fonts with underline ordinal indicators - ª º

ycherem's picture

I'd like to know if there is any list of fonts that contain the ª º underlined, as used in some languages (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese) to indicate ordinal numbers (such as in "1ª, 2º" etc).

There are way too many fonts that do not have those underlined superscript symbols, so I'd also like to know what is the recommended typographical practice in such cases. It seems that the practice of underlining such superscripts is slowly disappearing, but mainly because so many fonts don't have them.

I have been able to identify some fonts that have the characters -- Cambria, Calibri, Profile, Constantia, EB Garamond, High Tower Text, Palatino Linotype.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I wonder, is this the underline required for Spanish/Portuguese/Italian?

ycherem's picture

For Portuguese, it is. It has been this way since typewriters, it is the way people learn at school, and keyboards show underlined ª º (accessed with alt-gr).

Of course I can underline any font and then change it to superscript, but sometimes it seems too much of a hassle, especially because it's so frequently used.

kentlew's picture

There are several in Font Bureau’s library:

Poynter Oldstyle Text
Benton Modern Display
Zócalo Text

There are probably others; I didn’t search them all.

Igor Freiberger's picture

Youssef, I don't think that underlined ªº are actually required in Portuguese. It appears to be a typographical tradition widely adopted in Brazil and Portugual –like the double bar in $– but not a mandatory rule. You can note that Publico, a font developed specially to a newspaper from Portugal, does not include underlined ªº. Dino dos Santos, a Portuguese type designer, also does not include them in most of his works. Anyway, I prefer to have underlined ªº, maybe because I saw this since my childhood.

Here are some other fonts which include underlined ªº:
Adobe Gothic
Girando Pro
Letter Gothic
Satero Pro
Tisa Sans

Albert Jan Pool's picture

When it comes to typography, I wouldn’t listen that long to what teachers in primary schools say. In primary school, I was taught to underline anything important. It was not before the age of 12 that I heard about the meaning of ‘italics’ from my English teacher. She told me that ‘italics’ had nothing to do with Italy though, it was merely ‘printed another way’. When we made a mistake in handwritten texts we were told not to strike through, but to put the mistakes ‘between dots’. Unnecessary to say that the teachers frequently overlooked our corrections … Also I was taught that words are only words when all letters are being connected. At school I learned to „quote” like this. My typography teacher at the Academy of Arts told me that the publishers he worked for insisted on the ‘english’ way, and so did he. Another Dutch publishing house prefers «French» quotes though (but in the German way, i.e. without the word spaces). Typewriters are a questionable source too, I think. My parent’s typewriter had an italic beta instead of an ß. A typewritten ellipsis was three characters wide. All of this may be very interesting, but when it comes to design, it is the designer that has to make up his mind on wether that what the laymen advocates is really worth considering. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

One disadvantage of underlining ª and º in a typeface is that they can only combined with the rest of the superior letters ‘aeilmnorst’ when these are being underlined too. These may be used in countries such as France, Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. Just to name a few. Many typographers and graphic designers from these countries might like that (in display typography), because the underscore might provide an additional interesting element, but on the other hand (in documents), many of them will not like to see them underlined because they perceive the underscore as visual pollution or as an archaic element. To me it is a matter of design, legibility, you name it, even of taste if you prefer, but not of ‘laymen’s law’

Igor Freiberger's picture

Good point. The solution I included on my project is to have underlined ªº as alternates. When the language is Spanish or Portuguese, an OT command trigger the alternates automatically. I also included ordinal plurals 'as' and 'os', which do not exist in Unicode but are also needed.

A small note: in OT and Unicode we have room to differentiate ªº as ordinals and ‘aeilmnorst’ as superscript and scientific superiors. In a proper OT enviroment, we could use one or another, without mixing. Unhappily, proper OT and Unicode applications are still barely available and type designers need to work around this.

kentlew's picture

A couple years ago, I was contacted by the art director of O Globo in Rio de Janeiro to customize the ordinals in several styles of Whitman for the newpaper’s use. He explained: “To write correctly the ordinals in Portuguese they must have an hyphen behind the <o> and <a>” [by which he meant an underline beneath]. Their style guide, at the very least, demands these forms.

