How do I say "unicase" in Spanish and Italian?

Hello everybody!

Plz help me? I'm newer here. I made questions to somebody how I said "unicase" in Spanish and Italian, but nobody knew. I searched for this word in every dictionaries, but I didn't find almost in any dictionaries or in any translations. You already know what unicase is. It's a speciman of typeface, like Alphabet 26 and Filosofia Unicase.

1) How do I say "unicase" in Spanish and Italian?
2) How do I define "unicase"?


Kevin from Canada

jstypo's picture

I do not know of a direct equivalent in Spanish for the word unicase, perhaps 'una caja', 'caja única', both of which are direct translations ... dare I say 'unicaja'?

In referring to a unicase font, I prefer to describe it as 'solo altas' or 'solo bajas' to explain the fact that we would be dealing with an only upper case or only lower case typeface. For example, to describe Herbert Bayer's 1925 experimental universal alphabet, I would resort to 'solo bajas'.

Hope that helps.

riccard0's picture

Actually, I think "unicase" (opposed to, I believe, "monocase") refers to typefaces in which some letters maintains a lowercase form while others have an uppercase form.
Often it is a mean to eliminate ascenders and descenders.

As for the translation, I'm not sure a proper term in Italian exists, because there isn't the very concept of "case". A letter is either "maiuscola" (uppercase) or "minuscola" (lowercase).
But I should check some books to be sure.

paul d hunt's picture


cerulean's picture

I think it makes the most sense to use "unicase" as a loan word, as it is a fairly modern and specialized concept. You're not in the situation of having to satisfy the Académie française. If necessary, I would translate the phrase "new uncial", as that's basically what it is.

kevintheophile's picture

1) unicaja, caja unica, it's better!
2) mainuscola, no.

Let me invent an another word that translates "unicase":
What about the word "uniuscula" (Italian: uniuscola)? What about "letras unicas"?

I'm going to define the word "unicase":

Unicase es un especimen de una fuente uniuscula (de caja unica; de letras unicas) mezclada de letras miniusculas con otras letras mayusculas de altura, ancho, tamano y peso iguales.

Is my definition correct or incorrect?

If u approve my word and defintion, this thread will be solved, but if not, plz correct my definition.

jstypo's picture

May I suggest:

Una fuente tipográfica unicase (en inglés), o unicaja, en lo que respecta la escritura latina, es cuya póliza es de caja única, bien sea compuesta solo de letras en mayúscula (fuentes inscripcionales o epigráficas) o minúscula (p. ej alfabeto universal de Herbert Bayer o el alfabeto fonético universal). En el caso de fuentes no latinas, podemos citar las usadas para componer en árabe o en hebreo.

kevintheophile's picture

jstypo, it's the best definition, but if my friends don't know Herbert Bayer's universal alphabet, what will I say to them?

riccard0's picture

This last definition implies that a unicase typeface is either uppercase or lowercase. But how do you account for something like Panoptica (

eliason's picture

I'm with riccard0-- the distinction between monocase and unicase is useful. I wouldn't call Trajan unicase.

kevintheophile's picture

I thought the definition of Alphabet 26 by Bradbury Thompson's article at Wikipedia:

Thompson developed Alphabet 26 or a "monoalphabet" - an alphabet consisted of just one case (instead of using separate uppercase and lowercase letterforms as typefaces typically do). His monoalphabet was NOT a modern serif (not comparable to Bodoni) with lowercase a, e, m and n mixed with uppercase B, D, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, P, Q, R, T, U and Y. (The forms of C/c, O/o, S/s, V/v, W/w, X/x and Z/z are essentially the same in uppercase and lowercase in the first place.

Alphabet 26 does not eliminate uppercase; however, uppercase letters are simply larger versions of their lowercase counterparts. This was intended to regularize the letters of the alphabet, making them more logical and intuitive, and also making learning the alphabet easier for children. Thompson first published the alphabet in a Westvaco Inspirations for Printers.

Is this definition OK?

cerulean's picture

The reason English speakers prefer the coinage "unicase" for a blending of majuscule and minuscule shapes into one case, while "monocase" implies a typeface that has only majuscules or only minuscules, is the strong association with the words "unite" and "unify". So perhaps "letras unidas" would be preferable to "letras unicas".

