from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A medieval Scottish or Irish foot soldier.
  • n. A loutish person.
  • n. The portion of a typeface that projects beyond the body or shank of a character.
  • transitive v. To provide (type) with a kern.
  • transitive v. To adjust space between (characters) in typeset text.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A corn; grain; kernel.
  • n. any part of a letter which extends into the space used by another letter.
  • v. To adjust the horizontal space between selected pairs of letters (characters or glyphs); to perform such adjustments to a portion of text, according to preset rules.
  • n. A light-armed foot soldier of the ancient militia of Ireland and Scotland; in archaic contexts often used as a term of contempt.
  • n. Alternative form of quern.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A light-armed foot soldier of the ancient militia of Ireland and Scotland; -- distinguished from gallowglass, and often used as a term of contempt.
  • n. Any kind of boor or low-lived person.
  • n. An idler; a vagabond.
  • n. A part of the face of a type which projects beyond the body, or shank, such as in certain italic letters.
  • n. A churn.
  • n. A hand mill. See quern.
  • n. Kernel; corn; grain.
  • n. The last handful or sheaf reaped at the harvest.
  • n. The harvest-home.
  • intransitive v. To harden, as corn in ripening.
  • intransitive v. To take the form of kernels; to granulate.
  • transitive v. To form with a kern. See 2d kern.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To form corns or grains; take the form of corns or grains; granulate; harden, as corn in ripening; set, as fruit or grain.
  • To granulate, as salt by evaporation.
  • To sow with corn.
  • To cause to granulate, as salt by evaporation.
  • In type-founding, to form with a kern or projection, as-a type or letter.
  • A dialectal (unassibi-lated) form of churn.
  • n. A corn; grain; kernel.
  • n. In printing, that part of a type which projects beyond the body or shank, as in the Roman letters f and j as formerly made and some italic letters.
  • n. The last handful or sheaf of grain cut down at the close of the harvest. Also called kern-cut.
  • n. A harvest-home.
  • n. A dialectal form of quern.
  • n. In the ancient militia of Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland, a light-armed foot-soldier of the lowest and poorest grade, armed with a dart or skean: opposed to gallowglass, a heavy-armed soldier. The word is sometimes used in a collective sense.
  • n. Hence —2. An Irish churl or boor; by extension, any ignoble person; a drudge; a bumpkin.
  • n. In English law, an idle person or vagabond.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. remove a portion of space between (adjacent letters)
  • n. the part of a metal typeface that projects beyond its body
  • v. furnish with a kern
  • n. United States composer of musical comedies (1885-1945)


Middle English kerne, from Middle Irish ceithern, ceithernn, band of soldiers, from Old Irish.
French carne, corner, from Old North French, from Latin cardō, cardin-, hinge.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
A variant of corn, see Dutch kern, Old High German kerno, cherno, Middle High German kerne, kern, German kern, Icelandic kjarni, Danish kjerne, Swedish kärna ("core, kernel"); see also kernel. (Wiktionary)



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  • Kern - to grow into fruit; ripen, mature

    Maÿ flow'rs do grow vor June to burn,
    An' milk-white blooth o' trees do kern,

    May 9, 2013

  • K E    RN

    UR doin it wrong

    October 14, 2008

  • I love typography. I'm always amazed at how deep a subject it is, and how fascinating a background it has.

    September 17, 2007

  • Wow, fascinating discussion. I'll never think of kerning quite the same way again.

    September 16, 2007

  • "Regarding analogous kerning-esque activities, is it accurate to say you’re looking for examples of people moving things around with the aim of modulating space? Depending on how broad you want to take it, landscapers, plastic surgeons, and all manner of artists do this as a matter of routine. But then you could also say a pugilist kerns his/her fist to an opponent’s face.

    - from an online discussion on the origin and implications of the word "kern"

    September 16, 2007

  • Enter Magee Mor Matthew, a rugged rough rugheaded kern, in strossers with a buttoned codpiece, his nether stocks bemired with clauber of ten forests, a wand of wilding in his hand.
    Joyce, Ulysses, 9

    January 6, 2007