Typography Terms

As most graphic designers know, the rabbit-hole of typography is deep. When is comes to type, designers can get into the nerdiest levels of conversation during critiques and reviews. Especially when it comes to typographic terms. In other words, the lingo, or typography vocabulary.

So do you want to sound like a “type-beast”? Scroll down to see our massive list of typography terms.

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Aperture

The opening of a partially enclosed counter shape

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Apex

The point at the top of a letter where two strokes meet

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Arc

The curved part of a letter at the end of a straight stem

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Arm

A straight or curved portion of a letter that extends upwards or outwards

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Ascender

The vertical stroke on lower case letters that extends above the x-height

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Ascender Line

An invisible line marking the height of all ascenders in a font

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Axis / Stress

An invisible line dissecting the glyph from top to bottom at its thinnest point

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Ball Terminal

Terminal with a circular or oval shape

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Baseline

The imaginary line upon which a letter rests

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Beak

A decorative stroke at the end of the arm of a letter, like a serif, but usually more pronounced.

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Bilateral Serif

Serif or slab serif extending to both sides of a main stroke

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Bowl

A fully closed round part of a letter

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Bracket

A curved or wedge-like connection between the stem and serif

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Cap Height

The height of a capital letter above the baseline for a particular typeface

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Counter

The area of a letter that is entirely or partially enclosed

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Crossbar

The horizontal stroke in letters, usually across the middle of uppercase letters like A and H

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Cross Stroke

A horizontal stroke that intersects the stem of a lowercase t or f

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Crotch

An acute, inside angle where two strokes meet

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Descender

The portion of a letter that extends below the baseline of a font

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Descender Line

The invisible line marking the lowest point of the descenders within a font

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Ear

A decorative flourish usually on the upper right side of the bowl

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Eye

Specifically the enclosed space in a lowercase 'e'

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Finial

a somewhat tapered curved end on letters such as the bottom of c or e

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Foot

The part of a stem that rests on the baseline

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Gadzook

An embellishment in a ligature that is not originally part of either letter

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Glyph

A specific shape, design, or representation of a character

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Grotesk

German name for sans serif typefaces

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Hairline

A name for the lightest weight within a font family. Hairline can also refer to the thinnest stroke of a letter

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Halbfett

German name for the semi-bold weight in a font family

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Hook

A curved, protruding stroke in a terminal, usually found on a lowercase f

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Inktrap

A feature of certain typefaces designed for printing in small sizes

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Joint/Juncture

The point where a stroke connects to a stem

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Leg

The lower, down sloping stroke of a letter, most common is a K or R

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Ligature

Where two or more letters are joined as a single glyph

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Link/Neck

The small, usually curved stroke that connects the bowl and loop of a g

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Loop

The enclosed or partially enclosed counter below the baseline that is connected to the bowl by a link

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Midline

The imaginary line at which all non-ascending letters stop

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Overshoot

The degree to which a letter extends higher or lower than a comparably sized "flat" letter

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Pro

Typeface supports additional languages including Central European and Cyrillic and/or Greek

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Shoulder

The curved stroke aiming downward from a stem

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Small Caps

Lowercase characters typeset with glyphs that resemble uppercase letters but reduced in height and weight

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Spine

The main left to right curving stroke in the letter S

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Spur

The small protruding part on a main stroke

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Stem

A vertical stroke in a character

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Swash

An exaggerated decorative serif, terminal or tail

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Tail

The descending, often decorative stroke on the letter Q or the descending, often curved diagonal stroke on K or R

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Taper

The thinner and/or refined end of a stroke

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Terminal

The end of a stroke that doesn’t have a serif

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Tittle

A small distinguishing mark, such as an diacritic on a lowercase i or j

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Vertex

The outside point at the bottom or top of a character where two strokes meet

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Weight

The thickness of the character outlines relative to their height

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X-Height

The distance between the baseline and the mean line of lower-case letters

Camden Taylor

Author Camden Taylor

Camden is ARTURTH's Chief Editor, Senior Graphic Designer, and artist from the Pacific Northwest.

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