Santiago Orozco's picture

in spanish is: unicaja

lowercase in spanish is: caja baja
uppercase in spanish is: caja alta

guifa's picture

Careful with terminology in Spanish!

Uppercase: mayúscula / versal
Lowercase: minúscula
Small-caps: versalitas
Unicase: unicameral
Cursive: letras unidas / conectadas

I'm not 100% on unicameral, but it's used in Portuguese, so by extension I'd imagine it's the same, even if I've never heard it directly. Thus perhaps monocameral. I'll ask some friends who work in design in Spain what they would use for that. Note that Unicaja is a well established bank (caja = bank, in this case). Maybe monolitas though, that sounds pretty funny!

Santiago Orozco's picture

great complement guifa!

Uppercase: mayúscula / versal / de caja alta
Lowercase: minúscula / de caja baja
Small-caps: versalitas
Unicase: unicaja / unicameral
Cursive: cursiva / letras unidas / conectadas

I'm from Mexico, I learned the "caja baja" and "caja alta" on my typography courses at college

jstypo's picture

"Letras unidas" or "letras únicas" don't really make much sense.

Unicameral is the word usually used to refer to a parliamentary system with a single chamber, and monocameral like unicaja don't really exist.

@kevintheophile perhaps the most productive approach would be to use show and tell for all its worth: find samples of the universal alphabet or the phonetic alphabet and use them to illustrate your definitions and you will come across loud and clear.

Michel Boyer's picture

Bringhurst's description of the font "American Uncial" reads as follows: [...] All Hammer's types are uncials. Only two - this one and its predecessor Pindar - are bicameral. [...] Most digital types sold as 'American Uncial' are actually copies of a different face: a unicameral uncial called Samson [...]

The Portuguese translation (Elementos do estilo tipográfico) reads: [...] todos os tipos de Hammer são unciais. Dois deles - este e o Pindar, seu predecessor - são bicamerais. [...] A maioria dos tipos digitais vendidos como "American Uncial" basea-se em uma fonte unicameral chamada Samson [...]

Someone could look in the Spanish translation of Bringhurst?

jstypo's picture

I don't mean to hijack this discussion by any means, but I'm trying really hard to remember if I have ever heard the terms 'bicameral' or 'unicameral' in reference to typography before Bringhurst.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

kentlew's picture

AFAIK, Bringhurst coined this usage of bicameral in this context. Not everyone subscribes to his terminology.

kevintheophile's picture

Thanxz, cerulan, for explaining and defining the words "unicase" and "monocase", I add your definition of this word.

Thanx, sann and guifa, for translating the words, I'm going to add the words and the definitions.

Thanx, jstypo, for explain' the word "letras unicas" wasn't a much sense and teach' me...

Oh, Michel, many synomies of "unicase"!


Finally, and about the word "uniform"?
I asked to an English woman denizen Brazilian how I said this word in another language, she said it was the word "uniform", that remembered me of the font "UniF"

guifa's picture

A designer friend in Barcelona hasn't encountered a word for unicase in Spanish or Catalonian and another in Seville that is a traditional calligrapher said «no sé cómo se dice ese tipo de letra en español, ni siquiera si tiene un nombre» (I don't know what that kind of lettering is called in Spanish, nor if it even has a name) suggested either celda única or unicelda for unicase. It actually rolls off the tongue rather nicely, but around the corner from where the calligrapher lives is a print shop, and he's going to ask them to see if they know of one. If they don't I think we can go to coining :)

joeclark's picture

Don’t caja balta and alta sound like backformations of English upper and lower case? Weren’t there already terms equivalent to “majuscule” and “minuscule”?

Michel Boyer's picture

I could find nothing for Spanish or Italian. As for French, the words "majuscule", "minuscule" and "capitale" are of common use and the expressions "bas de casse" and "haut de casse" are also used in typography. According to the highly respected Petit Robert French dictionary, the use of the word "casse" with that meaning dates back to 1675 and comes from the Italian "cassa".

