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Typography Dictionary

Explore the world of typography and digital type through words, definitions, and mini-tutorials on using fonts in desktop publishing.

Accent Mark
Marks used on some characters to denote a specific pronounciation...

Adjacent Caps
A big letter off to the side...

Agate
A standard unit of measurement found primarily in newspaper publishing...

Agate Line
Still used as a unit of measure in advertising space in some newsletters and newspapers...

Aliasing
Aliasing is when curves get ugly...

Alignment
Lining up the top, bottom, sides, or middle of text or graphic elements on a page...

All Caps
Text set completely in uppercase...

Ampersand
The typographic symbol used to designate the word and (& ) is the Latin symbol for et which means and...

Anti-Aliasing
The process of smoothing out jaggies...

Aperture
A partially enclosed, somewhat rounded negative space in some characters...

Apex
The point at the top of a character such as the uppercase A...

Apostrophe
The little squiggle that turns it is into it's...

Arm
The arm of a letter is the horizontal stroke on some characters that does not connect to a stroke or stem at one or both ends...

Ascender
The upward vertical stem on some lowercase letters, such as h and b, that extends above the x-height...

Asterisk
The star-like symbol (*) used in literature, math, computing, and many other fields...

At Sign @
The at sign (@) means each, at, or each at...

Auto Leading
Leading done, automatically...

Axis
How much a typeface leans to the left or right by design...

Backslant
Italics in reverse...

Ball Terminal (Terminal)
Combination of a dot or circular stroke and the curved bit at the end of some tails and the end of some arms..

Bar (Crossbar)
The (usually) horizontal stroke across the middle of uppercase A and H...

Base 14 Fonts
Specific common Type 1 fonts installed as a part of the Adobe Acrobat installation...

Baseline
The imaginary line upon which a line of text rests...

Beak
A type of decorative stroke at the end of the arm of a letter...

Beak Terminal (Terminal)
The sharp spur or beak at the end of a letterform's arm and the curved bit between the beak and the arm...

Black
A bold typeface style...

Blackletter
A style of typeface based on early written forms...

Blurb
One or more lines of text found between the headline and the body of the article...

Body Copy
The main text found in publications we read...

Bold
Thicker strokes than roman text...

Bowl
The curved part of the character that encloses the circular or curved parts (counter) of some letters...

Bracket
A curved or wedge-like connection between the stem and serif of some fonts...

Bullet

  • A typographic symbol used to call attention to lines of text such as in a list...

Cap Height
The height of capital letters in a typeface...

Character Emphasis
Making characters stand out from surrounding text...

Character Spacing
Adjusting the spaces between characters and words...

Character Spacing (Kerning)
The adjustment of space between pairs of letters... (Also see Tracking)

Chin
Some capital G's like to keep their chin up...

Colophon
It's the technical specs of a book or magazine, including the specific typefaces used...

Condensed Fonts
Narrower version of a font...

Counter
The enclosed or partially enclosed circular or curved negative space (white space) of some letters...

Cross Stroke
The horizontal stroke across the stem of a lowercase t or f...

Crossbar
The (usually) horizontal stroke across the middle of uppercase A and H...

Curly Apostrophe
An apostrophe with some curl to it...

Curly Quotes
The right way to quote someone...

Dash
A line. A short line. Actually, a couple of short lines.

Decorative Type
Fancy or specialty fonts for headlines, etc...

Descender
The portion of some lowercase letters, such as g and y, that extends or descends below the baseline...

Didot Point
A French measure of type...

Diacritical
The accent marks used on some characters to denote a specific pronounciation...

Dingbat
A typographic ornament or graphic...

Diphthong
Joined letters that represent a gliding vowel...

Display Type
Decorative or not, any type larger than body copy sizes...

Dropped Caps
Big letters dropped into a hole in a paragraph of text...

Dollar Sign
Currency symbol, programming symbol...

Double-Storey a
A specific style of lowercase a...

Double-Storey g
A specific style of lowercase g...

Ear
A decorative flourish usually found on a g...

Em
If you know your point size you know your em...

Em Dash
Dash with a length of em...

En
Half an em, it's a typographic measurement...

En Dash
Instead of a hyphen in some instances...

End Sign
Used to mark the end of a story in a newsletter or magazine...

Euro Mark (€)
Currency symbol for the European Union...

Exclamation !
A punctuation mark used in English and other languages to denote an exclamatory statement...

Expert Characters
Some special characters in some fonts...

Extender
That part of a letter that extends above the x-height or below the baseline...

Eye
The enclosed space in a lowercase e...

Finial
A somewhat tapered curved end on some letters or a swash or ornamental flourish...

Finial a (Double-Storey a)
A specific style of lowercase a...

Flush
A type of alignment...

Font
Do you want to know the parts of a font, identify a font, or are you just looking for all the free fonts? Whatever the font you want, start here.

Forced Justification
Forcing justification of all lines of text...

Garalde
An old style of font...

Greeking
Placeholder text...

