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Gaelic type

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Title: Gaelic type  
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Subject: Irish orthography, Irish language, Diacritic, Uncial script, Ogham
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Gaelic type

Latin script (Gaelic variant)
Languages Irish
Time period
1571 –
Parent systems
Latin script
ISO 15924 Latg, 216
Direction Left-to-right

Gaelic type (sometimes called Irish character, Irish type, or Gaelic script) is a family of insular typefaces devised for printing Irish. It was widely used from the 16th until the mid-20th centuries but is today rarely used. Sometimes all Gaelic typefaces are called Celtic or uncial, though most Gaelic types are not uncials. The "Anglo-Saxon" types of the 17th century are included in this category because both the Anglo-Saxon types and the Gaelic/Irish types derive from the Insular manuscript hand.

The terms Gaelic type, Gaelic script, and Irish character translate the Irish phrase cló Gaelach (pronounced ). In Ireland the term cló Gaelach is used in opposition to the term cló Rómhánach 'Roman type'.


  • Characteristics 1
  • Origin 2
  • Use 3
  • Gaelic script in Unicode 4
  • Samples 5
  • Gallery 6
  • See also 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • Sources, external links 9


Overview of some Gaelic typefaces

Besides the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, Gaelic typefaces must include all vowels with acute accents Áá Éé Íí Óó Úú as well as a set of consonants with dot above Ḃḃ Ċċ Ḋḋ Ḟḟ Ġġ Ṁṁ Ṗṗ Ṡṡ Ṫṫ, and the Tironian sign et , used for agus 'and' in Irish.

Gaelic typefaces also often include insular forms ꞃ ꞅ of the letters r and s, and some of them contain a number of ligatures used in earlier Gaelic typography and deriving from the manuscript tradition. Lower-case i is drawn without a dot (though it is not the Turkish dotless ı), and the letters d, f, g and t have insular shapes ꝺ ꝼ ᵹ ꞇ.

Many modern Gaelic typefaces include Gaelic letterforms for the letters j, k, q, v, w, x, y and z, and typically provide support for at least the vowels of the other Celtic languages. They also distinguish between & and (as did traditional typography), though some modern fonts replace the ampersand with the Tironian note ostensibly because both mean 'and'.


The word "Corcaigh" in the Gaelic-script font of the same name.

The Irish uncial alphabet originated in medieval manuscripts as an "insular" variant of the Latin alphabet. The first Gaelic typeface was designed in 1571 for a catechism commissioned by Elizabeth I to help convert the Irish Roman Catholic population to Anglicanism.


Typesetting in Gaelic script remained common in Ireland until the mid-20th century. Gaelic script is today used merely for decorative typesetting; for example, a number of traditional Irish newspapers still print their name in Gaelic script on the first page, and it is also popular for pub signs, greeting cards, and display advertising. Edward Lhuyd's grammar of the Cornish language used Gaelic-script consonants to indicate sounds like [ð] and [θ].

In 1996 Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) created a new corporate logo. The logo consists of a modern take on the Gaelic type face. The R's counter is large with a short tail, the T is roman script while the E is curved but does not have a counter like a lower case E, and the letters also have slight serifs to them. TG4's original logo, under the brand TnaG, also used a modernization of the font, the use of the curved T and a sans-serif A in the word "na". Other Irish companies that have used Gaelic script in their logos including the GAA, Telecom Éireann and An Post. The Garda Síochána uses Gaelic Script on its official seal.

The GAA logo uses the script to incorporate both the English language GAA acronym and the Irish language CLG acronym. The logo more strongly shows the more widely used acronym GAA but taking a closer look a C joins with an L and then to a G lying down.

Gaelic script in Unicode

Unicode treats the Gaelic script as a font variant of the Latin alphabet. A lowercase insular g (ᵹ) was added in version 4.1 as part of the Phonetic Extensions block because of its use in Irish linguistics as a phonetic character for [ɣ]. Unicode 5.1 (2008) further added a capital G (Ᵹ) and both capital and lowercase letters D, F, R, S, T, besides "turned insular G", on the basis that Edward Lhuyd used these letters in his 1707 work Archaeologia Britannica as a scientific orthography for Cornish.


Duibhlinn (digital font 1993, based on Monotype Series 24 A, 1906)
Ceanannas (digital font 1993, based on drawings of Book of Kells lettering by Arthur Baker.)
In each figure above, the first sentence is a pangram and reads:
Chuaigh bé mhórshách le dlúthspád fíorfhinn trí hata mo dhea-phorcáin bhig,
Ċuaiġ bé ṁórṡáċ le dlúṫspád fíorḟinn trí hata mo ḋea-ṗorcáin ḃig,
meaning "A maiden of large appetite with an intensely white, dense spade went through the hat of my good little porker".

The second sentence (bottom line) reads:
Duibhlinn/Ceanannas an cló a úsáidtear anseo,
meaning "Duibhlinn/Ceannanas is the font used here".
The second sentence uses the short forms of the letters r and s; the first uses the long forms.


See also


  • Lynam, E. W. 1969. The Irish character in print: 1571–1923. New York: Barnes & Noble. First printed as Oxford University Press offprint 1924 in Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, 4th Series, Vol. IV, No. 4, March 1924.)
  • McGuinne, Dermot. Irish type design: A history of printing types in the Irish character. Blackrock: Irish Academic Press. ISBN 0-7165-2463-5

Sources, external links

  • Michael Everson's History and classification of Gaelic typefaces, 2000-06-19
  • Michael Everson's Celtscript range of fonts
  • Brendan Leen's Four centuries of printing in the Irish character, Cregan Library, St Patrick's College, Drumcondra
  • Vincent Morley's An Cló Gaelach (in Irish)
  • Mícheál Ó Searcóid's The Irish Alphabet, an article on the origin, history and present-day usage of the Irish typeface, 1990
  • Mathew D. Staunton's Trojan Horses and Friendly Faces: Irish Gaelic Typography as Propaganda. La revue LISA. ISSN 1762-6153. Vol. III; n°1. 2005.
  • Bunchló GC, a Gaelic modern minuscule font in Unicode for non-commercial use.
  • Gadelica, a Gaelic traditional minuscule font in Unicode.
  • More information about Gaelic fonts
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