Learn English – Why is “dingbat” used to refer to characters like “☺”

etymologynounstypography

Why is dingbat used to refer to characters such as "☺"?

(See for instance those at the Mozilla Web Developer FAQ.)

Doesn't dingbat mean a stupid person or something?

Best Answer

A dingbat is "an ornamental piece of type for borders, separators, decorations, etc." as well as a silly person. The fonts are called dingbat fonts because they contain such characters.

The word's etymology leads me to believe that it is a generic word, akin to widget, doohickey, and thingamajig.