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It seems strange to me that the numero sign (знак номера) is used in Russian, despite the fact that the letter N is not present in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Not knowing any better, I would have expected something like Нр. or Нр to be used as an abbreviation; similar to No. in English or Nr. in German.

How and when was this symbol introduced into Cyrillic typography?

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  • To be honest, as a native Russian speaker, I even wasn't aware that this symbol is an abbreviation. We just treat it as it is.
    – petajamaja
    Jun 7 '13 at 17:15
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    @petajamaja I also didn't realize that the ampersand (Амперсанд) & was derived from the Latin conjunction et (and). This seems to offer more of a benefit for use with English rather than Russian though, as explained by Art Lebedev. Jun 7 '13 at 19:26
  • I would rather expect Нª. Sep 26 '13 at 19:19
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The only mention about the usage of this symbol in Russian on the English Wikipedia page says this:

Although the letter "N" is not in the Cyrillic alphabet, the numero sign is typeset in Russian publishing, and is available on Russian computer and typewriter keyboards.

However, according to the Russian version of the page (ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Знак_номера), this was borrowed from the French sometime during the 19th century. Here's the exact quote from Wikipedia:

Во французской типографике в XIX веке обозначался как (и был в таком виде заимствован в Россию); сейчас принято обозначение N o, n o (N os и n os для множественного числа) или No.

Incidentally, this appears to have fallen out of favor in contemporary French.

From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numero_sign#French:

The numero symbol is not in common use in France and does not appear on a standard AZERTY keyboard. Instead, the French Imprimerie nationale recommends the use of the form "no" (an "n" followed by a superscript lowercase "o"). The plural form "nos" can also be used.

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    So, it seems to me the answer is obvious: it was simply borrowed from French as a single symbol.
    – kirelagin
    Jun 6 '13 at 8:10
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    @kirelagin Yes, that's what it looks like. Interesting to note though, the Russian Wikipedia page didn't have any references to substantiate this claim. Jun 6 '13 at 15:39
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    Well, overall quality of Russian Wikipedia is… questionable.
    – kirelagin
    Jun 6 '13 at 21:01
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    You probably can't underestimate the effect of French in the 19th century on the development of Russian. Latin letters in Russian (e.g., in math and physics) are pronounced for the most part like they are in French, not English. This becomes particularly clear near the end of the alphabet (w,x,y).
    – KCd
    Jun 7 '13 at 3:43

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