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<font-style>, <font-variant>, <font-weight> <font-size> <line-height> <font-family>
not defined for shorthand properties

The 'font' property is a shorthand property for setting 'font-style', 'font-variant', 'font-weight', 'font-size', 'line-height' and 'font-family' at the same place in the style sheet. The syntax of this property is based on a traditional typographical shorthand notation to set multiple properties related to fonts.

For a definition of allowed and initial values, see the previously defined properties. Properties for which no values are given are set to their initial value.

      P { font: 12pt/14pt sans-serif }
      P { font: 80% sans-serif }
      P { font: x-large/110% "new century schoolbook", serif }
      P { font: bold italic large Palatino, serif }
      P { font: normal small-caps 120%/120% fantasy }

In the second rule, the font size percentage value ('80%') refers to the font size of the parent element. In the third rule, the line height percentage refers to the font size of the element itself.

In the first three rules above, the 'font-style', 'font-variant' and 'font-weight' are not explicitly mentioned, which means they are all three set to their initial value ('normal'). The fourth rule sets the 'font-weight' to 'bold', the 'font-style' to 'italic' and implicitly sets 'font-variant' to 'normal'.

The fifth rule sets the 'font-variant' ('small-caps'), the 'font-size' (120% of the parent's font), the 'line-height' (120% times the font size) and the 'font-family' ('fantasy'). It follows that the keyword 'normal' applies to the two remaining properties: 'font-style' and 'font-weight'.

A font is not what it once was.

Most people today use the word "font" for what a typographer would call a "typeface": that is, the visual appearance of an alphabet full of letters, designated by a name. Courier would be an example of a font in this sense: it has a name ("Courier" or maybe "Courier New" on your computer), and a certain appearance - it's wide, monospaced, has serifs, looks like it came out of a typewriter, you know.

A more technical person might tell you that a "font" is a file on your computer that can produce little pictures of letters that the computer then displays on the screen or sends to the printer. Bitmapped fonts are just collections of pre-drawn pictures of letters; A TrueType font, meanwhile, is more like a little program that can figure out how to draw you whatever size and style of letter you ask for.

But the word font, as used by printers, is a very old word; the OED first records its use in the 16th century. The etymology is rather interesting.

Back in the day, type was made of little pieces of lead, each with one end (the face) cast into the shape of a letter. The word font may come from the same word root as foundry and other words relating to the casting of metals; even today, a place where typefaces are designed (even if they are digital) is called a foundry.

At the printer's, each typeface resided in a chest of wide flat drawers called cases, with the letters divided into little compartments in each case. When you wanted to print something in pica (12-point) Garamond, say, you would walk over to your chest of Garamond and pull out the two cases that held the size you wanted. On top of the chest was a stand that could hold these two cases, one slightly above and behind the other, so that you could reach them both easily. The upper case held the capital letters and some other less common characters; the lower case held most of your, well, lower-case letters.

This whole contraption, consisting of the upper case and lower case of a particular size of a particular typefacethis is a font.

Font (?), n. [F. fonte, fr. fondre to melt or cast. See Found to cast, and cf. Fount a font.] Print.

A complete assortment of printing type of one size, including a due proportion of all the letters in the alphabet, large and small, points, accents, and whatever else is necessary for printing with that variety of types; a fount.


© Webster 1913.

Font, n. [AS. font, fant, fr. L. fons, fontis, spring, fountain; cf. OF. font, funt, F. fonts, fonts baptismaux, pl. See Fount.]


A fountain; a spring; a source.

Bathing forever in the font of bliss. Young.


A basin or stone vessel in which water is contained for baptizing.

That name was given me at the font. Shak.


© Webster 1913.

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