Below is a list of calligraphy definitions I have become familiar with and I am sure as I continue with calligraphy I will be adding more. If there is some I have missed and you think it should be added please pass it on to me in the reply section below, thanks.


Ascenders  (stems)

This is the part of the letter that rises above the minim (body) of the letter, such as in the stems on letters b, d and h.


The name given to the body of a Fountain pen


A large irregular spot or blot

Body (see Minim)

Cartridge  pen

This type of pen uses an ink cartridge as a resorvoir for the ink which makes them convenient and easy to use than the dip pens, but the tend to be more expensive than the dip pens

Capillary Action

This is the term used to describe the process that causes the ink to travel between the nib and the writing surface

Cold Press

A paper finishing process that leaves the paper with  a slightly textured and rough look

Descenders (tails)

This is the part of the letter that drops below the minim (body) of the letter, such as in the letters g, j, p and q

Dip pen

This is a type of pen that is dipped into the ink prior to use and usually consists of a nib and a holder. It is inexpensive and comes with a wide variety of styles in comparison to the cartridge pen.


This is the description of the strokes required to form a particular letter.

Fonts (see scripts)

Fountain pen (see cartridge pen)


This is a mark that is drawn in a horizontal, vertical or slanted direction to help you in locating the pen strokes and the letter. They can be as simple as lines used to mark the top and bottom of the body as well as the tops of the Ascenders and the bottom of the Descenders, with the slanted and vertical lines helping to orientate the vertical strokes. These lines are drawn lightly using a pencil and are erased after the ink has dried.

Hot press

A paper finishing process that gives the paper a hard smooth surface


Any liquid colour that can be used for Calligraphic writing

Interlinear space

This is the spacing between the lines of text, it is the area where the Ascenders, descenders and Capital letters extend into. the ratio of the minimum height to the interlinear space is used to determine the spacing of the lines on the page.


This refer to the design on a page

Minim (body)

This is the height of the body of the lower case letters without any tails or stems, such as the letters a, c, e etc and is usually measured in nib-widths.


This is the part of the pen that touches the paper

Nib base

The end of a nib opposite the tip

Nib body

The term used to describe the main portion of the nib


This is the width of the marking edge of the pen.


This is a writing surface made from animal skins.


This is a writing surface made from the pith of the papyrus plant.

Quill pen

A Calligraphy pen made from the flight feathers from large birds.

Reed pen

A calligraphy pen made from dried hollow reeds or bamboo.


The name given to the part of a Fountain pen that contains the ink


A calligraphic Alphabet, an example could be the Unical, Gothic or Batarde scripts.


This is the movement that begins and ends the letter form. these can be varied and can be buiklt up using a number of pen movements.


The widest portion of a nib; the corner where the side edge of a nib turns inward to become the edge of the tine.


The cut that divides the tines of a nib. It must be narrow enough for capillary action to draw ink to the tip and at the same time be wide enough to deliver the amount of ink required when writing.

Stems (see Ascenders)

Tails (see Descenders)


One of the nib’s tapered “fingers”, separated from each other by the slit.


The tip of the nib.


A writing surface made from specially prepared calf-skin.

Vent hole

A hole, frequently made in a decorative shape such as a heart or a crescent, that pierces a nib at the end of the slit, to relieve the stress that tend to crack nibs at the relatively highly stress area around the base of the slit. They are sometimes ommited on firm nibs, which are stiff enough to resist the bending forces imposed during use