It seems reasonable to me to have underlined ordinals as alternates to be deployed through language localization.

It also seems reasonable instead to have default underlined forms of ª and º for the glyphs which are thus encoded (i.e., when input directly into the text stream as U+00AA and U+00BA), and to have separate “plain,” raised forms of a and o to combine with e i l m n r s t and to be deployed through the {ordn} feature.

charles ellertson's picture

Kent, apparently that is for Portuguese as used in Brazil. See Miguel Sousa's comment here:

Alternates, as you & Miguel propose, would be fine, but I get the sense that designers are overburdened? Personally, if it comes to choices, I'd prefer the combining diacriticals to be included in fonts. That lets the users of type come up with solutions & still stay syntactically correct.

hrant's picture

When it comes to typography, I wouldn’t listen that long to what teachers in primary schools say.

Especially all that stuff about handwriting. :->

Another Dutch publishing house prefers «French» quotes though (but in the German way, i.e. without the word spaces).

To me that's ideal in English too. Especially when they're what I call "quotemets":


Igor Freiberger's picture

Both Portuguese and Spanish had a handwritten tradition to use underlined ordinals. Through 20th Century, it seems Portugal slowly put this aside (maybe due to new technologies and European typographical inffluence) while in Brazil the underline still remained usual (maybe due to the delay in adopt new technologies and the lack of further typographical inffluences).

There is also two another variations in Brazilian Portuguese: (1) to use a dot under the ordinal. In this case, the dot is aligned with the baseline while the numeral is kept raised. And, less common, (2) to have underlined ordinal with a dot at the baseline. As computers did not offer an easy way to set ordinals in these traditional forms, the "nude" ªº became common and acceptable. But it is always nice to find fonts and publishers taking care of underlined ordinals.

In other hand, type designers interested in address these local issues (and who do not feel overburdened) could consider the problem regarding plurals. There is no easy way to write as and os as ordinals, and they are quite common in Portuguese. One need to know about OT superiors, have a font with them and use an appplication with this feature. It would be very good to have fonts with an OT substitution command to change ªs and ºs to superiors when using Portuguese.

Not sure about how modern Spanish or Italian use this.

Igor Freiberger's picture


John Hudson's picture

I usually underline the ordinal a and o on the grounds that superior a and o can be used instead if someone doesn't want the underline. That does mean variant encodings can result, but that's already the case. There are three different potential ways to encode numeral+ordinal sequences, and all of these are found in text, as Google searches in Portuguese attest:

2a 8o (simple letter, with or without superscript styling)
2ª 8º (ordinal characters)
2ᵃ 8ᵒ (modifier superior characters)

ycherem's picture

I agree with charles ellertson's affirmation that it would be easier if the designers included those characters with the fonts.

As to Albert Jan Pool's affirmation, I get the point, but there are limits. German typewriters had an ß available for them. Every language or country has its idiosyncrasies. Whether it's a question of "taste", "design", you name it, I am of the opinion that neither "design" or readability (or legibility, I don't care about Anglo-Saxon preciosity carried too far away) apply here. It's just a matter of choice or "norms".

If Spanish and Portuguese have a handwritten tradition of writing underlined ordinals, for me it would be logical that some culture-sensitive designer would just come up with a underlined as and os (with plurals), even if as an alternate set.

Even if it's not actually required, it does look better -- and surprisingly I'm seeing more and more of it now that Calibri and Cambria are default in MS Word...

Bendy's picture

On MyFonts, the advanced search is quite good at finding this sort of thing. Try searching for fonts that have the ordinal signs.

Nick Shinn's picture

I must confess I haven’t followed a consistent policy on this.
However, I have underlined the ª and º ordinals in Figgins, Parity, Pratt, Richler, Scotch Modern and Softmachine.

Bendy's picture

What in fact is the significance of the underline/hyphen? Is it just to differentiate from, say, a degree sign?

And: should the numero sign № be consistent with the ordinals in its underline?

ycherem's picture

As with many traditions, I'm afraid the underline bears no clear "significance". It does aid in differentiation in handwriting, and perhaps in typography.
Another curious case is the slashed 7 in handwriting -- presumably to differ from 1.

