Take this quiz to see how much you know about tildes and other typographical symbols.

What is an ampersand, you ask? Learn all about it here!

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