Type foundryTypeType Font Dictionary

Glossary of Typography Terms

The largest illustrated database of typography terms and definitions

TypeType Font Dictionary is a guide containing the definitions of typographic terminology from our articles and other font-related content. Diving a little deeper into the language of typography will give you a better understanding of specialized information sources and make you feel more comfortable with fonts.

Remember, there is no standardized type terminology in the font market. The definitions you will see here are the result of the collective expertise of TypeType specialists over many years, and we believe them to be the most accurate.

Antiqua

(serif typeface)—a high-contrast font with serifs.
Antiqua

Aperture

A degree of openness in a character. Aperture can be open or closed. The letter «C» provides the simplest example to grasp the concept of aperture: more straight/horizontal terminals indicate an open aperture and more curved/vertical terminals mark a closed aperture.
Aperture

Bézier curve

Mathematically formulated curves used to describe character forms in fonts.
Bézier curve

Calligraphy

The art of producing beautiful writing. Calligraphic text is always crafted manually and bears the imprint of the tool.

Character set

A collection of all font symbols.
Character set

Diacritical marks

Special symbols influencing (transforming or clarifying) the character’s meaning. They are placed above, below, or sometimes inside letterforms. For example, the dot in «i» is a diacritical mark.
Diacritical marks

Display fonts

Eye-catching, peculiar, and distinctive fonts often used in large point sizes (for example, for headlines).
Display fonts

Dynamic fonts

Fonts characterized by their origins in broad-nib pen calligraphy. They stand out for noticeable proportion dynamics, evident contrast, and open aperture.
Dynamic fonts

Extreme points

The outermost points on vertical and horizontal axes of rounded elements that form an arc.  
Extreme points

Font

A collection of symbols united by a common idea: the design of the characters (letters, numbers, punctuation marks) integrated into a cohesive system and a file carrying the complete set of characters (alphabet or non-alphabet symbols) used for typing.
Font

Fonts with dynamic proportions

Fonts with explicit width dynamics. Their proportions are reminiscent of Roman capital scripts or fonts from the Renaissance era.
Fonts with dynamic proportions

Fonts with static proportions

Fonts where characters are designed to have a uniform width, except for the narrowest ones, such as «i» and «l.»  
Fonts with static proportions

Geometric sans serif typefaces

Fonts intentionally built upon elementary geometric forms (equilateral triangles, squares, circles). Originated in Germany in the 1930s. Their development was influenced by the ideas of constructivism and the Bauhaus design school.
Geometric sans serif typefaces

Grapheme

The idea of the character, its image, and the basic form that sets it apart from other symbols. One character can have several letterforms (for example, uppercase and lowercase, roman and cursive, single-storey and double-storey).
Grapheme

Grotesque

(sans serif typeface)—low or no-contrast font without serifs.
Grotesque

Handwritten font

Soviet lettering that looks similar to title face. These fonts are often used in poster and book design.

Hinting

The TrueType format font optimization process aimed at achieving maximum readability on computer screens.
Hinting

Humanist sans serif typefaces

Sans serif fonts with a more pronounced contrast of thick and thin strokes than other Grotesques. They are also characterized by an open aperture and double-storey «a» and «g.».
Humanist sans serif typefaces

Instances

Font styles that weren’t designed as masters. They are interpolated or extrapolated between the anchor font styles based on specific formulas for determining font family weights.
Instances

Italics

(true italics)—historically, this term referred to cursive fonts, but today, it is used in a broader sense and unites true italics and slanted fonts. These are fonts where letterforms transform to acquire a cursive shape. Italics can be created as independent fonts, not only as an addition to roman font styles. Such fonts are typical for serif typefaces.
Italics

Kerning

Targeted increase or reduction of the interval between two characters determined by the combination of their forms. Kerning is needed to achieve a perfectly even, uniform typesetting.
Kerning

Letter

1) a block usually made of type metal or wood with a typographic character protruding on one of the sides, making it possible to print the symbol onto a surface through stamping (print); 2) in general terms, any symbol in the font.
Letter

Lettering

A hand-crafted type. Unlike calligraphy, lettering doesn’t bear the imprint of an instrument. There are numerous ways of designing letters for such fonts: they can be drawn, cut out, sculpted, etc.

