Pronouncing Typefaces

cosmorphis's picture

I did a search for 'pronunciation' and found a couple forums with dead links. Does anyone know where that forum is which talks about the correct pronunciation of typefaces, or know where on the web I can find more information. Not any typeface in general, but more of a guide on all or a lot of typefaces. Thanks.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Sounds like something we should turn into a Wiki entry! I found a list here, which I borrowed from mostly for entries rather than pronunciation:

Here's my take on pronunciation:

Benguiat: BEN-gat

Univers: oo'-nih-VAIR

Arnold Boecklin: AR-nolled BOKE-lin (the BOKE part is actually a German o with umlaut, but that's as close as most English speakers will get)

Fette Fraktur: FET-uh FROK-tour

Peignot: pay-NYOH

Sabon: sah-BON (second syllable should have a nasal element, like bonjour)

Veljovic: VELL-yoh-vitch'

Zapf: tzopf

William Berkson's picture

Another way to 'phoneticize':

Fraktur: Frahk-tour
Zapf: Tzahpf

The correct pronunciation for the 'a' in these is the sound of 'a' in 'father'. (The sound of the English 'a' in 'cat' is not a part of German.)

dave bailey's picture

I had a conversation with one of my professors about how to pronouce Kabel. I said it's KAH-BUL. What's correct? I'm glad OONIVAIR was on the list because I heard people at TypeCon pronounce it so many different ways.

Nick Shinn's picture

Nice wiki, Paul.

This is cool.

William Berkson's picture

>pronounce it so many different ways.

I think there is always a choice of trying to pronounce it as in the language or origin, or Anglicise (or Americanize) it. If you have studied the language or are good at foreign phonemes, then my view is go for it. But it is perfectly acceptable to do an Anglicized version. So Univers is also 'universe', etc.

In the case where the phoneme exists in English, then I think it preferable to use it.

For example, we have the 'ts' or 'tz' sound, as in 'nuts', though in English it never starts a word. And we have the 'a' in 'father', as well as 'cat'. So I think 'tzahpf' (correct German) or 'zahpf' (z as in zoo, a bit Anglicized) is preferable to 'zapf', with the z as in zoo and the a as in cat.

Nick Shinn's picture

Univers and Kabel also have very similar sounding English translations, so I think it is acceptable to pronounce them in an English manner. But would "Cavo" be OK for Kabel in Italian?

dezcom's picture

That Paul Hunt is johnny-on-the-spot with Wiki entries! Thanks Paul!


paul d hunt's picture

by all means, if the pronunciations in the wiki can be improved, please correct them. i just copy/pasted from one of the other pronunciation threads i found.

Nick Shinn's picture

A musical troop from Bitstream performed a G&S style number at TypeCon, rhyming off a great long list of typeface names. Where can that be downloaded?

marcox's picture

Funny, I was just wondering how to pronounce Herb Lubalin's last name. (There's a huge billboard near my house that uses Lubalin Graph.)


Norbert Florendo's picture

> Loob-ALLEN?
> LOO-ball-in?

Funny you should ask.
I had to ask Ilene Strizver just to be sure, right before I gave the "Type & Design Education" presentation at TypeCon.

I always knew the pronunciation as LOO-BAAL-in ("BAAL" rhymes with the name "AL").

But once I heard Ed Benguiat pronounce Herb's last name as LOOB-AH-lin (as in lube-ah-lyn), which made me question since I never met Herb myself.

Ilene had worked with Herb Lubalin, and she said Benguiat was pulling my leg (again).

ralf h.'s picture

I said it’s KAH-BUL. What’s correct?

No, it's rather BEL insteat of BUL. Just say the last part as in "cable" and you are fine.


dezcom's picture

Thanks Ralf!
So then does it sound like the name of the Iraq city?


eliason's picture

> So then does it sound like the name of the Iraq city?

I would think the font's name has the stress more decidedly on the first syllable.

ralf h.'s picture

I would think the font’s name has the stress more decidedly on the first syllable.

It's really pretty much like "cable" but with a tough German "KAH" syllable at the beginning.


jonsel's picture

> So then does it sound like the name of the Iraq city?

