Would you like them?

You could have Markdown to have a popup appear to insert the footnote's text [*].

EDIT: you can use a symbol and then <sub></sub>, but that won't give you a link between the place where the footnote occurs and its body text.

[*]: A popup similar to when inserting links (and here having a different, smaller, font)

  • 1
    Just as a reference: footnote extension to PHP-Markdown at rephrase.net/box/word/footnotes/syntax
    – Arjan
    Commented Feb 23, 2010 at 10:21
  • 5
    And: PHP Markdown Extra seems to be used quite often too (like in Drupal filters), and uses the same [^n] syntax.
    – Arjan
    Commented Feb 1, 2011 at 13:14
  • 1
    Related feature request: Please add the ability to fold blocks of code in questions and answers Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 6:19
  • 1
    Then we need <small>, @Shog9... ;-)
    – Arjan
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 10:37
  • 3
    clickable footnote links. clickable back-to-reference links at footnotes. These would make it very useable. nice to have: automatic collection of references.
    – n611x007
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 15:16
  • 3
    @naxa I'd rather see in-place popups than ones at the bottom of the page, although I can see the use of a list of references — maybe an optional way to also list all notes at the end.
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 11:12
  • 3
    Why do these popular feature requests get declined without any official reasoning/response? It would be nice to hear at very least why they've been declined.
    – eggyal
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 9:43
  • @eggyal you can ask Shog directly, he can be notified via a comment reply. Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 9:10
  • 2
    @Shog9 Can we get an official explanation of why this was declined, and maybe consider re-opening the feature request?
    – Benjamin R
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 1:51
  • 2
    Answered, @BenjaminR: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5017/markdown-footnotes/…
    – Shog9
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 2:10
  • For a suggested workaround, see for example meta.stackoverflow.com/a/258599. Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 9:26

12 Answers 12


I don't think you need those. This isn't Wikipedia[citation needed], so generally a footnote can consist of just a *. No reason to try to formalize* it. You can then use <sub> to make it a smaller font [rcar].

*: AKA Eating up the dev team's time.

See, works great! Just remember, use \* when posting those. Otherwise, you get italics.

  • 18
    [citation] Page Name: Podcast #17 (responses); Primary Author: Jeff Atwood; Secondary Author: Unknown; Citation: "Again, I know you are not Wikipedia..." Commented Jul 14, 2009 at 13:56
  • 6
    @rcar: Brilliant. Simply, brilliant.
    – Eric
    Commented Jul 14, 2009 at 14:26
  • 3
    Yes, I only wanted a different font for footnotes
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Commented Jul 14, 2009 at 15:59
  • 3
    @Vinko Vrsalovic - An horizontal rule (<hr>) followed by a subscript tag (<sub>) would probably do nicely. Commented Jul 14, 2009 at 19:28
  • 3
    The <hr> was way too spaced out, but the <sub> tag worked great. Good call.
    – Eric
    Commented Jul 14, 2009 at 19:51
  • 5
    No need for <hr> - a few dashes works too... --- Commented Jul 14, 2009 at 20:15
  • 16
    I dislike using <sub> or <sup> to format text -- for me that breaks separating content from design.
    – Arjan
    Commented Nov 9, 2009 at 11:48
  • 18
    @random, indeed. That's why I dislike using them for formatting... The text of a footnote is not the same as superscript or subscript.
    – Arjan
    Commented Jan 16, 2010 at 19:08
  • 20
    Well, bold or links aren't needed either, are they? It's not about need, but convenience. The ability to make footnotes using markdown would be useful, whether or not it is essential. Asterisks, or <sup> can *look ok, but it'd be nice to have the functionality too. Links back and forth between the footnote and the text it refers to
    – jalf
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 19:13
  • 4
    The correct HTML element to use would probably be <small>, as <sub> is intended for semantic subscripts, that is, removing the <sub> tag would result in a change in meaning.
    – chharvey
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 6:00
  • 2
    While this pretty much works, and it's what I've done for years, there are multiple reasons why it's far from ideal. Too many to put in a comment, so I wrote an answer.
    – abarnert
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 15:16
  • 2
    @random They're only legit content tags when used to indicate superscripts and subscripts semantically. When using them just to fiddle fonts size, that's (mis)using content tags as presentation tags and does break content/design separation. HTML footnotes should be formatted by the stylesheet. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 22:35
  • 2
    Just add footnotes properly for heaven sakes. Your smart ass comment about "eating up the dev team's time" earned you another downvote. Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 21:30
  • 3
    Why is this the accepted answer? It's the lowest voted.
    – Benjamin R
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 1:41
  • 3
    The folks behind HTML standardisation keep telling us to use HTML as semantic markup instead of presentational markup. A few hours of development time to properly implement it is nothing compared to the benefits it provides in having this data semantically interpreted.
    – sleblanc
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 4:00

