I was going through one document and I came across this term 'glyph'. The term was new to me so looked into wiki for its definition. I felt both glyph and font is same. Am I correct? Else please tell me what is the difference between this two.


I am newbie in this field. So feeling bit difficulty to picturise your answers. If you can add examples in your answers that will be very much helpful.


It can be confusing because often times you find out that people use the term "font" openly to refer to many things in typography. Here's a lively discussion on fonts and typefaces.

Traditionally, font is a term used when discussing a set of characters of a certain typeface and in the same family. A font has also been used to describe a software used to produce a typeface in your design, which explains why we have our fonts licensed.

A glyph is the variety of designs of a certain character. If you have a collection of 3 different designs of the letter A, you have 3 glyphs.


A glyph is an individual character. It might be a letter, an accented letter, a ligature, a punctuation mark, a dingbat, etc.

A font is a digital file which is used to display a typeface, which contains the entire upper- and lowercase alphabet as well as punctuation, numbers, and other special characters.

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    It does not need to contain all characters, easier to say that its a bundle of glyphs, no?
    – joojaa
    Dec 30 '14 at 13:24
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    @joojaa Strictly speaking, yes, you are correct. A font doesn't have to contain all the characters and can correctly be described as a bundle or collection of glyphs. Personally it pisses me off when a typeface (one which isn't a ligature or dingbat set) and thereby its font is missing what I consider to be standard characters. Dec 30 '14 at 14:15
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    Sure but essential and common characters differ by region, so for me its common that essential characters are missing becaus we use umlauts which are quite easy to add, other regions have other problems. Therefore people have different expectations of common and thus different expectation. So i get less upset by mussing characters because its rather common.
    – joojaa
    Dec 30 '14 at 14:44
  • @joojaa An umlaut is easy to add? Do you mean by hand, or typing an umlaut after the U and kerning it -1000 until it looks right? Because that's a crappy workflow for me. Dec 31 '14 at 12:18
  • Laurem, no i mean its easy for the font maker to add. And its easy to edit the font to have an umlaut if one wishes. But thats not the point, point is essential varies, when i type Finnish: I could care less if the font has the letters b, c, f, g, w, x, z. So it might make perfect sense for me to omit these when designing a font, because I dont need them. On the other hand i do need ä and ö because they are essential to the language, and NO they can not be transcribed as ae or oe its just not the same sound. Anyway for this reason what i consider essential differs from yours.
    – joojaa
    Dec 31 '14 at 12:37

There are five concepts here:

  1. Character set: maps numbers to abstract characters.
  2. Character: An abstraction of the representation of a character in the given medium. Since we're talking graphic design, then usually we're talking about some kind of base image. In a different medium, such as audio, a character would have a sound.
  3. Font Type: A specific set of visual conventions that are used for all related glyphs in the given font.
  4. Font: Maps abstract characters to glyphs that adhere to the font type.
  5. Glyph: A pictorial representation of a character.

So a font is usually a collection of glyphs, where said glyphs conform to what ever the overall visual pattern is specified by the type of the font (think: serif, vs, san serif).


Words unfortunately dont have fixed meanings. A glyph is one specific sub art from a font, a letter or character if you may. But does not have to be a letter, it can be any symbol.

See a computer font is a collection of individual items and rules for forming typography, each font can include an arbitrary number of items, even many alternate items for the same thing. Each of these items in this context is usually refeered to as a glyph.

It is in fact possibly more complicated than this as its possible that one letter consist of many glyphs that in combination make up the character, its rare bit not unheard. Ofcourse glyph has also a meaning outside computer typography but thats another matter.

So glyph is the individual character in a font program.

A font can however mean more than just one full set of characters it can describe the family. But also downward some people may call glyphs fonts and thats perfectly acceptable.


A font is a typeface in a specific size. A glyph is a vector shape, and in your context it is [the vector shape of] a specific character from a typeface in no particular size.

A comment below suggests that digital fonts can have multiple sizes.

The word "font" is from French fonte, from Middle French, act of founding, from Vulgar Latin *fundita, feminine of funditus, past participle of Latin fundere to found or pour (in the sense of casting). It refers specifically to the founding of a typeface in lead. As pointed out by the commenter, this is necessarily in a particular size.

In digital typography, font refers to a rendering of a typeface at a particular pixel size. This non-trivial process involves hinting, alpha blending and pixel snapping according to complex rules and quite a lot of metadata.

In days of yore this was a bit much to ask for in real time and typefaces were pre-rendered at various sizes into font files. Now that rendering is done in real time on the video card, you don't install fonts, you install typefaces, but for "consistency" Apple and Microsoft (and the Linux people, for that matter) refer to them as fonts in typography management user interfaces, leading to a widespread misperception of the meaning of the word font. The font picker dialog on any given platform actually does pick a font, because it specifies a particular size.

To all you who say "language belongs to the people" I say that if an entire nation of people call a dog a cow, it still won't give milk.

  • a physical font, ala wood or lead, would be just one size. But a digital font includes infinite sizes.
    – DA01
    Jan 6 '15 at 20:44

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