Actually, Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan. Kabel is the typeface.

dezcom's picture

Sorry, my mistake.


Sebastian Nagel's picture

another try:

The "bel" is pronounced very similar to the "ell" in the english "bell" (but not as short).

Combined with emphasis on the first syllable, it says:

Jonathan Clede's picture

Thomas Phinney wrote:
Univers: oo’-nih-VAIR

I thought this myself until Typecon. Now I'm not so sure. Everyone, including Bruno Steinert (and, I think, Mike Parker) who worked directly with Frutiger for many years pronounce it like the English word "universe".

Now I'm just completely confused.


Miss Tiffany's picture

Perhaps we need a "pedantic" version of the pronunciation guide too. ;^)

dezcom's picture

or a "when in Rome" version?


Mark Simonson's picture

I think most American designers pronounce "Univers" the same as "universe" (including me), but I do feel self-conscious sometimes about saying it that way around other type designers since I realize that Mr. Frutiger would not pronounce it that way. No one ever corrected me, though, so I assumed it was okay (and I still do).

Mark Simonson's picture

A musical troop from Bitstream performed a G&S style number at TypeCon, rhyming off a great long list of typeface names. Where can that be downloaded?

As a matter of fact...

(I have video, too, but it's not worth the bandwidth.)

dave bailey's picture

Priceless, thanks Mark! (BTW, I'm waiting for photos of the Restaurant Identity project I used Mostra on. I'll send copies your way when I get them.)

William Berkson's picture

>I do feel self-conscious sometimes about saying it that way

We Americans, bless us, want to show our respect for foreigners by trying to pronounce their names their way. The English tend to unapologetically Anglicize foreign names. (At least traditionally; don't know whether that's changed.) Either way is ok, in my view. The problem with typeface names is that they have been so little spoken that for many there is no standard way to Anglicize them, in the sense that you can look it up and get something authoritative.

So I say do what you are comfortable with--GAIR-a-mond or Gahr a MON (nasal 'on'), oo-ni-VAIR or universe--and enjoy the type!

Eric_West's picture

Does anyone know how to pronouce Marian Bantjes last name?

I have an interview with F+W publishing on Friday, and I'd like to comment (positively) on the recent cover of Print.

Dan Gayle's picture

This is perfect! Now I can win some debates with some fellow students:

Emigre Filosofia? Is it Feelo-Sophee-a or Philosophy-a?

Letterperfect Beata? Is it Beeta or Baytuh?

Letraset Aachen? Is it A-uh-ken, ah-ken, a-uh-chen, or ah-chen?

Ha! I should start betting now...

Thomas Phinney's picture

AH-ken. Just like the city it's named after.


William Berkson's picture

Aachen. Anglicized, as Thomas says. In German, ah-chen, with 'ch' as in the composer J.S. Bach or the Scottish word for lake, 'loch'.

brampitoyo's picture

That Bitstream song, Mr. Simonson, is pure gold.

Can we have an Adobe -- FontShop -- ITC/Monotype sing off at the next TypeCon? I can already see how ITC/Monotype could potentially pull an all nighter :)

On the same note -- sorry to veer off here -- check this out, a song called, rather inapropriately, Kern That Bembo Tighter.

By the way, how do you pronounce Fountain's Waldstein? 'Woldsteen', 'Waaldstein' or 'Vaaldstein' as it is spoken in Germany (maybe)?

ndmike's picture

And... (now you've got me thinking...)

Walbaum: WAHL-bowm or VAHL-bawm (the German way)?

Goudy: GOW-dy (see

Barmeno: bar-MEEN-oh or bar-MEN-oh?

Berthold: BER-told or BEART (rhymes with "bear")-hold?

Bodoni: bo-DOH-nee (I presume the Italian way) or bo-DONE (rhymes with "bone")-ee?

Caslon: CAS-lun or CAS-lawn?

Fago: FAY-go or FAH-go?

Scala: SCAY-luh or SCA-lah?

Keivit: KYEH-vit?