Letterspace

(aprosh)—the distance between the letter’s edge and the em-square’s edge. Letterspace can be both positive and negative. The semi-aproshes (sidebearing) of two adjacent characters form one aprosh.
Letterspace

Masters

Anchor font styles designers handcraft in font editing software supporting the variability technology.
Masters

Modern serif typefaces

(Classical)—a category of fonts with static proportions exhibiting glyphic nature, with their design grounded in construction rather than handwriting. These fonts developed their appearance through the extensive use of pointed-nib pens and metal engraving techniques. Modern Antiquas stand out for their high contrast, thin and symmetrical serifs, no dynamics, and vertical oval axis.
Modern serif typefaces

Monospaced fonts

Fonts with the same width of em-square in all characters. Traditionally, such fonts are used for coding and filling out tables; however, modern typography also uses them for various purposes.  
Monospaced fonts

Neo-Grotesques

The legacy of Swiss design. Such fonts stand out for their static proportions, minimal or no contrast, squared ovals, and closed apertures.
Neo-Grotesques

Oblique fonts

Fonts usually designed as a pair to the original roman font style. In this case, letterforms are just slanted but don’t change. Such fonts are typical for sans serifs.
Oblique fonts

Old sans serifs

A category uniting the first sans serif typefaces that emerged in the XIX century. These fonts have noticeable contrast and simple forms, and the glyphs tend to have equal widths.
Old sans serifs

Old Style serif typefaces

(Humanist) serif typefaces—serif fonts that emerged and thrived during the Renaissance era. These are dynamic fonts with low contrast, significantly slanted axes of ovals, and asymmetrical, rounded serifs. This font category is classified as ductal, based on the logic of broad-nib pen writing.
Old Style serif typefaces

OpenType features

(or simply features)—code integrated during font development that allows users to invoke various transformations and use functions (intended by the font designer) in font editing software. For instance, replacing glyph forms with alternates, turning on tabular or minuscule figures, adjusting the punctuation baseline based on the case, etc.
OpenType features

Point

A unit of measuring font size; a basic unit of typometric system. A point equals approximately 1/72 of an inch. In different metric systems, like American or French, these numerical values may differ.
Point

Point size

Character height, their vertical size. It is measured in typographic points.
Point size

Raster

A grid of pixels (color dots) utilized to display images on output devices.
Raster

Serif

Short additional lines at the ends of the character’s main strokes, usually perpendicular. Serifs are typical for Antiqua typefaces and slab serifs.
Serif

Small caps

Character forms that feature the graphics of uppercase letters but are reduced in height and weight. These forms are often a little higher than the lowercase characters, but according to the Latin tradition, they may have the same height as the lowercase characters. Small caps are used in abbreviations or other situations requiring typing running text in uppercase letters.
Small caps

Spacing

A general term for a set of all horizontal intervals around each glyph in a font: sidebearing and kerning settings. Spacing can be tight or loose.
Spacing

Static fonts

Fonts characterized by their origins in pointed-nib pen writing. They feature high contrast and less dynamic proportions (all letters tend to be equal in width, with a straight oval axis). Such fonts usually have narrower glyph proportions than dynamic ones. The glyphs visually move towards uniform width, the aperture is closed.
Static fonts

Stem

The key dominant vertical (or diagonal) stroke.
Stem

Style

Visual characteristic of a font. Within one font style, all characters are designed with consistent weight and width or, for instance, are all slanted. So, a font family can include different font styles united by one particular trait, and a typeface unites different subfamilies.  
Style

Subfamily

A font set inside the typeface that is united stylistically by slant, weight, width, etc.
Subfamily

Text typefaces

Simple and neutral fonts without excessive details. They are easy to read and suitable for typing running text.
Text typefaces

Transitional serif typefaces

Are named so because, historically and graphically, they transition from Old Style to Modern Antiquas. It is generally accepted that Transitional serifs appeared in the middle of the 18th century. Visually, the Transitional serifs have a more refined, contrasting, and hand-drawn style compared to the Old Style serifs.
Transitional serif typefaces

Type, Font, Typeface

A font used for typing text with a printing press or computer and can be both text and display. Opposite of lettering.
Type, Font, Typeface

Typeface

(font family)—a collection of fonts united by certain characteristics (stylistic and technical). Fonts with varying styles (roman, italic, light, bold, etc.) can form part of the same typeface.
Typeface