What is it called when a letter is within another letter? For example, the letter O within the letter L:

Example 1

Edit: Or the first C in the Coca-Cola logo:

Example 2

Does this arrangement of type have a name?

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    This is probably a drop capital, as tchrist notes. – Robusto Sep 18 '12 at 11:56

I think the word you are looking for may be kerning, but it isn’t quite clear from so small a sample. I can’t tell whether that is just a superscripted o or a drop capital L and a regular o, but in either case the o is kerned into the space of the L.

So I would look up both drop capitals and kerning, and see whether some combination of those ideas answers your question.

Edit: Your logo example is definitely an example of aggressive kerning. Consider these two examples, the first tightly kerned, the second not so:

tomorrow kerning example

Notice how the second one above now actually looks wrong, as though it had spurious spaces in it; it’s like this xkcd lesson:

XKCD on kerning

In extreme cases, aggressive kerning can in many cases become actual ligatures; notice all the letters here that actually touch:

litterae d’oeuvre

Or they can so tighten up with a combination of special kerning and even an occasional ligature so to become a sort of stylized symbol:

stylized symbols

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  • Wikipedia doesn't show a kerned drop cap though. – Andrew Leach Sep 18 '12 at 11:24
  • I believe it may be a more extreme version of kerning. I wonder if there is a different word for it in this case. I will update my question with another example. – dav_i Sep 18 '12 at 11:24
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    It's not clear to me that this is necessarily kerning. If it's a regular L with a superscripted o that have been fused into one symbol, it seems unfair to call it kerning - much like the mathematical symbol ±, or the digraph æ, or the ligature ij, or the numero sign №. – Billy Sep 18 '12 at 11:27
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    +1 for xkcd and very detailed example. I think you're probably right with "aggressive kerning", but I'll hold off accepting the answer for a little bit, if you don't mind, to see if anybody knows if there is a specific word for it. – dav_i Sep 18 '12 at 13:03
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    A friend of mine calls them lettrines purely for comic effect. – coleopterist Sep 18 '12 at 13:15

The first is a case of kerned drop cap.

The second is apparently an artwork (custom) and not a typographic symbol.

Trademarks, especially, are custom designed artwork that can be purposely different from standard typography.

The two do not fit into a single class.

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How about a ligature? This looks close to what you want.

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  • 2
    That is not a ligature. Two letters must be bound together to form a ligature, like æ. – Robusto Sep 18 '12 at 11:55
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    @Robusto: The page I linked to gives many examples of ligatures, some not physically joined (e.g. the 'broken U', the Unicode 'ij' and 'fi' and 'fl', the letter it calls the "uo-ligature" ů, and the Chinese character ligatures). Ligatures in English (and indeed Latin) are all physically joined, yes, but that wasn't the question. The Dutch 'ij', for example, is very definitely one glyph: at the start of a sentence or proper noun it appears as 'IJ', rather than 'Ij'. – Billy Sep 18 '12 at 13:44
  • @Billy The page you cite doesn’t know what it’s talking about: “The tilde diacritic as used in Spanish and Portuguese, now representing the palatal nasal sound in the letter ñ and nasalization of the affected vowel, respectively, originated as an nn ligature (Espanna = España, anno = año). Similarly, the circumflex in French spelling stems from the ligature of a silent s.” WRONG! A diacritic is not a ligature. – tchrist Sep 18 '12 at 21:17

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