font-family

This article is in need of a technical review.

Summary

The font-family CSS property allows for a prioritized list of font family names and/or generic family names to be specified for the selected element. Unlike most other CSS properties, values are separated by a comma to indicate that they are alternatives. The browser will select the first font on the list that is installed on the computer, or that can be downloaded using the information provided by a @font-face at-rule.

Web authors should always add at least one generic family in a font-family list, since there's no guarantee that a specific font is installed on the computer or can be downloaded using a @font-face at-rule. The generic family lets the browser select an acceptable fallback font when needed.

It is often convenient to use the shorthand property font to set font-size and other font related properties all at once.

Note: The font-family property specifies a list of fonts, from highest priority to lowest. Font selection does not simply stop at the first font named in the list that is on the user's system. Rather, font selection is done one character at a time, so that if an available font does not have a glyph that can display a character needed, the later available fonts are tried. However, this doesn't work in Internet Explorer 6 or earlier.

When a font is only available in some styles, variants, or sizes, those properties may also influence which font family is chosen.

Syntax

Formal syntax: [ <family-name> | <generic-family> ]# 
font-family: Gill Sans Extrabold, sans-serif
font-family: "Goudy Bookletter 1911", sans-serif

font-family: sans-serif
font-family: serif
font-family: fantasy
font-family: cursive
font-family: monospace

font-family: inherit

Values

<family-name> The name of a font family. For example, "Times" and "Helvetica" are font families. Font family names containing whitespace should be quoted.
<generic-name>

Generic font families are a fallback mechanism, a means of preserving some of the style sheet author's intent in case when none of the specified fonts are available. Generic family names are keywords and must not be quoted. A generic font family should be the a last alternative in the list of font family names.

serif
Glyphs have finishing strokes, flared or tapering ends, or have actual serifed endings.
E.g.  Palatino, "Palatino Linotype", Palladio, "URW Palladio", serif
sans-serif
Glyphs have stroke endings that are plain.
E.g. 'Trebuchet MS', 'Liberation Sans', 'Nimbus Sans L', sans-serif
monospace
All glyphs have the same fixed width.
E.g. "DejaVu Sans Mono", Menlo, Consolas, "Liberation Mono", Monaco, "Lucida Console", monospace
cursive
Glyphs in cursive fonts generally have either joining strokes or other cursive characteristics beyond those of italic typefaces. The glyphs are partially or completely connected, and the result looks more like handwritten pen or brush writing than printed letterwork.
fantasy
Fantasy fonts are primarily decorative fonts that contain playful representations of characters.

Valid family names

Font family names must either be given quoted as strings, or unquoted as a sequence of one or more identifiers. This means that punctuation characters and digits at the start of each token must be escaped in unquoted font family names.

For example, the following declarations are valid:

font-family: Gill Sans Extrabold, sans-serif;
font-family: "Goudy Bookletter 1911", sans-serif;

The following declarations are invalid:

font-family: Goudy Bookletter 1911, sans-serif;
font-family: Red/Black, sans-serif;
font-family: "Lucida" Grande, sans-serif;
font-family: Ahem!, sans-serif;
font-family: test@foo, sans-serif;
font-family: #POUND, sans-serif;
font-family: Hawaii 5-0, sans-serif;

Examples

Example 1

body     { font-family: "Gill Sans Extrabold", Helvetica, sans-serif }

.receipt { font-family: Courier, "Lucida Console", monospace }

Example 2

.exampleserif {
    font-family: Times, "Times New Roman", Georgia, serif;
}

.examplesansserif {
    font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
}

.examplemonospace {
    font-family: "Lucida Console", Courier, monospace;
}

.examplecursive {
    font-family: cursive;
}

.examplefantasy {
    font-family: fantasy;
}
<div class="exampleserif">
This is an example of a serif font.
</div>

<div class="examplesansserif">
This is an example of a sans-serif font.
</div>

<div class="examplemonospace">
This is an example of a monospace font.
</div>

<div class="examplecursive">
This is an example of a cursive font.
</div>

<div class="examplefantasy">
This is an example of a fantasy font.
</div>

Live Sample

Browser compatibility

Feature Chrome Firefox (Gecko) Internet Explorer Opera Safari
Basic support 1.0 1.0 (1.7 or earlier) 3.0 3.5 1.0
Feature Android Firefox Mobile (Gecko) IE Phone Opera Mobile Safari Mobile
Basic support 1.0 1.0 (1) 6.0 6.0 1.0

Specifications

Specification Status Comment
CSS Fonts Module Level 3 Candidate Recommendation No significant change.
CSS Level 2 (Revision 1) Recommendation No significant change.
CSS Level 1 Recommendation  

See also

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