I would definitely like them. Although they could be hacked on via font-work, it would definitely enhance usability.

  • 11
    And visual consistency. Commented May 2, 2013 at 6:48
  • 18
    It would certainly have spared me a lot of time looking up markdown footnotes, only to find out on meta that they are not supported. Don't forget to vote this up if you feel the same. Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 13:41
  • 4
    Like others, maybe not needed for SO, but for my *.SE contributions, I could often use them. Also, if the PHP Markdown Extra solution was adopted, it would mean that you wouldn't need to worry about manually adjusting footnote reference numbers when adding a new note "above" existing ones. AND you would have the note and intext reference hyperlinked. SO many plusses! What's the down-side? I can't think of one.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 1:18
  • @Davïd The downside is having to extend the site's markdown flavour with something non-standard, which isn't impossible, but is definitely something developers are not super-excited to tackle. I would love to have footnote support, but I do understand why the foot-dragging. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 22:38
  • 2
    In cognitive Science, Biology and Artificial Intelligence to name a few, sourcing, notes and references are a must, this would be a boon.
    – Keno
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 1:27

Here's what I do1 to simulate footnotes:

These lines are _going to_ intersect<sup>1</sup>!




1. See Euclid's 5<sup>th</sup> postulate.

It's not that hard to do, but it's still a pain and the results aren't ideal. There's no easy way to set up links from the footnote mark to the footnote text and back again. Also, the footnote text ought to be smaller than then text in the body, but adding <sub>...</sub> tends to break the numbered items and I don't bother to play with it usually. It also gets tricky when editing in a new footnote since you need to manually adjust the numbering of notes that come after. Compared to using advanced links, roll-your-own footnotes seems practically barbaric.2

PHP Markdown Extra has a really cool footnote syntax3 that I'd like to have available on Stack Exchange:

These lines are _going to_ intersect[^1]!


[^1]: See Euclid's 5<sup>th</sup> postulate.

Just writing that example makes me yearn for footnote support; even the Markdown code looks clean! The output is more professional looking than my manual footnote technique and includes all sorts of niceties like auto-numbering and inline footnote text.


1. All the time!

2. So why not just use links or parentheticals instead of footnotes? Because we aspire to the sort of answers expected in academia where footnotes are de rigueur. Plus it looks like you know what you are talking about and therefore encourages upvoting.

3. Suggested in the comments by Arjan.

  • 3
    This is roughly what I do but it has few problems: 1) Lots of jumping around; in longer answers it can be difficult to return to where you were reading. 2) Adding a new/citation or removing an existing one in amongst existing ones is error-prone; all instances of all later notes need to be renumbered/relettered (even worse is when the text of the answer is reärranged). Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 6:16
  • Get enough parentheticals and you can easily compromise the readability of the answer, even if the parentheticals are useful information. 2) doesn't have to be. The footnotes could be self-numbering. Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 3:51

Maybe they're not really useful on SO, but there are lots of places on *.SE where they could come in handy (e.g. cstheory).

