What Is Gothic Lettering?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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Gothic lettering is a style of lettering, also called a font or typeface, that is popular for many artistic projects and other uses. It is featured prominently in many operating systems for computers, and is offered as a printing option in most print shops. Although the definition of Gothic types of lettering can be difficult to explain due to different ideas about this font, some basic facts can show how this collection of typefaces came to be called Gothic lettering.

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 Germanic tribal groups that lived in Western Europe. For this reason, some calligraphy and typeface experts refer to Gothic scripts as scripts that are neither Roman nor Greek.

One very common attribute of Gothic lettering that it is “sans serif." This goes back to the idea that Gothic forms of lettering were used, not by the Romans, but by other cultural groups of the era. Where 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 forms of Gothic lettering, it’s a good idea to research the specific cultural groups known as Goths and their role in the development of Europe. Alternately, readers can learn more about Gothic types of lettering through seeing examples of its use, particularly in the German language, in books and publications of the eras in which it was used. One example of this is the Germanic art form known as fraktur, where a certain style of ornate calligraphy coincides with detailed drawings. This style of art was commonly used on German forms such as wedding certificates and other documents.

The example of fraktur is a good one because part of what distinguishes many forms of Gothic or "Goth" lettering from others today is their 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 forms of fonts available in modern printing, gothic lettering provides a more eye-catching alternative to most other kinds of lettering available.


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Post 3

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.

Post 2

@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.

Post 1
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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