I looked up the etymology entry at etymonline.com for cursive, which reads:

1784, from French cursif (18c.), from Medieval Latin cursivus “running,” from Latin cursus “a running,” from past participle of currere “to run” (see current (adj.)). The notion is of “written with a running hand” (without raising the pen), as opposed to uncial.

Now, the uncial entry reads:

In reference to letters, it is attested from 1712, from Late Latin litterae unciales (Jerome), probably meaning “letters an inch high,” from Latin uncialis “of an inch, inch-high.”

It seems to me that uncial is not the most correct antonym for cursive writing, and printing isn’t a very satisfactory alternative to me.

Could anyone give me a word that denotes the style of handwriting where the letters don't connect/the pen is lifted in the process?

  • 2
    In calligraphy, there is the notion of the secretary hand (emphasis on speed, hence more likely to be cursive) versus the book hand (emphasis on display/beauty, hence not likely to be cursive). But book hand doesn't actually mean "not cursive", just "not likely to be cursive".
    – Marthaª
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 16:47
  • 8
    When filling out a form, I've always assumed that, if the instructions say PLEASE PRINT, that's essentially saying PLEASE DO NOT WRITE IN CURSIVE. Wikipedia seemes agrees with that assertion.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 18:56
  • 2
    For what it's worth, I agree that etymonline's "as opposed to uncial" statement is... puzzling, as that's not what uncial means.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 19:02
  • Sounds like a case of non-joined-up-writing syndrome Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 5:13
  • I think doctors should be banned from writing in a cursive form! Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 5:19

6 Answers 6


It is customary to speak of such writing as print or print writing among non-experts, and when the context is handwriting, it is understood that one is writing separated letters which resemble printed forms, not using a printing press or a typewriter to produce them.

Block writing or writing with block letters is also commonly found, though many would restrict this to capital letters. Many paper forms will include instructions like "print your name in in block letters" or "use block capitals for all fields".

The term printscript appears in Merriam-Webster and some academic sources, but I have never seen it otherwise.

I understand uncial to refer to a style of lettering, not a style of writing. I never heard it as as schoolchild, only as an adult learning calligraphy.


In some official form you have to "sign" (in a completely free kind of cursive) and put your name as "printed name".

In Italian where for "Cursive" there is "Corsivo" the antonym for that is "Stampatello", that literally could be translated "printed like" while dictionaries report "block letters", "block capitals", "letter", "to write in block capitals or letters"; and in some official documents you have to sign "in modo leggibile" that means "in a readable way".

"Computer science" and typographically speaking a possible acceptation for "Cursive" in one of its etymological meaning of "running", it became "Italic" and their antonyms are "Normal", "Regular" and "Roman".

Typographically Italian "Stampatello" could be translated "Roman type".

There are alphabet like Arabic one that haven't a non-cursive form since they are themselves a cursive version of some other alphabets.

  • Arabic alphabet is cursive of another alpahbet? I never knew that!
    – hkBst
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 14:39

Depending on the context, have you considered non-cursive?


I use print-script, although "script" has ambiguous meanings internationally.

The insertion, "(without lifting the pen)" refers to the conventional cursive of the past ± 150 years. Certainly one could not claim that Spencerian is cursive with all its flourishes; it was written slowly, never running. In Italy, 600 years ago, men (perhaps women too) wrote the chancery hand cursively, adding some joins when it was comfortable for the hand to make them for what is known as cursive italic.

Historically, the "cursive" to which most now refer, came into being with imitation of copperplate engraving. The method allows for lines to be made without breaks. It is not a paper and pen method.


If cursive has not inherited an unequivocal historic antonym in the past then it definitely needs one for the ever more discursive future. Why not apply the neologism cuneive derived from cuneiform 1670s, "wedge shaped," from French cunéiforme (16c.), from Latin cuneus "a wedge, wedge-shaped thing". Thus the opposite to cursive writing or running writing would then be cuneive writing or wedge-shaped lettering. As a writing style cuneive is one where letters are written separate from each other by space in a staccato (detached) like manner rather than in the legato (tied together) like manner written smoothly connected characteristic of the cursive writing style. In musical notation a wedge is used to indicate the more emphatic staccatissimo.


In the typographical world, you have Italic vs Roman type. Italic forms descending from the handwritten scribal cursive found in Italy during the advent of moveable type, and Roman forms descending from the chiseled inscriptional typefaces typically found on Roman monuments such as Trajan's Column.

I would say that a Roman typeface is NEVER cursive, while an Italic very well could be.

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