from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Example of the Garamond font in normal (above) and italic (below). It can be clearly seen that the italic glyphs are not only slanted, but also have other shapes.

Italics ( italics ) or italic text set (from medieval Latin cursivus , flowing, 'commonly formed into Latin cursare always continue' , this was again made to Latin currere , hurry, run ' ) is in the typography a writing award for typefaces , in which the characters are inclined in the writing direction . It is mainly used to highlight text passages and passages. The English term is italics or italic (adjective), the latter is often used in software .

For this type of writing award usually a specially provided for this purpose will be font style used. In a font family , the italic style is matched to the normal style, so that when the font is mixed, i.e. the mixed use of both styles in one text, a harmonious typeface is created.

Properties and distribution

While in the normal, vertical ( recte ) for line standing Rare the glyphs vertically standing , they act in an italic typeface continuously, rennend - they are obliquely inclined to the right and, if necessary, forming ligatures . They can also be different in shape from the corresponding non-italic glyphs. Examples of this are the “one-story” form ɑ of the lowercase letter a or the descender of the lowercase letter f (see example on the right).

Italics are not only used in the Latin alphabet. A distinction is also made between italic and upright forms in Cyrillic script . Italic and bold font styles are traditionally unusual for broken fonts . In the Fraktur sentence , therefore, the locking sentence for distinction dominates.

The terms italic and italic

The first italics printed by Aldus Manutius , 1501. The capitals here are still recte .

The term italics goes to the cursive back. The two terms are by no means congruent. "Italics" is a generic term for cursive fonts; H. Fonts that are suitable for quick handwriting . They arose from writing with a quill pen and a similar writing implement and the demand for high writing speed. They usually have connected letters and are often, but not necessarily, inclined. Italic also Kurrent-, running or script fonts called. The adjective italic and the noun italic , on the other hand, mostly refer to typefaces. The common characteristic of the italic fonts is the inclination of the characters, which are otherwise usually unconnected like the characters in the normal font.

The English term cursive means " Kursive " (script) and not "Italic". He is in computer systems (for example, in HTML or CSS used), among others, to refer generally to the fact that a font from the font class of script fonts to be used for display, without explicitly naming a particular script. The operating system or the application program then uses an available font that is preset for this font class .

Apart from typography, fonts, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs or Chinese calligraphy forms, are sometimes called "italic", even if this only has to do with the concept of (handwritten) cursive and nothing to do with italic fonts. Conversely, in the German printer language, cursive typeface is sometimes called “italic”, although this term actually refers to handwriting. This contributes to the confusion of terms, while in English the two topics are linguistically more clearly delimited with the terms italic and cursive .


The humanistic cursive , a clear, simple and easily legible handwriting from the epoch of humanism in Italy , became the model for the first cursive typefaces as well as the original form of the Latin script .

Because of their Italian origin, italics are called italics in English . Based on the Cancellaresca formata, a chancellery variant of the humanistic cursive, the stamp cutter Francesco Griffo developed the first italic type made of lead on behalf of the printer Aldus Manutius around 1501. One finds early uses of the printed italics, for example in the Aldinen . The 16th century is also called the Age of Italics because entire books were set in this new script in it. However, italic capital letters were not used. Rather, upright (recte) capital letters were combined with italic lowercase letters. It was only later that inclined capital letters appeared.

Both the humanistic cursive handwriting and the cursive typeface spread from Italy to France, England and Germany. Later on, the Antiqua , which was also created in Italy a few decades before italics, gradually replaced the italic typeface as bread type . The italic types, however, remained in use and have since been used to mark off certain words or passages within a text otherwise set in Antiqua.

Italic vs. italicized fonts

Above: Oblique font (“ DejaVu Sans ”); below: Font with real italics (" Liberation Serif ")

In typography are true cursive of kursivierten distinguished typefaces. The former are specially designed styles, which is mostly clearly recognizable by the special character shape of the lowercase letters "a", "f" and "g"; this is usually also expressed through the name component “italic” or “italic”. In the case of the latter, the characters were simply placed at an angle and not specially designed; these inclined cuts are usually referred to as "oblique" or "oblique". However, this is not always consistently maintained in computer fonts and software that uses fonts.

