I'm looking for a font dictionary that will allow me to choose a font by conventional meaning and traditional usage.

What I'm thinking of should exist, since I think that font meaning is learned through pre-existing knowledge and context. Without this established history, fonts have no meaning to convey... because no meaning exists.

That being said, I'm looking for a journal, dictionary or database of fonts and established usage. but I haven't found a catalog of common fonts (and their siblings), in addition to relating to the context they have been used in.

Certain contexts may include

  • Era (ancient, industrial, modern, etc)
  • Culture (neutral, Eastern/China, Western/UK US, other heritage)
  • Usage (religious, formal, informal, ...)
  • Tone (firm, friendly, angry, playful (mature), playful (childish))
  • Undefined (it's a new font and meaning hasn't yet been commonly accepted)
  • Multiuse (can convey many different emotions, can imply lack of clarity of the writer, lack of caring, or ...)

Ideally it would include a weight and color/hue for this font.

The reason I'm interested in this is because I want to create an Instant Messenger and email addin that adds more meaning to written words for people who choose to not use emoticons as a way of communicating.

If this does not exist, I am open to creating such an application with anyone interested, for the benefit of all. (font wiki?)


3 Answers 3


I think Fontbook should suit your requirements. It covers nearly 37,000 typefaces and every typeface has details about era, foundry, usage, designer, library, release date, number of sub families, font weights, glyphs per font, and trademark. It's a really well organized app. More about the app here.


I have some paper font catalogs which could be used as such (eg. Creative Type ) , but also you can find such online, eg. http://www.100besttypefaces.com

Also, both MyFonts.com and Fonts.com, but even FontShop tries to provide such information next to their typefaces.


You are asking for an exhaustive classification of typefaces into a taxonomy based on all sorts of variables.

Alas, it doesn't exist--mainly because it's not really possible. Typefaces just don't fit into simple classifications easily. There's just too much subjectivity and, ultimately, context that will play a part in most of these factors.

I think the best you will find is using myfonts.com's tags.

The one variable that you likely will never get much data on is "meaning". A very few typefaces may take on particular meaning, but only a few--and these are often due to over-use. Other than that, the meaning a font take on is entirely dependent on the context it's being used in.

Futura can mean "Mid Century/Bauhaus". Or it can mean "I'm about to watch a Wes Anderson Movie". Along with many other meanings depending on context.

As for your product idea, it's ambitious, but again, a font's meaning comes from context, and I'm not sure how much context you can derive out of an instance messaging comment.

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