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Lorem Ipsum: What Is It, and Where Did it Come From?

Lorem Ipsum. Say what?

If you’ve ever looked at a website theme, a stock graphic, a pre-made page layout, etc., you’ve probably seen something like the following:

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.”

A foreign language? A bunch of gibberish? What does it all mean?

The text referenced above is called Lorem Ipsum, and it is a dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry—and has been since the 1500s. It is used to fill space in a print or digital layout—the space where one’s own original copy will eventually reside.

Other common names for Lorem Ipsum include blind text, dummy text, placeholder text, mock content, filler text and Greek text, (which is misleading based on its origins—more on that below).

The idea is that a layout does not look complete without copy, so Lorem Ipsum exists to give a layout that fleshed-out appearance.

Where does Lorem Ipsum come from?

To a degree, Lorem Ipsum is gibberish, but it is rooted in a real language: Latin. The text’s origins are based on a passage from a piece of classical Latin literature dating back to 45 BC. That means that Lorem Ipsum is more than 2,000 years old!

To get specific, Lorem Ipsum comes from sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 of “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” (On the Extremes of Good and Evil) by Cicero. The essay is a treatise on the theory of ethics and was very popular during the Renaissance.

However, while derived from Cicero, Lorem Ipsum itself does not actually make any real sense. It is said that in the 16th century, a typesetter was making a book to demo different fonts. He decided that the text should be nonsense so that people would focus on the visual quality of the fonts themselves rather than what the words signified. Apparently, the typesetter took a page from Cicero’s essay and jumbled up the letters and words to essentially turn it into nonsense.

If you’re curious, a portion of the text that Lorem Ipsum was derived from translates as follows:

“Nor is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure.”

What is the purpose of Lorem Ipsum?

Lorem Ipsum serves to provide the appearance of actual copy on a layout without having the viewer get distracted by what the text is saying. Since Lorem Ipsum is nonsensical, there is no chance that a person considering the look of a layout will get distracted by its context. He or she can view and consider the copy based solely on its appearance on the page.

That being said, Lorem Ipsum was designed so that it appears with a normal distribution of letters and word spacing to make it look like real, readable English. Of course, you will eventually replace Lorem Ipsum with wording of your choice in a real, readable language.

How can I produce my own Lorem Ipsum?

If you are creating your own visual layout, there are a plethora of online Lorem Ipsum generators that will create the adequate amount of filler copy that you need. Be careful, however, that you are using a legitimate source. The Latin-based dummy copy has been altered heavily over the centuries of its existence—to the point where some may include vulgar, comedic or embarrassing lines of text in the middle of a passage.

While essentially gibberish, Lorem Ipsum does serve an important purpose in terms of grasping the full picture in terms of layout and design.

The McNutt & Partners team is a full-service advertising and digital marketing agency. Contact us today for your marketing needs! Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. McWilliams

    Very interesting. I was not aware of this technique, but I see where it is very useful in design layout.

    1. James M. Joyce

      It’s an important part of our web team’s toolbox!

  2. Daniel Dan

    That is an interesting article, thanks for sharing!

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