Q&A: Pen Glossary

Q&A: Pen Glossary


A type of plastic often used to make the barrels of pens.


A pen with a tip that uses a rolling ball to transfer ink from a reservoir to the page, uses a thick oil based ink.


The part of the pen that contains the filling system that when in use often rests between your thumb and forefinger.


A brand of ballpoint pen.


The term given to describe when ink is absorbed by the paper too much and is visibly noticeable on the other side of the sheet of paper (As if you had written on the other side, not to be confused with ghosting).

Blotting Paper

A type of more absorbent paper used to take ink off of a nib, or section.

Breather Hole

A small cutout in the nib used to draw air into the reservoir when ink is drawn out to keep a steady flow.

Calligraphy Pen

A pen that either uses a flex nib or an italic nib to create line variation in your writing and are often also dipping pens.


The part of the pen that encloses the nib and is removed before use, this stops the ink from drying out as quickly.


A piece of plastic that contains ink and is sealed until you install it into a pen.


A metal or plastic protrusion from the cap of a pen that allows for the pen to be attached to a pocket.


A component that allows for you to fill a cartridge pen from bottled ink. It is installed like a cartridge.


A clear pen that allows you to see the mechanism of the fountain pen.

Dip Pen

A pen that you must routinely dip in a bottle of ink to replenish its ink supply, this was the predecessor to the fountain pen.

Eye Dropper

A pen that you fill the barrel with ink rather than using cartridges or a converter, these often have much higher ink capacity.

Alternatively this is a glass tube with a bulb on one end that you can fill with ink in order to fill pens or inkwells.


This is when a paper absorbs too much ink and it results in a frayed line that looks similar to a feather.


An essential part of pens that use liquid ink, this is a piece of plastic or traditionally ebonite that regulates the flow of ink from the reservoir to the nib.

Fountain Pen

A type of pen that uses a metal nib to transfer ink from a reservoir in the barrel, be it a cartridge or embedded filling system.

Gel Pen

Not quite a ballpoint or rollerball it uses the same mechanism but uses a water based gel ink.


This is when your writing can be faintly seen on the other side but the ink hasn’t bleed through the page.

Glass Pen

A type of dip pen that uses a glass tip in order to write with

Hooded Nib

This is when the pen’s section is designed so that it covers part of the nib, if not all but the tipping.


A liquid that is used to leave a mark on a surface that we often use in pens for writing.

Ink Window

This is when you have a clear section of the barrel, this can be a cutout, that allows you to see the amount of ink you have left.

Iridium Nib

This is the name given to nibs that use a ball of iridium welded to the tip to give a smoother and more durable nib.

Italic Nib

A grind of nib the is cut off at the end to offer line variation in writing.


A type of enamel “paint” that is used to the finish pens and gives a nicer appearance.

Mechanical Pencil

A type of pencil that instead of needing to be sharpened will advance the lead when you push a button or twist a part of the pencil.

Multi Pen

A type of ballpoint pen that uses multiple colours of ink that can be switched between at will.


A piece of metal – usually steel, gold or palladium – that ends in a point allowing for the ink to be directed to the paper.

Nib Creep

This is when ink from the feed makes its way onto the nib around the slit.

Oblique Nib

A type of nib grind that is similar to an italic nib but is cut off at an angle. This gives a different style of line variation.

Piston Fill

This is a filling mechanism that uses an internal piston to draw ink into the barrel, or converter, somewhat like a syringe but often with a screw mechanism.


This holds the ink in the pen be it a part of the barrel or the ink cartridge.


Extremely similar to a ballpoint with the major difference being that uses a water based liquid ink.

Screw Cap

A cap that needs to be screwed on to be fixed in place rather than pulled on or pushed off.


The part of the pen that you grip and that houses the nib and feed.


This is a property of inks where a nib puts down more ink in certain places making lighter and darker parts of the writing.


This is a fault in the nibs of pens where the nib will be writing but at certain parts the nib will not lay down ink.


The cutout between the tines of the nib that allows ink to flow down the feed to the tip.

Steel Nib

This is a nib that is made out of steel, these usually also have iridium tipping.

Stub Nib

A grind of nib that is cut off at the end, similar to a italic nib, but the corners are rounded over. This sacrifices line variation for a smoother writing experience.


The business end of a nib, this is the point or edge at the end of the nib that allows the pen to lay down a certain thickness of line.

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