Arabic Type Nomenclature- What is the Arabic for "Font"?...

Vladimir Tamari's picture

There was a discussion recently on the Arabic word for "Font" these were suggested:
حرف مطبعي1
خط مطبعي2
حرف طباعي3
خط طباعي4
I like No. 1 because حرف is an individual letter as an independent unit, while خط suggests a script. Which do you prefer? What other technical terms related to typography have multiple Arabic names or are not yet properly defined? For example light, bold, condensed etc. You are invited to discuss these matters here, or to post your lists of suggested Arabic typography terms.

John Hudson's picture

Font? or typeface?

Thomas Milo's picture

IMHO ḫaṭṭ ṭibāʿī [khatt tibaa`ii] خَطّْ طِبَاعِی (typographic script) is an accurate term for "typeface", since it describes the result, just like typeface does.

The term bunṭ [bunt] بُنْطْ, on the other hand, is an accurate description of "font", since it refers to an aspect of typographic craftmanschip. "Font" is a corruption of the older "fount". the result of founding molten lead. Bunṭ بُنْطْ can hardly be Arabic or even Semitic (although the absense of an etymological dictionary of Arabic remains embarassing), as can be inferred by the absence of any other derivations of the BNT root within Arabic, as well as the complete absence of the BNT root anywhere else in Semitic languages. Rather, it appears to be the word "point", "punkt". "punto" or even "punt" as a European term of size in typography.

PS - this web site should support Unicode! My Arabic transcription appears to be clobbered by this font.

Thomas Milo

Vladimir Tamari's picture

John, I must admit I need clarification about the current uses of the English words font and a computerized typeface a font? In the metal-type days there also was the use of الصندوق المطبعي 'the type box' i.e. the complete set of different [][][] where [][][] would be the name of those little metal things Gutenberg invented!

Yes Tom I recall the use of بنط to mean point size for example "12 بنط".

H_Afash's picture

I am completely agreed to Tom's description.
Although the difference between Font and Typeface, I used to use "الحرف الطباعي" to describe Font or typeface.

I don't like using " بُنط" because we should write it "بنط". so may it read "بَنط" or "بُنط" or "بِنط". I meant we should put the Damma when we write it.

I am with Vladimir in "I recall the use of بنط to mean point size for example “12 بنط"

So, the could term of Font is "الحرف الطباعي".


Saad Abulhab's picture

I am for either of خط طباعي or بنط

I prefer بنط because I would like to use one word not two, and I can pluralize it easily. I agree with Tom's and Vladimir's explanations that بنط must have been derived from "point" as in point size. But this should not matter as even in Latin the popular word "font" used today was only referring to a specific point size of a type before taking over in the terms type or typeface after computers, and therefore it is not an accurate term in its current usage. Arguments constantly flare about it and other terms.

One can argue, if we can Arabize "point" for font, why not Arabize the word "font" itself. Using فونت or فونط would then be equally valid. Here is what I would use to translate the terms:

Font: خط طباعي or بنط

Fonts: خطوط طباعية or ابناط

Type: خط طباعي or بنط

Typeface خط طباعي or بنط

Types Style نمط الخط الطباعي or النمط الحرفي

Font Family عائلة الخط الطباعي or عائلة الابناط

Type Family عائلة الخط الطباعي or عائلة الابناط


Saad Abulhab's picture


>>I am with Vladimir in “I recall the use of بنط to mean point size for example “12 بنط”

The idea here is to first use as much native Arabic words, and second if we need to Arabize Latin words we should do that when there is no escape. I think Arabic has a good word for "point size", which is حجم . Why not using it instead? Those who originally used بنط for size did not need to just as the Gulf Arabs today use فليت instead of شريحة!!

But since بنط is used any way and فونت is not Arabic anyway, I think بنط can be used OK. As for how to pronounce it, just add it to the many Arabic words that must remembered without diacritic vowels.

>>So, the could term of Font is “الحرف الطباعي”.

You meat الخط الطباعي as الحرف الطباعي is not accurate or informative term.


Vladimir Tamari's picture

In Japan they call it "Fonto" !

Thomas Milo's picture

The DT Naskh typeface licensed by Microsoft (1994) and Apple (1997) consisted of 5 fonts. The much more elaborate DTP (DecoType Professional) Naskh typeface launched in 1996 consisted of 31 fonts, DTP Naskh typeface in PageMaker (1997) consisted of 10 invisible fonts, controlled by an interface, the DecoTypeSetter control panel, the precursor of today's elaborate Tasmeem interface for ACE fonts.

So much for the difference between a typeface and a font.

Thomas Milo

H_Afash's picture

I did a mistake in: So, the could term of Font is “الحرف الطباعي”.
The correct is: So, the could term of Font is "الخط الطباعي

But here in Middle east they like to say English word "Font" to refer to both of typeface and font.

Is Typeface use to mean "Font Family"?


Saad Abulhab's picture

>>Font? or typeface?

Letting formal definitions aside, the market today had *redefined* these terms following computers and the digital revolution when typefaces and fonts became products utilized daily by millions of average users too and not the limited community of typographers as they were before.

Among typographers, font referred to a specific size family member of a typeface. Today "typeface" *is* being used interchangeably with "font" and I see no problem with that. The market has its independent force. Sometimes I feel we should accept reality and retire the term typeface to the typography history books, even though I like "typeface" over "font family".

>>Is Typeface use to mean “Font Family”?



Jongseong's picture

You might find the following article by Thomas Phinney detailing the results of a recent survey on font terms in English to be of interest.

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