Staccato is a form of musical articulation, signifying an unconnected note, which is short and detached. It has been used in musical notation since the early 18th century. Staccato is the Italian word meaning "detached".
In music, a dot is usually placed above to express that these notes should be distinctly separate while also short in length. This does not, however, alter the rhythm of the music and the remainder of the time allotted for each staccato note is played as rest. The opposite musical articulation of staccato is legato, signifying long and continuous notes. A dot indicating staccato articulation is not to be confused with a dotted note.
Sometimes in the classical music era (the piano works of Mozart, for example) some sort of an accent mark might be used instead, which leads to uncertainty as to what the composer intended. Accentuation and staccato effects at times go hand in hand, but scarcely so in most modern works.
Playing staccato is the opposite of playing legato. A staccato passage for strings is by definition a bowed rather than a pizzicato technique, though pizzicato itself might be thought of as a kind of staccato effect. For example, Leroy Anderson's Jazz Legato/Jazz Pizzicato. There is an intermediate articulation called either mezzo staccato or non-legato.
^ Kennedy, Michael, and Joyce Bourne. “Staccato.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).