Fenice: rhymes with Venice? or fen-EES

Univers: your pronunciations are very helpful, but I've always called it (erroneously, I suppose) YOU-ni-verz

And lastly, Comic Sans: KO-mic SANDS or ko-MEEK SAWN (nasally)... you know, lipstick on a pig and all...

I could go on all day!

Mark Simonson's picture

Fenice: fay-nee-CHAY

I think it's funny--it's almost like it's not a real typeface unless there is some confusion as to how to pronounce its name.

dezcom's picture




crossgrove's picture


I love this, it's like Tarr-Szay. Maybe it will help the reputation of Comic Sans. If we put enough lipstick on this pig, who knows?

Mike Abbink could share the story of Kievit; it's very sweet. Is he listening?.....

I'm afraid I'm only adding to the mess. My new typeface has a name that apparently nobody can pronounce when they first read it. Beorcana is not that strange when you realize it's pronounced like Bjork, with -ana on the end: Byor-KON-uh. But my family and friends keep mangling the name when they say it. Maybe I should have named it ESPN. ;D

dezcom's picture

"my family and friends keep mangling the name"

LOL! Maybe that is why Eric and FontFont are so fond of those 3-letter font names?


crossgrove's picture


Is the r trilled, then?


crossgrove's picture

"Fenice: rhymes with Venice? or fen-EES"

"Ver - SAYCE"

dezcom's picture

Carl, Yes it is a rolled Italian r best pronounced with an audible croaking sound afterwards :-)


Miss Tiffany's picture

I think Fenice is actually Feh-KNEE-chey ... feh as in fed the dog ... chay as in pay.

I hope my earlier remark about pedantic didn't offend anyone. I was just being silly. Obviously what I found as funny didn't translate. :^/

dezcom's picture

I thought it was funny Tiff but that is how I am wired :-P


Miss Tiffany's picture

Carl, you were being funny. :^> I didn't see your version until just now.

ndmike's picture

Wow! Feh-KNEE-chay? I would never have guessed. I suppose that's why we need this thread after all. Beginning designers rarely hear the name spoken; they just see it listed in a font menu.

Two more that came up this morning:

Sabon: with or without a nasal ending?

Futura: FYOO-too-rah or or FYOO-tchur-ah or FOO-tchur-ah?

In fact, name pronunciation came up in a class today, where a guy apologized for pronouncing St. Augustine, AW-gus-teen (which is how the city in Florida is pronounced), rather than the more popular (in academic circles, anyhow), uh-GUS-tin. Naturally, I immediately wanted to create a font with that name to fit Mark's Maxim above.

ralf h.'s picture

Futura: FYOO-too-rah or or FYOO-tchur-ah or FOO-tchur-ah?

None is right! ;-)
It's Foo-TOO-rah.


brampitoyo's picture

So it is spelled like Latin, yes? I wonder if Fenice, Scala, Fago are supposed to be spelled that way. No fuss. No accent.

By to by, is Mr. Abbink a member?

pattyfab's picture

Since so much of this discussion is about Frutiger...

is it FRUIT-i-ger or Froo-tee-ZHAY?

MHSmith's picture

If I may crash in: FRUIT-iger, the German way.

And a couple more on German: VAHL-bowm would be best.

KAH-bull is fine, and KAH-bell is possible — depending on Koch having a northern or southern German accent? But the a in Zapf is short by all means, actually closer to CAT: so, TSAPF.

Incidentally, the same should have applied for Bach, the English pronunciation is a little wide of the mark. Just in case someone might fancy naming a typeface after him. We already have Handel Gothic :)

A little Latin (or Italian?): Beata is Bay-AH-tah. Wonder if Futura should be Latin with a touch of German accent?

michelemiller's picture

I'll ask Mike--I have to touch base with him anyway.


Nick Shinn's picture

I've been wondering how to configure special German versions of fonts with low-riding umlauts on the A and U, and the answer may be to translate the name of the typeface, so that the regular western version is, say, Brown, but the German version is Braun.

dezcom's picture

As I pour another cup of jo from my Braun coffeemaker and ponder...:-)


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