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In typography, "dickte" designates the width of a letter. Nowadays, one might come across this word possibly when configuring fonts on a computer, where sometimes dicktengleiche fonts find mention.

I am out of my depth where the -te suffix in Dickte might stem from, and in general concerning the origin of this word and the suffix. Duden says, with its usual etymological precision, it is derived from dick; DWDS is not helpful, and neither is wiktionary. The brothers Grimm remain silent on the matter, and while I cannot access Kluge at the moment, I suppose there wouldn't be much there, either.

I have formed one suspicion: There seems to be, according to wiktionary, an old Germanic suffix *-iþō that lives forth e.g. in the English suffix -th (as in wid-th, bread-th and so on), and was present also in High German as -ida (mhd. -ede), which is retained (although not productive) e.g. in New High German Gemein-de. In Dutch, there is the dikte that seems obviously related, although in its modern sense it seems to have more of the consistency-related connotations rather than referring to purely physical dimension. I could imagine, however, that some Dutch oder Low German intermediate forms made their way as a technical term into the language of typographers and other craftsmen that spoke High German.

Does anyone know more?

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    I only can add, that the term Dickte exists also in woodworking: wikipedia_1 and wikipedia_2 and also in bell casting, where Dickte seems to be a name for the model of the bell zeno Aug 25, 2022 at 15:03
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    Another, rather long shot: Could it be that dick and dicht are related?
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Aug 25, 2022 at 18:53
  • @JonathanScholbach I'm afraid not. Aug 26, 2022 at 8:44
  • Grimm says: “im volk hört man auch dickte”, but that’s the only instance of it I was able to find
    – dlrlc
    Aug 27, 2022 at 12:16
  • Wiktionary has in interesting link to books.google.de/…, (a book from 1827), and when you read on on that page you see that "Dickte" also seems to have a special meaning beyond "Dicke" in metal foundry (which Bleisatz also is of course), as a material or part that represents the final product when making a mold. Of course I don't know how old that usage is.
    – HalvarF
    Aug 28, 2022 at 18:58

1 Answer 1

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I'm a native speaker and have never used the word. It's an Old-German word and was used as a technical term in the era of typewriters. In today's language you can't add "te" to "dick". You can increase "thick": "dick - dicker - dicksten"

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    There are many technical terms unknown to most native speakers outside that technical domain, so that doesn't prove anything. In particular, you seem to assume that "Dickte" is related to "dicker", but don't explain why.
    – RalfFriedl
    Aug 30, 2022 at 9:06
  • @RalfFriedl: You are right that you only know many technical terms if you are involved in the subject area. I claim that the word "Dicke" comes from the word "dick".Why? If you look up the meaning of the technical term, it is very obvious.The Duden says that "Dickte" derives from "dick" (duden.de/rechtschreibung/Dickte) You also have to consider when the word originated. It is a technical term from the typewriter age. The typewriter has existed since the 18th century. The German language has changed a lot in the last 200 years.For example, look at original texts by Wilhelm Busch.
    – Angela
    Aug 30, 2022 at 12:55
  • Hi Angela, I appreciate your answer, but it unfortunately doesn't address the question of where this weird "-te" suffix comes from, especially since it is not seen anywhere else in modern day German. Sep 8, 2022 at 13:27
  • @Angela "Dickte" occurs also in the area of woodworking, especially and most frequently in Dicktenhobel (planer) which reduces a piece of wood to a certain precise thickness, as opposed to the Abrichthobel (jointer) that is (mostly) used to produce vertical edges. Entering "Dicktenhobel" into a search engine will lead you to pictures of such machines. Sep 14, 2022 at 11:05

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