The Info List - Glyph

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In typography, a glyph /ɡlɪf/ is an elemental symbol within an agreed set of symbols, intended to represent a readable character for the purposes of writing. Glyphs are considered to be unique marks that collectively add up to the spelling of a word or contribute to a specific meaning of what is written, with that meaning dependent on cultural and social usage. In contrast, in most languages written in any variety of the Latin alphabet, the dot on a lower-case i is not a glyph because it does not convey any distinction, and an i in which the dot has been accidentally omitted is still likely to be recognized correctly. However, in Turkish it is a glyph because that language has two distinct versions of the letter i, with and without a dot. Also, in Japanese syllabaries, a number of the characters are made up of more than one separate mark, but in general these separate marks are not glyphs because they have no meaning by themselves. However, in some cases, additional marks fulfill the role of diacritics, to differentiate distinct characters. Such additional marks constitute glyphs. In general, a diacritic is a glyph, even if it is contiguous with the rest of the character like a cedilla in French, the ogonek in several languages, or the stroke on a Polish "Ł". Some characters such as "æ" in Icelandic and the "ß" in German may be regarded as glyphs, yet they were originally ligatures, but over time have become characters in their own right, and these languages treat them as separate letters. However, a ligature such as "ſi", that is treated in some typefaces as a single unit, is arguably not a glyph as this is just a quirk of the typeface, essentially an allographic feature, and includes more than one grapheme. In normal handwriting, even long words are often written "joined up", without the pen leaving the paper, and the form of each written letter will often vary depending on which letters precede and follow it, but that does not make the whole word into a single glyph. Two or more glyphs which have the same significance, whether used interchangeably or chosen depending on context, are called allographs of each other.


1 Etymology 2 Archaeology 3 Typography 4 Graphonomics 5 Other uses 6 See also 7 Notes 8 References 9 External links

Etymology[edit] The term has been used in English since 1727, borrowed from glyphe (in use by French antiquaries since 1701), from the Greek γλυφή, glyphē, "carving," and the verb γλύφειν, glýphein, "to hollow out, engrave, carve" (cognate with Latin glubere "to peel" and English cleave).[citation needed] The word hieroglyph (Greek for sacred writing) has a longer history in English, dating from an early use in an English to Italian dictionary published by John Florio
John Florio
in 1598, referencing the complex and mysterious characters of the Egyptian alphabet.[1]

Mayan glyph for Day 10 of the tzolkin calendar

The word glyph first came to widespread European attention with the engravings and lithographs from Frederick Catherwood's drawings of undeciphered glyphs of the Maya civilization
Maya civilization
in the early 1840s.[2] Archaeology[edit] In archaeology, a glyph is a carved or inscribed symbol. It may be a pictogram or ideogram, or part of a writing system such as a syllable, or a logogram. Typography[edit]

The adjacent characters ſi represented as one glyph

In typography, a glyph has a slightly different definition: it is "the specific shape, design, or representation of a character".[3] It is a particular graphical representation, in a particular typeface, of an element of written language, which could be a grapheme, or part of a grapheme, or sometimes several graphemes in combination (a composed glyph[note 1]). If there is more than one allograph of a unit of writing, and the choice between them depends on context or on the preference of the author, they now have to be treated as separate glyphs, because mechanical arrangements have to be available to differentiate between them and to print whichever of them is required. The same is true in computing. In computing as well as typography, the term "character" refers to a grapheme or grapheme-like unit of text, as found in natural language writing systems (scripts). In typography and computing, the range of graphemes is broader than in a written language in other ways too: a typographical font often has to cope with a range of different languages each of which contribute their own graphemes, and it may also be required to print other symbols such as dingbats. The range of glyphs required increases correspondingly. In summary, in typography and computing, a glyph is a graphical unit.[4] Graphonomics[edit] In graphonomics, the term glyph is used for a noncharacter, i.e. either a subcharacter or multicharacter pattern. Most typographic glyphs originate from the characters of a typeface. In a typeface each character typically corresponds to a single glyph, but there are exceptions, such as a font used for a language with a large alphabet or complex writing system, where one character may correspond to several glyphs, or several characters to one glyph. Other uses[edit]

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In the mobile text input technologies, Glyph
is a family of text input methods based on the decomposition of letters into basic shapes. In role-playing games, the word glyph is sometimes used alongside the word "rune" in describing magical drawings or etchings. Runes often refer to placing the image on an object or person to empower it, whereas the magic in a glyph lies dormant and is only triggered when the glyph is read or approached.[original research?]

See also[edit]

Character encoding Complex text layout HTML decimal character rendering Letterform Palaeography, the study of ancient writing Punchcutting


^ For example, the sequence ſi contains two characters, but can be represented by one glyph, the two characters being combined into a single unit known as a ligature. Conversely, some older models of typewriters require the use of multiple glyphs to depict a single character, as an overstruck apostrophe and period to create an exclamation mark.


^ "Home : Oxford English Dictionary". www.oed.com. Retrieved 2017-02-21.  ^ "Maya". Ancientscripts.com. Retrieved 6 February 2018.  ^ Ilene Strizver. "Confusing (and Frequently Misused) Type Terminology, Part 1". fonts.com. Monotype Imaging.  Missing or empty url= (help); access-date= requires url= (help) ^ Ken Whistler; Mark Davis; Asmus Freytag (2008-11-11). "Characters Vs Glyphs". www.unicode.org/reports/tr17/#CharactersVsGlyphs. Unicode.  Missing or empty url= (help); access-date= requires url= (help)

External links[edit]

The dictionary definition of glyph at Wiktionary Media related to Glyph
at Wikimedia Commons

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Canons of page construction Column Even working Margin Page numbering Pagination Pull quote Recto and verso


Alignment Justification Leading River Sentence spacing Widows and orphans



Counter Diacritics Dingbat Glyph Initial Kerning Letter-spacing Ligature Subscript and superscript Swash Text figures Tittle


ALL CAPS Camel case Letter case Petite caps Small caps

Visual distinction

Italics Oblique Bold Color Underline 𝔹𝕝𝕒𝕔𝕜𝕓𝕠𝕒𝕣𝕕 𝕓𝕠𝕝𝕕 𝕭𝖑𝖆𝖈𝖐𝖑𝖊𝖙𝖙𝖊𝖗 Infɑnt

Vertical aspects

Ascender Baseline Cap height Descender Median Overshoot x-height


Roman type

Antiqua (old style) Didone (modern) Sans-serif Script Serif Slab serif Transitional Reverse-contrast


Fraktur Rotunda Schwabacher Textualis

Gaelic type

Insular Uncial


Record type


Dashes Hanging punctuation Hyphen-minus Hyphenation Prime mark Quotation mark


Calligraphy etaoin shrdlu Font

computer monospaced

catalog Letterpress Lorem ipsum Microtypography Movable type Pangram Phototypesetting Punchcutting Type color Type design Typeface Microprint


Typographic units

Agate Cicero Em En Figure space Measure Paren space Pica Point

traditional point-size names

Thin space

Digital typography

Character encoding Font
formats Hinting Rasterization Typesetting
software Typographic features Web typography


Intentionally blank page Style guide Type foundry