If fonts are only automatically tilted by deforming letters, this is referred to as italics, skewing or colloquially as skewing . Left-oblique, i.e. font styles that are slanted against the reading direction - for example to designate bodies of water in maps - can be generated automatically in this way without an independent design.


In general, italic emphasis indicates that the mot juste is a foreign word from another language or that a word is stressed within a sentence . The typeface thereby loses its potential ambiguity . For this reason, italics are often used when writing a text (e.g. in novels), also because, unlike text in semi-bold, italics does not affect the gray value of the text and therefore does not stand out.


  1. "He could have opened the door too ."
    The stress on the verb indicates that the person could have opened the door but did not.
  2. "He could have opened the door too ."
    Here the reader is offered an alternative to what is happening. The person may have opened a window, but could have opened a door.

Due to their different intonation, the two sentences have completely different meanings.

As a rule, in novels the thoughts of a person (inner monologue, but no indirect speech) are made "visible" by italic fonts:

I think she loves me but how can i be sure?

In the running text it is common to use titles of books, films, etc. in italics (instead of quotation marks):

Goethe's Faust is of great importance for German literature.
With Metropolis , Fritz Lang broke new ground in film technology.

Ship names are also set in italics:

The SMS Bismarck was a warship of the former Imperial Navy.

If italic text is in brackets, the brackets are also set in italics; the following punctuation mark can be set in italics or straight.

This is a correct example (a correct example) .
This is an example of an example of wrong punctuation .
This is correct ( see above )!
This is also correct ( see above ) !

Italics in bibliographies

Some scholarly citation methods require that the titles of independent publications (books and journals) be italicized. The headings of dependent publications, however, are then put between quotation marks. Examples:

Weldon, Fay: The Rules of Life (London: Century Hutchinson, 1987).
Jones, Lewis: 'Airport' (The President's Child), New Statesman (September 24, 1982): p. 30.

In other citation styles - especially in German legal texts - personal names (authors, possibly also editors) are set in italics. Example:

Fischer, Thomas , Criminal Code with ancillary laws, 67th edition, Munich 2020.

Italics in the formula set

In the formula set , variables , constants and functions are italicized to distinguish them from text and unit symbols ; for example

s for distance, s for second,
c for the speed of light, c for centi-

Some fonts offer special variants of italic glyphs for formula set and similar purposes, e.g. B. Computer Modern or Cambria Math . They differ roughly and usually from the italics for the body text (  x f  ). In addition, the Latin letter is easier to distinguish from the Greek letter . However, these glyphs are encoded differently than the regular Latin letters, e.g. B. by OML coding (with TeX ) or using the Unicode block Mathematical alphanumeric symbols , are therefore technically different characters. Before Unicode , several fonts were combined or special font styles were used for the formula set.

Italics for scientific names in biology

Following international usage, scientific names are italicized from the genre downwards. However, if the name is in brackets, the brackets are not shown in italics. Example:

The seeds of Taxus baccata are highly toxic.
The seeds of the European yew ( Taxus baccata ) are highly toxic.

Examples of ranks below species (species):

Homo sapiens idaltu
Escobaria vivipara var. Arizonica

In virology, following the rules of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICRV), all taxonomic ranks are marked in italics in this way, but not individual isolates and virus names themselves, as well as abbreviations (unless they are part of a taxonomic rank designation). Examples:

Heterosigma akashiwo virus 01 (HaV01)
Escherichia virus T7

Distinction within italic text

If a word needs to be emphasized within an italic text passage, the straight font is used again:

How could I be so stupid !


  • Albert Ernst: Interaction - text content and typographic design . Königshausen and Neumann, Würzburg 2005, ISBN 3-8260-3146-6 .
  • Stephan Füssel, Helmut Hiller: Dictionary of the book . 7., fundamentally revised. Edition. Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-465-03495-3 .
  • Ursula Rautenberg (Hrsg.): Reclams Sachlexikon des Buches . 2., verb. Edition. Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-15-010542-0 .

Web links

Wiktionary: italics  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: italic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. CSS: Fonts. German translation of the Web Style Sheets CSS tips & tricks page . In: W3C , accessed December 15, 2013.
  2. Section Marking. In: Duden. 24th edition 2006.