  • 10
    I would say science sites would find this especially useful when citing papers
    – Rory
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 22:45
  • 13
    cstheory, physics, history, linguistics, chemistry, biology Mi Yodeya (they do a lot of citation) and many others.
    – TRiG
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 23:38
  • 1
    I think they are useful even in SO, for example when you want to comment a statement in an existing answer by editing. That way, the original answer will not be disturbed much, but still the remark can be made at the right spot.
    – U. Windl
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 13:47
  • Indeed. In the meantime both Github and mkdocs have grown native support for footnotes, so it is arguably high time they were added also on SO.
    – CAFxX
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 3:27

I would very, very much like footnotes as used in xkcd's What If.  Very helpful for adding references or explanatory notes which otherwise detract from the main flow of an answer:

Popup for footnotes


I definitely want this.

I've been using <sup>\*</sup> and <sup>\*\*</sup> and so on in the text and a --- rule followed by <sub>\*</sub> at the end, and it sort of works, but:

  • I want the footnotes to be smaller/less important-looking, but on many browsers, subscript text is too small, as Eugene Siedel's answer shows.
  • This is clearly an abuse of <sub>'s semantic meaning.
  • <sub> doesn't work in combination with some other kinds of formatting. Part of the reason I use asterisks instead of numbered footnotes is to remind myself that auto-numbered lists and <sub> don't work together.
  • <sub> does work with embedded code, but it looks ugly on most browsers.* And that definitely affects SO. I have brief bits of code in my footnotes all the time.
  • It would be much nicer for the reader if the footnotes were hyperlinked. (I know, I shouldn't be writing answers so long that it really matters. But the time I would spend editing one of them down, I could write book-sized answers on three other interesting questions I've found. :)
  • I frequently screw up the number of asterisks, which is one of the reasons I end up re-editing my answers too often and annoying other people.
  • I still catch myself using the years-obsolete <super> instead of the HTML5 <sup> tag, although that's probably just a problem with me. But it's kind of annoying that it actually works on some browsers, so I don't always notice it…

* How does this look for you? In particular, does the embedded code cause the lines to be spaced for full-sized text, even though the embedded code, like the rest of the text, is not full-sized?

  • +1 I've been hoping that the developers would upgrade footnotes from sub-soup for a long, long time : ( Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 0:57
  • 3
    It would also be nice to have clickable footnote links and clickable back-to-reference links. About a year ago I feature-request'ed being able to Link to a Certain Part of an Answer/Question, which would enable this to be done manually. Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 1:02
  • 1
    Indeed, @Jonny, and even more so for mobile which might need more scrolling to see the footnotes. Like for Eugene's example as seen on my phone.
    – Arjan
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 11:01

As we near the four-year mark since this Question was first asked, has the development team made any progress yet?

Footnotes are still a pain! And not only because jumping back and forth between text and footnote does not work. It is quite simply a usability nightmare! Here is an example where <sub> was used as a work-around to make footnote text:

Screenshot showing too-small footnote text circled in red

On a normal notebook screen, who can read the text circled in red without getting severe eyestrain? Not I.

While we wait for a footnoting feature to be introduced, how about enabling the <small> HTML attribute so that footnotes can be the exact same point size as the text in comments (small but still readable)?


Not sure why I failed to leave a note here when declining, but... Better late than never.

We (the community manager team) sent this to the dev team for consideration in August of 2013; it was rejected for the following reasons:

  1. We want to avoid creating proprietary additions to Markdown
  2. We do not have consensus that footnotes are something to be encouraged
  3. A work-around exists (albeit an ugly one)

If more than one of these reasons is invalidated at some point, we may be able to reconsider this request.

