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Small line at the bottom of the letter "u"

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Firstly, hello! It's my first time on this forum and I hope this is the right place.

I've been looking for the terminology for typography. It is the small line at the bottom of the letter "u". Is it tail, leg, spur, descender, or something else?

Some sources say it is serif. But it used written in both serif or sans serif fonts. The line is preferably used or not depending on the designer's choice. Kind of similar to writing the letter "a" with a top hook or not.

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24 minutes ago, Kevin Thompson said:

Stem is the proper term. Here is a link to a PDF that covers some basic type anatomy terms.

Stephen Coles created a nice reference that covers similar ground. Another good resource.

Thank you for your reply and resources you provided, they are great. I have also checked similar resorces before. I thought stem as if it is the spine of a letter. For example, the vertical stroke on the letter "k", as it was stated on typeanatomy.

That is why I don't think the tiny swoosh part of the "u" is a stem. As you can write the letter with or without it, and it would be legible both ways.

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Can you show some images with fonts that have the element you mean and maybe even mark it. We might be talking past each other otherwise. 

The proper term might depend on the specific typeface and I am still not really sure what you mean by the “bottom of a u”. 

And unfortunately, some elements of letters simply don’t have terms that are well established. People just pick a word to make themselves understood. If you have a specific letter and talk about it’s “tail”, “leg”, “arch” et cetera, it might be clear what you mean, whether that’s an established term or not.  


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Thanks Kevin, exactly what I was asking about.


Most uppercase sans serif fonts doesn't have that line. So, it doesn't make sense to me if it is called a stem.

Lowercase sans serif fonts still have that line. So, it doesn't make sense to me if it is called a serif.

I'm quite confused lol

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Yeah, in general, that’s just part of the “stem”. Keep in mind how someone would write this. It’s one downward stroke for the entire stem. The fact that there is an arch touching the stem doesn’t necessarily mean that there are now two parts with different names.

Calling it “spur” would be possible though:


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