Valid Characters and Symbols in Email Addresses

Valid Characters for Email Addresses: The Complete List

Wondering which characters you can use in your email address—and which you cannot? Find here the complete list of valid characters in email addresses (including symbols and special characters).

First, a Telephone Worker Burps

When telephone companies introduced the # key to their touch phones in the 1970s, there was apparently much talk about it—and no good name for it.

In one of the more unlikely etymologies to make it into Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, one employee emitted gas while talking about the symbol’s eight (“octo-“) spikes, and so it came to be known as the octothorpe.

Be that as it may. Let’s find out whether we can use the octothorpe in an email address.

Valid Characters and Symbols in Email Addresses: The Complete List

Here’s the complete list of all characters you can safely use in the username of an email address (as defined in Request for Comments standard document RFC 5322: Internet Message Format):

LowercaseUppercaseNumbersSpecial
aA0.
bB1?
cC2!
dD3{
eE4}
fF5~
gG6_
hH7
iI8+
jJ9/
kK=
lL%
mM$
nN#
oO
pP`
qQ|
rR^
sS*
tT
uU
vV
wW
xX
yY
zZ

Note: Email addresses using only these characters will reliably work even with

  • legacy email servers and
  • web forms using simple email address validation.

With up-to-date email infrastructure (and into the future), you can also safely use international characters as valid in email addresses, both the user name and, of course, the domain name. See below.

Valid Characters and Symbols in Email Addresses: FAQ

Can an email Address have special characters and symbols?

Yes, drawn from the list above there are a handful of characters other than numbers and letters that can be used in email addresses:

! __ exclamation mark
? __ question mark
# __ hash
$ __ dollar sign
% __ percent sign
__ apostrophe
` __ back quote
+ __ plus sign
- __ minus sign
* __ star
/ __ slash
= __ equal sign
~ __ tilde
^ __ caret
_ __ underscore
{ __ left curly bracket
} __ right curly bracket
| __ pipe

Can I use encoding to include special characters in my email address?

No and yes.

No, you cannot use any encoding, special or international characters with RFC 5322 email addresses.

Yes, with email infrastructure that works with RFC 6530 addresses, you can use

The email service or program will employ UTF-8 encoding.

Can I use emoji in an email address?

No. Email addresses can only contain the characters above.

You can, however, use emoji and special characters in the display name part in the From: line—in Gmail, for instance.

Notable Characters Not Valid in Email Addresses

Here is a list of common characters that you cannot use when making up the user name part of an email address following RFC 5322:

@:[
´;]
&,<(
\>)

(Valid characters and symbols in email addresses: the complete list updated May 2022)

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