Excel Symbols – what do they mean and how do I use them?

Excel Symbols – do you know what they mean? Take a look at the list below!

Excel symbols: Excel iconThis week’s blog is all about Excel symbols. They can be quite simple but if you don’t know what they mean it can be daunting or even frustrating! Some are a lot more obvious than others.

Excel is often used by a lot of people as a way of data entry and so people often do not have to use or understand what these symbols mean as they are already built into the spreadsheets that they use.

But have you ever been in a situation where you have clicked into a cell, exposed the formula and panicked at what you saw? All those symbols jumbled together and not knowing what they mean?

Don’t worry, it happens to us all! So because of this, we decided to put a table into our Basic course as a bit of a ‘Glossary’ to help when you start off learning about Excel! You can also find out a bit more about error messages in Excel by looking below at the list!


Excel Symbols List

Some of you would have been on our Basic Excel training course and seen this list in your course notes you took away with you, however some of you wouldn’t have seen it.

So we thought we would share this list with you all that we put together of some of the common used basic symbols in Excel.


=     This is an equal sign and is used at the beginning of a formula

+     This is an addition sign and is used in sums and formulas

      This is a subtraction sign and is used in sums and formulas

/      This is a division sign and is used in sums and formulas

*      This is a multiplication sign and is used in sums and formulas

( )   These are rounded brackets and are used to group together smaller sums in more complex formulas

:      This is a semi colon and is used in a formula to create a range of cells (e.g. A2:B4)

,      This is a comma and is used for separating cell references in formulas (often for non-adjacent cells)

$     This is a dollar sign and is used when creating absolute references

%    This is a percentage sign and is used when dealing with figures in percentages

[ ]   These are square brackets and are used for identifying a workbook which is being linked into a formula

!      This is an exclamation mark and is used for identifying a worksheet which is being linked into a formula


We hope you find this list useful! Let us know what you think!

These are all used in calculations and formulas in Excel and they are covered in more detail on our Basic and Intermediate Excel 1 day courses.


Fed up of seeing error messages in your spreadsheets and not knowing what they mean?

Click here to find out more in our post on what different error messages in Excel mean.


If you want to have a look at what else is covered in our Excel courses, you can take a look at our agendas on our website here, also take a look at our customer comments section and see what others have thought when they have come on one of our courses!