Igor Freiberger's picture

Abbreviations were always very common in Latin and a small horizontal stroke was used as an abbreviation mark in several situations. Initially, it was used to shorten "que" (that), which was wrote just as q, and to cut the suffixes -um and -am. Latter, it also marked vowel nasalization and originated the tilde.

Maybe this horizontal stroke was also used to clearly mark ª and º as abbreviations. This is just a speculation, I have no concrete data about it. Anyway, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese are the Latin-derivated languages with more resemblance to late Latin (while French, Romanian, Catalan and Provençal have a more distinct structure). Thus this idea makes some sense.

I tend to design № using the same criteria used to ª and º. But it seems the № used in Cyrillic is a bit different, with the stroke at the baseline (further info is very welcome on this).

marcdan's picture

Well, here in Portugal the abbreviations should always have a dot in front of the ordinal: 1.º; n.º; Prof.ª. However, 90 % of the Portuguese don't know this; even newspapers use Profª, or even Profª., with the dot behind, which is totally wrong. However, underlining them is not necessary, as established in the orthographic reform 1940 ( The Portuguese language does not only contain º and ª, but also other letters: (I will use modifier superior characters): L.ᵈᵃ; S.ᵗᵒ; Ex.ᵃˢ, etc. But these abbreviations are slowly disappearing, as all can be written in normal characters, and is still grammatically correct: Lda., Sto., Exmas. (note that the dot is indispensable). In fact, there’s no limit to the words which can be shortened like this; the rule is simply to write the beginning, put a dot, and write the end in superscript: Portugal: Port.ᵃᶫ (used on maps). Personally, I prefer using ordinals, and, if possible, underlined. But sometimes it does get a bit weird, like in the short form of sexta-feira (imagine a line under the superscript): 6.ª-feira. It looks very strange, especially if the underscore is on the same hight as the hyphen...

Maxim Zhukov's picture

But it seems the № used in Cyrillic is a bit different, with the stroke at the baseline (further info is very welcome on this).

ilyaz's picture

> But it seems the № used in Cyrillic is a bit different, with the stroke at the baseline (further info is very welcome on this).

I think one should not forget that (IIRC) the overwhelming majority of № in Russian was in documents produced on typewritters. So it is the typewriter fonts which one should examine.

Unfortunately, when I had access to Russian typewriters, I would not have realized that different manufacturers may have used different fonts on them — for me all the typed documents looked the same. And I have no clue how to find examples, e.g., Optima- or Erika-fonts nowadays. (And [without consulting Wikipedia] I do not recollect any brand-name of Soviet typewriters — it could not have been that every one was German/Čech/etc…)

Anyway, all I remember is the №s with the tops of N and º aligned.

Update: discusses some changes in typewriter's fonts in 30s–40s. I did not inspect the originals they discuss…

This Wikipedia image of a clone of Erika shows the keycap with № which matches what I discussed above. But the actually produced symbol might have been different…

Update²: these photocopies of 30s 40s illustrate a style of typewriter's № I mentioned above; but they also have the type with “_ aligned at bottom” on most (all?) of the letterheads, and one of the used typewriters also uses this style!

Té Rowan's picture

There is a font based on an East German Erika here:

Maxim Zhukov's picture

I do not recollect any brand-name of Soviet typewriters

One popular make was Jatran (pronounced Yatran’ ). Actually, there is a typeface named after that model:

ilyaz's picture

> There is a font based on an East German Erika here:

Actually, IIRC, all Erika⎖s I saw in Russia were with Cyrillic fonts. In my office, there was a Latin Optima, and a couple of Cyrillic ones.

Té Rowan's picture
A booklet from Seidel&Naumann in Dresden showing the various keyboards available on the Erika line in 1930.

ilyaz's picture

> various keyboards available on the Erika line in 1930

While I’m definitely interested in keyboard layouts, these are images of more-or-less-keycaps, not the fonts…

Té Rowan's picture

There does not seem to be any one site with typewriting samples, not even the collector sites. Those that call themselves 'anabloggers and typecasters' seem to be the best sources. Of course your google-fu may be stronger than mine.

ilyaz's picture

After quadibloc⎖s post I found the IBM’s samples of ’64. That’s all…

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