Hairline
Thinnest stroke, thinnest line, thinniest serif...

Hanging Punctuation
Putting punctuation outside the text alignment...

Head
Lines of text introducing an article or sub-section...

Helvetica Font
A very popular, grotesque font...

Hyphen
Like a dash but not a dash...

Initial Caps
The first letter in a paragraph, enhanced...

Inverted Exclamation ¡
A punctuation mark used in some languages, such as Spanish...

Italic
A style of slanted type...

Jaggies
Jagged edges on curves and diagonal lines...

Justification
Text alignment...

Kerning
The adjustment of space between pairs of letters...

Kerning Pairs
Letters that kern well together...

Leaders
Rows of dots...

Leading
Reading between the lines...

Leg
The lower, down sloping stroke of the K and k...

Letterspacing (Kerning)
The space between letters (also see Tracking)

LF
A font abbreviation...

Ligature
Combined letters...

Lining Figures
1234567890 all lined up on the baseline...

Link
Small, usually curved stroke in a double-storey g...

Loop
The enclosed or partially enclosed part of some types of letters...

Lorem Ipsum
Placeholder text with a Latin twist...

Lowercase
Little letters... a b c d e f g h i j k...

Modern
It's a typestyle that's not too modern today (try 18th/19th century)...

Neck (Link)
A small, usually curved stroke in the double-storey g...

Non-Lining Figures
Old Style numbers that don't line up neatly on the baseline...

Old Style
A style of font developed by Renaissance typographers to replace the Blackletter style of type...

Oblique
Sans serif italics...

Old Style Figures
Non-lining numbers with descenders and ascenders...

OsF
OldStyle Figures...

OpenType Fonts
An extension of the TrueType font format and increasingly more popular than TrueType...

Overshoot
Just a little over the line...

Pica
Unit of measurement for lines of type...

Point
Type and printing measurement...

PostScript Fonts (Type 1 Fonts)
Digital type technology based on the Adobe PostScript language...

Pound Symbol
Pound symbol for UK currency, not #

Prime
Prime time to punctuate our numbers?

Printer's Ornaments (Dingbat)
A typographic ornament or graphic...

Orphan
A dangling word or phrase...

Rag
Stuff in paper or how type is aligned on paper...

Ragged
Natural line endings...

Raised Caps
A bigger letter that rises up above the text (not dropped into it)...

Reversed Type
A lighter typeface on a darker background...

SC
A font suffix or prefix identifier...

Roman
One of three major type classifications of Western typography...

Sans Serif
Fonts without serifs...

Script
Type style based on handwriting...

Serif
Fonts with a little extra stroke and the little stroke itself...

Slab Serif
A type of serif font that evolved from the Modern style...

Small Caps
Capital or uppercase letters that are a smaller size than regular capitals in a given font...

Spline
The main left to right curving stroke in S and s...

Spur
A small bit at the end of certain curved portions of a letterform...

Star (Asterisk)
The star-like symbol (*) used in literature, math, computing, and many other fields...

Stem
The main, usually vertical stroke of a letterform...

Stress
Thick-thin transitions in type...

Stroke
The main diagonal portion of a letterform such as in N, M, or Y...

Tail
The descending stroke, often decorative, on some letters such as the Q...

Terminal
A type of curve...

TF
Tabular Figures...

Tilted
Type that leans a little...

Tittle
A diacritic dot on a couple of letters...

Tombstoning
Heads that line up horizontally in a multi-column layout...

Tracking
Adjusting the overall spacing between characters...

Transitional
In between the old and new...

TrueType Fonts
Font technnology originally designed by Apple Computer but widely associated with the Microsoft Windows platform...

Type
Letters and numbers...

Type 1 Fonts
Digital type based on the Adobe PostScript language...

Type Designer
One who designs type...

Typeface
When you see a font, you see a typeface...

Typeset Apostrophe
An apostrophe with some curl to it?

Typesetter
One who sets the type...

Typesetting
Putting the words in the right type...

Typewriter Font
Fonts that mimic the type of typewriters...

Typographer
One who knows a lot about type and printing...

Typographer's Marks
The mark of good text composition...

Typographical Punctuation Marks
Proper punctuation from a typographical viewpoint...

Typography
The design and use of typefaces as a means of visual communication from calligraphy to the ever-developing use of digital type...

Venetian
A font of the Renaissance...

Uncial
Early style of writing originally in all caps...

Uppercase
Uppercase makes little letters big... A B C D E ...

Widow
A dangling word or phrase...

Wordmark
A logo of words...

X-Height
Distance between the baseline of a line of type and tops of the main body of lower case letters...

Yen Symbol (¥)
Currency symbol in Japan...

Zero Leading
No space between lines of type would be zero leading.

Dictionary Index
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | (Q) X Y Z

Specialty Dictionaries
Graphics | Layout & Design
Prepress | Printing & Finishing
Software | Type & Fonts
Business | Paper

Learn more type terms with the Termninology Game portion of The Font Game From I Love Typography, an iPhone/iPad app.

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