Glossary of terms
A shortened representation of a word or phrase, that may include symbols as well as alphabetic characters.
A distinct form of an alphabetic letter or symbol in writing. In Irish manuscripts, it is common to see more than one allograph of a letter on the same page. An allograph is the opposite of a homograph (a form with the same appearance, but with a different meaning).
ascender and descender
An ascender is part of an alphabetic character that rises above the main body of some letters, such as the vertical line that extends above the circular part of the letter b.
A descender is part of an alphabetic character that drops below the baseline of most of the other characters in a line of writing. An example is the long downward line of r and s in Irish script.
ascent and descent
The ascent is the area between the x height (or cue height) and the highest part of a character in a line of writing.
The descent is the area between the baseline and the lowest part of a character in a line of writing.
A long imaginary horizontal line, on which the majority of the miniscules rest. For example, in Irish writing, some of the letters that usually rest on this line include d, i, m, n and u.
ceann faoi eite
Literally ‘head under wing’, a symbol placed within a line of Irish writing to indicate that the sentence is completed and that the following words are a continuation of the line below. It was used to make efficient use of space on the vellum. For a number of variations, see ceann faoi eite.
Another Irish term for this symbol is cor faoi chosán (‘twist in the path’).
A written symbol that represents an alphabetic letter, word, phrase, or concept.
See x height
In Irish script, a mark above a character which indicates a change in its phonetic value. For example, a fada (slanted line) may indicate lengthening of the sound of a vowel.
A group of two letters written together. The form of one or both of them may differ in the digraph from the appearance of the independently written alphabetic character. In the present catalogue, it is distinguished from a specific type of digraph, the ligature, which also joins two (or more) letters but in a way which merges their forms.
Digraphs and ligatures were commonly employed to save space. Digraphs beginning with the letter e, for instance, tend to use a common allograph form, the long e, which lacks the middle stroke and extends its head. The economic advantage of this graphic shape is that characters of minim height, such as a, i and o, are easier to slot in.
Go to ‘digraphs and ligatures’ to view a list of digraphs, trigraphs (three letters written together) and ligatures.
The distinctive way in which strokes are placed on vellum or paper, hence one of the characteristics which make up a scribal hand.
The model for the specific form of a written character (in a script). For instance, this image <> shows three different implementations of the same glyph for minuscule c, while this image <>, with a small serif attached, conforms to yet another glyph for the same character.
A basic unit in the writing system of a (written) language. Like ‘character’, a ‘grapheme’ is an abstract term, but unlike ‘character’, it relates to the representation of phonemes. For instance, aoi represents one grapheme in modern Irish, but is composed of three different characters. Similarly, a character may be used for more than one grapheme. Property "Glossary-Definition" (as page type) with input value "A basic unit in the writing system of a (written) language. Like ‘character’, a ‘grapheme’ is an abstract term, but unlike ‘character’, it relates to the representation of phonemes. For instance, aoi represents one grapheme in modern Irish, but is composed of three different characters. Similarly, a character may be used for more than one grapheme." contains invalid characters or is incomplete and therefore can cause unexpected results during a query or annotation process.
A form with an identical graphic representation, but with a different meaning or function.
conceptually distinct from characters, graphemes and glyphs. A, a, a and a represent four different characters of the same letter.
A ligature consists of two or more letters and/or symbols joined together to form a single character.
Go to ‘digraphs and ligatures’ for a list of examples.
A minim is a short vertical stroke with the pen. In Irish writing, the minims at the beginning of i, n, m, and u almost always have a serif at the top.
minuscule and majuscule
- A minuscule is a small alphabetic character; the majority of the text of a manuscript is made up of minuscule letters.
- A majuscule is a large alphabetic character, often used at the beginning of a sentence in Irish manuscripts.
Latin for ‘sacred names’.
A dot above a consonant in Irish writing. In early manuscripts it was used above f and s to indicate lenition. Much later it was used above other consonants to indicate lenition. It was also used to indicate nasalization in some manuscripts, particularly above letter n. See
A ponc, or dot above a consonant, used to indicate lenition. In early manuscripts it was used above f and s. Much later it was used above other consonants as well, mainly b, c, d, f, g, m, and t.
A short thick diagonal pen-stroke at the top of a vertical line in writing. It often resembles a small triangle.
Shorthand refers to the use of abbreviating techniques in writing in order to save space and time. The practice of writing in shorthand is called tachygraphy.
Also simply called a "fada", this is a diagonal line above a vowel which often indicates lengthening of the vowel. An identical line is sometimes used to distinguish the letter i in a line of writing.
Literally "rough breath", this is a symbol placed above a consonant to indicate lenition.
superscript and subscript
A superscript character is written above another character which is in the normal line of writing. Superscript characters are usually smaller.
A subscript character is written below another character which is in the normal line of writing. Subscript characters are usually smaller.
A horizontal line above one or more characters, or at the end of a word. It indicates that some letters have not been written. The suspension stroke is used to abbreviate common words. An identical horizontal line is often used to indicate the letter n.
In Latin: Notae tironianae. A system of shorthand writing symbols attributed to Cicero's secretary Marcus Tullius Tiro, who lived in Rome in the 1st century BCE.(1)n. 1 See for instance, Bernhard Bischoff, Latin palaeography: antiquity and the Middle Ages (1990): 80–81. Click on the following to see a list of examples:
|Ar, AR, Quia, Quod|
|ar, quia, quam, quod, qu()|
|ed ón, eadh on, id est|
|ocus, agus, et, ead|
|acht, cht, sed, s(), ()s()|
|no, nó, ()l, uel, vel|
An International set of standards for encoding characters in computer software.
The distance from the baseline to a long imaginary horizontal line along the top of the majority of the minuscules in a line of writing. In Irish writing, some of the letters that are usually written within this distance include u, i, m, n and o.
Malcolm B. Parkes and Peter A. Stokes use the term ‘cue-height’ as the palaeographical equivalent.