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What Is Gothic Lettering?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 23, 2024
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Gothic lettering is a style of lettering that is popular as a font (or typeface) for artistic projects and other uses. It is featured in many computer operating systems, and is a printing option in most print shops.

Many experts define Gothic lettering as a type of script used in various parts of Western Europe from about the middle of the 1100s to the early eighteenth century. Throughout the centuries, the lettering represented an element of Gothic culture, which was related to the Germanic tribal groups living in Western Europe. For this reason, some calligraphy and typeface experts designate Gothic scripts as scripts that are neither Roman nor Greek.

Attributes of Gothic Lettering

One prominent attribute of Gothic lettering is that it is “sans serif." This goes back to the idea that Gothic forms of lettering were not used by the Romans, but by other cultural groups. Whereas Roman lettering included the serif -- an additional stroke at the base or in other areas of a printed letter -- Gothic lettering was said to be without serifs or, in the Anglicized French form, “sans serif.” It is also sometimes called "block printing."

To understand the origin of Gothic lettering, it may be useful to research the specific cultural groups known as the Goths and their role in the development of Europe. Alternately, readers can learn more about Gothic lettering by seeing examples of its use in books and publications, particularly in the German language.

Use of Gothic Lettering

One such example is the group of Germanic blackletter typefaces collectively known as Fraktur, which are distinguished by their ornate calligraphic style. Fraktur lettering has traditionally been used on official documents, such as wedding certificates.

The fraktur is a good example because part of what distinguishes Gothic or "Goth" lettering from other typefaces is the ornate quality. Besides just being sans serif, many prominent Gothic types of lettering have a level of detail that appeals to the eye. As one of the more ornate fonts available, Gothic lettering provides an eye-catching option in modern printing.

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Discussion Comments
By MrsPramm — On Jun 22, 2013

There are quite a few really nice websites with free fonts on them, but you have to be a bit cautious about them as well. I found one of my friend's fonts on a website stating that it was public domain when it actually wasn't.

I've used gothic fonts a few times, but I try to make sure that they are absolutely free to use (since I can't afford to buy the rights) before I do anything with my work.

By Mor — On Jun 21, 2013

@indigomoth - It depends on the font. As it says in the article, the term "gothic lettering" actually covers quite a range of fonts. I never really thought about the fact that they were sans serif either, until recently, because some of the classic gothic fonts have quite a few frills on them, but if you look up a plain one, it is quite square.

I don't think I'd use them for anything other than titles either, but it can be quite versatile and I think people should always experiment a little bit with fonts when they are preparing something, since you never know when something unexpected might work with the piece.

By indigomoth — On Jun 20, 2013
I always find Gothic fonts a little bit too fancy for me, and they are difficult to read without really studying them to see what they mean.

I think they are OK, although not ideal, as a title font, but too much lettering in this kind of font can really be too difficult.

Most of the time when you are going for a font you want one that people can read at a glance without having to crack a code to get your meaning.

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