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Microsoft Typography | Typography on the Web | Specifying fonts... | 5.2.5 'font-weight' next


5.2.5 'font-weight'

Value: normal | bold | bolder | lighter | 100 | 200 | 300 | 400 | 500 | 600 | 700 | 800 | 900
Initial: normal
Applies to: all elements
Inherited: yes
Percentage values: N/A
Microsoft® Internet Explorer 3.0 support: partial. Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 supports normal and bold values.
Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 support: yes.


The 'font-weight' property selects the weight of the font. The values '100' to '900' form an ordered sequence, where each number indicates a weight that is at least as dark as its predecessor. The keyword 'normal' is synonymous with '400', and 'bold' is synonymous with '700'. Keywords other than 'normal' and 'bold' have been shown to be often confused with font names and a numerical scale was therefore chosen for the 9-value list.

P { font-weight: normal }   /* 400 */
H1 { font-weight: 700 }     /* bold */

The 'bolder' and 'lighter' values select font weights that are relative to the weight inherited from the parent:

STRONG { font-weight: bolder }

Child elements inherit the resultant weight, not the keyword value.

Fonts (the font data) typically have one or more properties whose values are names that are descriptive of the "weight" of a font. There is no accepted, universal meaning to these weight names. Their primary role is to distinguish faces of differing darkness within a single font family. Usage across font families is quite variant; for example a font that you might think of as being bold might be described as being Regular, Roman, Book, Medium, Semi- or DemiBold, Bold, or Black, depending on how black the "normal" face of the font is within the design. Because there is no standard usage of names, the weight property values in CSS1 are given on a numerical scale in which the value '400' (or 'normal') corresponds to the "normal" text face for that family. The weight name associated with that face will typically be Book, Regular, Roman, Normal or sometimes Medium.

The association of other weights within a family to the numerical weight values is intended only to preserve the ordering of darkness within that family. However, the following heuristics tell how the assignment is done in typical cases:

  • If the font family already uses a numerical scale with nine values (like e.g. OpenType TM does), the font weights should be mapped directly.
  • If there is both a face labeled Medium and one labeled Book, Regular, Roman or Normal, then the Medium is normally assigned to the '500'.
  • The font labeled "Bold" will often correspond to the weight value '700'.
  • If there are fewer then 9 weights in the family, the default algorithm for filling the "holes" is as follows. If '500' is unassigned, it will be assigned the same font as '400'. If any of the values '600', '700', '800' or '900' remains unassigned, they are assigned to the same face as the next darker assigned keyword, if any, or the next lighter one otherwise. If any of '300', '200' or '100' remains unassigned, it is assigned to the next lighter assigned keyword, if any, or the next darker otherwise.

The following two examples illustrate the process. Assume four weights in the "Example 1" family, from lightest to darkest: Regular, Medium, Bold, Heavy. And assume six weights in the "Example 2" family: Book, Medium, Bold, Heavy, Black, ExtraBlack. Note how in the second example it has been decided not to assign "Example 2 ExtraBlack" to anything.


Available faces Assignments Filling the holes
Example 1 Regular 400 100, 200, 300
Example 1 Medium 500  
Example 1 Bold 700 600
Example 1 Heavy 800 900


Available faces Assignments Filling the holes
Example 2 Book 400 100, 200, 300
Example 2 Medium 500  
Example 2 Bold 700 600
Example 3 Heavy 800  
Example 3 Black 900  
Example 3 ExtraBlack (none)  


Since the intent of the relative keywords 'bolder' and 'lighter' is to darken or lighten the face within the family and because a family may not have faces aligned with all the symbolic weight values, the matching of 'bolder' is to the next darker face available on the client within the family and the matching of 'lighter' is to the next lighter face within the family. To be precise, the meaning of the relative keywords 'bolder' and 'lighter' is as follows:

  • 'bolder' selects the next weight that is assigned to a font that is darker than the inherited one. If there is no such weight, it simply results in the next darker numerical value (and the font remains unchanged), unless the inherited value was '900' in which case the resulting weight is also '900'.
  • 'lighter' is similar, but works in the opposite direction: it selects the next lighter keyword with a different font from the inherited one, unless there is no such font, in which case it selects the next lighter numerical value (and keeps the font unchanged).

There is no guarantee that there will be a darker face for each of the 'font-weight' values; for example, some fonts may have only a normal and a bold face, others may have eight different face weights. There is no guarantee on how a UA will map font faces within a family to weight values. The only guarantee is that a face of a given value will be no less dark than the faces of lighter values.



Dark blue text is taken from Cascading Style Sheets, level 1. W3C Recommendation 17 December 1996 - http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/TR/REC-CSS1

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this page was last updated 2 December 1997
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Microsoft Typography | Typography on the Web | Specifying fonts... | 5.2.5 'font-weight' next