The dagger symbol originated from a variant of the obelus originally depicted by a plain line ( − ) or a line with one or two dots ( ÷ ). It represented an iron roasting spit, a dart, or the sharp end of a javelin, symbolising the skewering or cutting out of dubious matter.
A dagger, obelisk, or obelus ( † ) is now a symbol usually used to indicate a footnote if an asterisk has already been used. In European typography, dates of birth are marked with an asterisk and deaths with a dagger.
In psalmody, the musical recital of psalms, the dagger is used to mark a minor pause with the asterisk indicating a longer one. In Roman Catholic services the dagger may act as a substitute for the more proper Maltese, or square, cross to indicate points at which the priest must make the sign of the cross.
So strong is the resemblance between the typographic dagger and the Christian cross that the two are often confused.