: This letter Ta' is an abbreviated form of al-waqf al-mutlaq. It means that the statement stands completed at this point. Therefore, it is better to stop here.
: This letter Jim is an abbreviation of al-waqf al ja'iz and it means that it is permissible to stop here.
: This letter Za' is an abbreviation of al-waqf al-mujawwaz. It means that making a stop here is correct all right, but the better choice is not to make a stop here.
: This letter Sad is an abbreviation of al-waqf al-murathkhas. It means that the statement has not yet been completed at this point but, because the sentence has become long, here is the place to breathe and stop rather than do it elsewhere (al-Mianh al-Fikriyyah, p. 63).
: This letter mim is an abbreviation of al-waqf al-lazim. It means if a stop is not made here an outrageous distortion in the meaning of the verse is possible. So, it is better to stop here. Some phoneticians of the Qur'an have also called this al-waqf al-wajib or the obligatory stop. But this is not 'wajib' of fiqh which brings sin if abandoned. In fact, the purpose is to stress that making a stop here is the most preferable of all stops (al-Nashr, 1/231).
: This letter la is an abbreviation of " la" taqif. It means 'do not stop here,' but it does not imply that making a stop here is impermissible, because there are certain places bearing this sign where making a stop brings no harm and making an initiation from the following word is also permissible. Therefore, the correct meaning of this sign is: If a stop is made here, it is better to go back and read over again. Initiation from the next word is not approved (al-Nashr, 1/233).
As far as the origin of these signs is concerned, it stands proved beyond doubt that they were invented by 'Allamah Sajawandi. In addition to these, there are some other signs as well that appear in the copies of the Qur'an, for instance:
: This ma' is an abbreviation of "mu'anaqah". This symbol is inserted at a place where a single verse has two possible explanations.
According to one explanation, the stop will be made at one given place, while according to another explanation, this will be at another place. So, a stop can be made at either one of the two places, but once a stop has been made at one place, it is not correct to stop at the other. For instance, take the verse (Arabic text). If a stop is made here at (Arabic text), then it is not correct to stop at (Arabic text) and should a stop be made at (Arabic text), then it is not correct to stop at (Arabic text). However, if a stop is not made at both places, that will be correct. It is also known as 'al-maqabalah'. It was, first of all, pointed out by Imam Abu al-Fadl al-Razi (al-Nashr, 1/237 and al-ltqan, 1/88).
: This is a symbol for saktah. It means one should stop here breaking the sound but not the breath. This is generally inserted at a place where assimilated reading is likely to cause an erroneous projection of meaning.
: At this sign of waqfah, one must stop a little longer than saktah (pause). But, breath should not break here too.
: This letter qaf is an abbreviation of qila 'alazhz l'waqf. It means that some phoneticians of the Qur'an identify a stop here while others do not.
: This word is 'qif which means 'stop' and it is inserted where the reader may possibly think that a stop was not correct there.
: This is an abbreviation of al-waslu awla which means 'it is better to recite in assimilated continuity'.
: This is an abbreviation of qad yusalu, that is, some stop here, while others like to recite on in assimilated continuity.
: This is marked at places where some hadith report proves that the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) stopped here while reciting.