  • What about StackEdit.io? That has support for footnotes and more... (Thanks for the clarification, those are all good reasons)
    – Benjamin R
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 2:52
  • 1
    StackEdit.io supports a ton of handy extensions because it is awesome. Also, it's for personal use and there's no particular harm in enabling stuff if it's useful for the author (you can selectively disable them too).
    – Shog9
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 3:24
  • 2
    1. There's a fairly standard syntax for footnotes in extended Markdown.
    – outis
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 7:35
  • 2
    2. Consensus among whom? Additionally, consensus (broad support or unanimity) shouldn't be a criteria when it comes to a system feature, as there will always be a vocal group who will dismiss the feature as unnecessary (consider how many useful programming language features get dismissed as "syntactic sugar"). Instead, the criteria should be whether a significant portion of the user-base would make use of the feature.
    – outis
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 7:41
  • 2
    3. There isn't a complete workaround, which would include links between the references and notes. Also, the same argument could be applied to any markdown feature, existing or proposed. If there were no lists, there would be a workaround (and not very ugly) in the form of HTML markup.
    – outis
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 7:43
  • 1
    Is that enough to invalidate all the reasons?
    – outis
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 7:44

I don't know 1.

1 I just use superscript on it 2.
2 Looks nice to me.

  • 14
    Not hyperlinked back and forth. And <a> element doesn't support neither "name" nor "id" attributes. Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 14:19
  • And what is preventing it to get supported?
    – akarnokd
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 15:02
  • 5
    +1 for not using <sup> in the text of the footnote. Still, like in the question, many abuse <sup> in the actual footnote itself. Also, using numbers implies one might need to re-number when inserting another footnote at a later time.
    – Arjan
    Commented Feb 23, 2010 at 12:08
  • 2
    @jakub-narebski <a href="#myid"> will point just fine to <div id="myid">. Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 7:07
  • 1
    @JarkkoLaine Until someone else in another answer uses the same id. Answer-writers should not have to maintain a unique namespace scheme or remember to search the page source just write a footnote that functions. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 22:42

What about recognizing footnote URLs (meaning: Extend the link discovery mechanism to URI schema footnote together with a suitable encoding for footnotes. Maybe add link targets to the same answer.)? My dirty solution until that looks like this1:


[1]: http://footnote?Yes,_it's_ugly!.

So eventually one would be able to use a link like footnote: text..., so the footnote text might look like

[1]: footnote: Just the footnote text...
  • I've never heard about "footnote URL", even Google does not know what it is, and it's ugly indeed. So no thanks. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 14:03
  • 1
    The URL schema is generic: You can even define coffee URLs if you need them. I did not suggest to use some thing existing, but as the link mechanism seems to trigger in well-known-URLs, it's just a matter to extend the schema to something new (maybe display as "hovering" text float").
    – U. Windl
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 14:09
  • 1
    @PM2Ring You missed the point: At the moment you must use https or https to trigger the link mechanism, but the solution actually is to extend the link mechanism to something new, more suitable for footnotes. The link was not expected to be clicked, so it soes not make a difference whether to use http or https.
    – U. Windl
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 7:43
  • That should be the standard.
    – smonff
    Commented May 9 at 11:15

Need footnotes in community wiki mode. You don't want to disrupt the flow of someone else's discussion unnecessarily.

  • 7
    Do you have an example of this?
    – random
    Commented Dec 9, 2009 at 14:08
  • @random there is a whole book dedicates for this: The Shallows. It cites many studies that hyperlinks in the middle of text, while giving you the references obviously, decrease your understanding of the text. It is better to separate the references in their own section.
    – Ooker
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 4:37
  • Up-to-date link for The Shallows: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shallows_(book)
    – Benjamin R
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 17:14

I believe this is unnecessary

I use footnotes regularly.1 However, if I recall correctly, Stack Exchange's goal is to avoid lengthy answers. Answers are expected to be long enough to be thorough, but not so long as to threaten the Help Center's book rule. Consequently, the hyperlinks between the footnote and its source would be a convenience, but hardly a necessity. IMO, if someone's written an answer (or a question) so long that hyperlinking from the footnote reference to the footnote and back makes sense, the author should ponder long and hard about whether or not to summarize the answer/question or to vote to close the question for violating the book rule.

1Granted, they're a bit more manual than something cleaner and slicker....

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