There are Roman numerals and Arabic numerals (perhaps more accurately Indo-Arabic numerals) and there also are three main branches of typefaces for the Latin alphabet: roman type, blackletter and Gaelic type. Now the latter styles can are sometimes applied to Arabic numerals, creating a distinction between blackletter (Arabic) numerals, Gaelic (Arabic) numerals and … – well, that’s my question.

  • Roman-type numerals are too easily confused with roman numerals.
  • Roman-type Arabic numerals is probably accurate but somewhat clumsy and would probably still confuse many readers.
  • Default numerals or default Arabic numerals requires some context as to what the default is contrasting with. From the reader’s point of view, I might as well refer to uppercase numerals to contrast them with lowercase numerals.

Is there any technical term for these numerals?

Illustrative examples

1 Answer 1


The numerals with ascenders and descenders are called "old style numerals" or "old style figures"; the ones that are a consistent height are called "lining numerals" or "lining figures". "Roman" has been diluted to the point that it's not easily translatable to a mind picture anymore; it's applied to grotesques and some gothics as well as to classic book serif faces in computer font drop-down lists. Civilians won't understand those terms anyway, though, so you will need to have examples handy.

  • I fail to see how this answers my question. The distinction between uppercase/lining numerals and lowercase/oldstyle/text numerals is not what I am after (and in fact, I used both kinds as examples). That Roman alone is not a useful adjective (even amongst non-civilians) is the source of my problem.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jun 10, 2015 at 5:28
  • 1
    Q: "Is there any technical term for these numerals?" --> A: Old Style Figures (as mentioned in this answer) or add precision to the question: fonts.com/content/learning/fontology/level-3/numbers/…
    – go-junta
    Aug 8, 2015 at 5:50

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