If you read French, type "capitale" in the Interrogation field of the Grand dictionnaire terminologique de l'Office québécois de la langue française (and then return, or click to search) and then click "imprimerie (2)" (printing). You will get "haut de casse" as a synonym and "majuscule" as a quasi-synonym with explanations.

guifa's picture

Yeah, upper and lower box is what caja alta/baja is.

My friend went to the the print shop and this is what he told me: «en la imprenta me dijeron que ese tipo de letra se la conoce por -como te dije- UNICELDA pero que ultimamente y debido a internet usan la palabra ‘unicase’ tambien, pero leída en español» (In the print shop, they told me that that type of font is known by –as I told you– unicelda but lately and thanks to the Internet people use the world ‘unicase’ as well, but read in Spanish).

So, unicelda (said ooneeTHELda) is the traditional term, and unicase (ooneeCAHsay) is the more modern imported word.

Also, to add some more background along the lines of Michael. According to the Real Academia Española, caja has two primary definitions related to printing and offers three additional extensions:

  • caja
    • 22. f. Impr. Cajón con varias separaciones o cajetines, en cada uno de los cuales los caracteres que representan una misma letra o signo tipográfico.
    • 23. f. Impr. Espacio de la página lleno por la composición impresa.
    • ~ alta. 1. f. Impr. Parte superior izquierda de la caja, en la que se colocan las letras mayúsculas o versales y algunos otros signos.
    • ~ baja. 1. f. Impr. Parte inferior de la caja, en la que se colocan las letras minúsculas, los números, la puntuación y los espacios.
    • ~ perdida. 1. f. Impr. Parte de la caja alta donde se pone el galerín, y que contiene los signos de poco uso
  • case/box
    • 22. f. Print. Large case with various separations or smaller boxes, the characters that represent a given letter or typographic symbol in each one of them.
    • 23. f. Print. Part of the page containing the printed composition.
    • upper ~. 1. f. Print. Upper-left part of the case, in which majuscule or capital letters and other signs are placed
    • lower ~. 1. f. Print. Lower part of the case, in which miniscule letters, numbers, punctuation, and spaces are placed
    • lost ~. 1. f. Print. Part of the upper case where the composing stick is placed, and which contains rarely used symbols

Amazing the extra bit of information one can glean from a measly dictionary haha.

eliason's picture


I love it!

kevintheophile's picture

And the word "uniform" (Spanish: uniforme; Italian: uniforme)? Unform means "the one form".

Diccionario de la lengua española © 2005 Espasa-Calpe:
1.adj. Con la misma forma.
2.Igual, conforme, semejante, sin alteraciones ni cambios bruscos.

WordNet 2.0 by Princeton University.
1 undifferentiated, uniform
not differentiated
2 consistent, uniform
the same throughout in structure or composition; "bituminous coal is often treated as a consistent and homogeneous product"
3 uniform
evenly spaced; "at regular (or uniform) intervals"

Nick Shinn's picture


Typographic precedents for this sort of loan-word pronunciation: the names of font sizes.
AFAIK, Bourgeois was pronounced "Burgess" in English, nonpareil "numpree".
And Minion is said Min-ee-un, not Miñon.


I have also come across unicase referred to as "mixed case", but I don't think that's as good, as it presupposes that there are two cases of the typeface, and the type in question is just a subset, not the whole enchilada.

victorz's picture

Sin mayusculas o minusculas. Es uniforme.

quadibloc's picture

I am not familiar enough with the Spanish language to help answer the question, but I can at least note that there are significant differences between Spanish as spoken in Latin America and in Spain. Thus, in Mexico, Spanish is pronounced much as an English speaker would expect it to be pronounced from its spelling, rather than with the unique characteristics of Castillian speech. So it would not surprise me if in Mexico loanwords and transformed borrowings of phrases from English might be used that are unknown in Spain.

From this discussion, the cause of the problem is apparent:

In English, we ordinarily refer to "capital letters" and "small letters", but since "small letters" seems... inadequate, ambiguous, or excessively informal... the technical terms "upper case" and "lower case" have been borrowed from printing for general use. In French, as in Spanish, the terms "majuscules" and "minuscules", on the other hand, are entirely satisfactory, and thus terms equivalent to "upper case" and "lower case" may not even have been coined, let alone becoming widespread in use.

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