What is the historical context of these two terms?
Why are they distinct? And why are they needed?
What pragmatic utility is there in knowing how these two terms differ?

In terms of Emacs/Emacs Lisp, where are they used/how are they used/why are they used?
(A solid example would be nice).

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I am confused because I see no correlation anywhere in any modern-day files/GUI as to why I should know the differences between the meanings of font foundry and font family. But they seem so vital to know when dealing with fonts.

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  • Good question! Hope someone provides a good answer.
    – Drew
    Oct 14, 2019 at 22:49
  • I suspect the problem is that whatever program that last screenshot is from (you haven't said) has chosen not to display all of the information. What it is calling "font name" appears to be the font family (Ubuntu Mono), and of that family you are actually looking at Ubuntu Mono Bold. Some research suggests that the foundry in question is Dalton Maag Ltd.
    – phils
    Oct 15, 2019 at 5:37
  • 1
    Wikipedia explains both Foundry and Family.
    – phils
    Oct 15, 2019 at 5:38
  • 1
    Think of it as name-spacing. Imagine two entirely different foundries each creating a new font family which they both decide to name, say, energetic; with each of the two interpretations of "energetic" looking completely different to one another (or indeed only marginally different -- it doesn't really matter). An end user can differentiate them from one another on account of the foundry name.
    – phils
    Oct 15, 2019 at 5:56
  • @phils: Please consider putting some of the info from your comments in an answer.
    – Drew
    Oct 15, 2019 at 14:43

2 Answers 2


A Font Foundry, more correctly a Type Foundry is the font manufacturer. Think Adobe, Bitstream, Monotype, etc. A Font Family is a collection of fonts under one name. Think Helvetica, Courier, Times New Roman. etc. A Font would be “Adobe’s Helvetica, semi-condensed bold italic in 12 point”. This definition comes from movable type.

The evolution of electronic publishing and type, in addition to the evolution of GUI interfaces has blurred these definitions. Casual users don’t care about these aging nuances. The font is Helvetica and the size is the system default. Maybe you bump it up if you’re trying to stretch the length of your paper. Users in publishing or design might care more, especially if they paid for a font.

  • Sorry if it’s a bit rambling. I’m on mobile.
    – nega
    Oct 15, 2019 at 0:49

As a practical answer to Part 2 of your question:

$ fc-list -f "%{fullname} : %{foundry} : %{family}\n"  | grep Ubuntu


Ubuntu Medium : DAMA : Ubuntu,Ubuntu Light
Ubuntu Mono Bold : DAMA : Ubuntu Mono
Ubuntu Bold Italic : DAMA : Ubuntu
Ubuntu Light : DAMA : Ubuntu,Ubuntu Light
Ubuntu Condensed : DAMA : Ubuntu Condensed
Ubuntu Medium Italic : DAMA : Ubuntu,Ubuntu Light
Ubuntu Mono Bold Italic : DAMA : Ubuntu Mono
Ubuntu Mono : DAMA : Ubuntu Mono
Ubuntu Mono Italic : DAMA : Ubuntu Mono
Ubuntu Thin : DAMA : Ubuntu,Ubuntu Thin
Ubuntu Bold : DAMA : Ubuntu
Ubuntu Light Italic : DAMA : Ubuntu,Ubuntu Light
Ubuntu : DAMA : Ubuntu
Ubuntu Italic : DAMA : Ubuntu

So e.g. you can then do this to use Ubuntu Mono Italic for a given face:

 ;;; ...
 '(org-block-begin-line ((t (:inherit default
                             :background "#3c3836"
                             :foreground "aquamarine"
                             :slant italic
                             :height 0.5
                             :foundry "DAMA"
                             :family "Ubuntu Mono"))))
 ;;; ...

Show Ubuntu Mono Italic in use

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