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Font Definitions / Glossary
This page is part of The Ultimate Font Guide, an introductory font manual that explains the basics of fonts and how to install fonts, use them in different applications and more.
A font glossary can be very, VERY extensive as there are many terms associated with fonts. In this glossary we try to focus on the terms that you see in descriptions when buying a font or when people talk about fonts related to their crafts or cutting machines. If you really would need to know another term, leave a comment and we will reply to your comment ASAP and maybe even add it to the glossary.
Alternates, or Stylistic Alternates are different versions of the same character. In the example below you will see different alternates for the letter A
A character is any letter, numeral, punctuation mark or other symbol that is in a font. While a character can be represented with more glyphs/alternates, every character is unique.
In a font you will always find the ‘A’ character, the ‘B’ character, the ‘@’ character and so on. Basically they are just the letters, numbers and symbols in a font.
Just like “Handwritten fonts” the “Display Fonts” are a type of fonts in a special style. Display fonts have been designed specifically for decorative or headline usage.
A font is best described as the whole collection of all letters, numbers and punctuation that is used to style text.
A Font Family is a collection of fonts that come from the same family. In the family there is the main font (usually called “Regular”) and the variants on that font. This can be a bold, thin, cursive, extra thick, etc version. All the fonts combined are called a Family. A font family always contains at least 2 fonts but can contain an unlimited amount of Family members.
Every character in a font is represented by a glyph. A character can have multiple versions, for example when it has alternates (see above). If that is the case, each alternate version is an individual glyph. So on the picture below you see:
The A Character
5 Alternates to the A Character
A “Handwritten Font” is a type of font that is written by hand and thus looks like handwriting.
Ligatures are special designed characters that are actually two letters combined into a single one.
OpenType is a font format that allows designers to add many special characters. How this is done is up to the designer of the font. OpenType fonts usually contain all the fun extras a font has to offer.
Script fonts are fonts that are derived from handwriting or calligraphy and are more fluid than most fonts.
Swashes are elegant extensions on a letter form. They are the swirly lines that you see on a lot of script and handwritten fonts. See the image below for an example.