Alphabet Soup: Pen & Nib Designations

Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup


Have you ever wondered what the M in front of your beloved M800 stands for?  Do you have a DEF nib on an old Ibis and think to yourself what does that D stand for?  Read on for a quick breakdown of what Pelikan’s letter designations stand for as gathered from various sources.  Of course, I strived to make sure the following list is as factual as possible but there is always room for error, especially since I have no understanding of the German language.  If you do see an error, please feel free to let me know so that I can make the appropriate correction.  Many of these terms can also be found in the glossary.


Pen Designations

  • Mxxx:  Mechanik-Füller or Federhalter – Mechanical or piston driven fountain pen
  • Pxxx:  Patronen-Füller or Federhalter – Cartridge pen
  • Rxxx:  Rollerball – Rollerball
  • Dxxx:  Druckbleistift – Mechanical pencil
  • Kxxx:  Kugelschreiber – Ballpoint pen

As far as Pelikan’s naming system is concerned, the first number is a series number (1xx, 2xx, 3xx, 4xx, 5xx, 6xx, 8xx, or 10xx).  This denotes models of roughly the same size and style.  All pens ending in ‘0’ denote a standard model with gold trim and ‘5’ indicates a standard model with rhodium trim.  When the second digit is a ‘2,’ ‘3,’ or ‘4,’ it indicate a special edition, often released with some sterling silver component.  When the second digit is a ‘5,’ this generally refers to a vermeil edition in the Souverän line.  The exception to this is the M250 of the tradition line which is characterized by a 14K gold nib.

Nib Designations

*Other sizes are likely to exist that are not well documented and/or listed below

  • A – (Anfänger) – Beginner’s nib (rounded tipping)
  • EEF – (Besonders Fein) – Extra extra fine
  • EF – (Sehr Fein) – Extra fine
  • F – (Fein) – Fine
  • M – (Mittel) – Medium
  • B – (Breit) – Broad
  • KEF – (Kugel Sehr Fein) – Ball-tip extra fine
  • KF – (Kugel Fein) – Ball-tip fine
  • KM – (Kugel Mittel) – Ball-tip medium
  • DEF – (Durchschreib Sehr Fein) – Manifold extra fine
  • DF – (Durchschreib Fein) – Manifold fine
  • DM – (Durchschreib Mittel) – Manifold medium
  • DOM – (Durchschreib Linksschräge Mittel) – Manifold oblique medium (rarely seen, possibly special order)
  • OEF [09] – (Linksschräge Sehr Fein) – Left oblique extra fine (vintage left oblique nibs were usually indicated by a number rather than a letter designation)
  • OF [08] – (Linksschräge Fein) – Left oblique fine
  • OM [07] – (Linksschräge Mittel) – Left oblique medium
  • OB [06] – (Linksschräge Breit) – Left oblique broad
  • OBB [05] – (Linksschräge Sehr Breit) – Left oblique broad broad or Left oblique double broad
  • OBBB [04] – (Linksschräge Besonders Breit) – Left oblique broad broad broad or Left oblique triple broad
  • R – (Rechtsschräge Mittel) – Right oblique medium
  • RB – (Rechtsschräge Breit) – Right oblique broad
  • RBB – (Rechtsschräge Sehr Breit) – Right oblique broad broad or Right oblique double broad
  • BB – (Sehr Breit) – Broad broad or Double broad
  • BBB – (Besonders Breit) – Broad broad broad or Triple broad
  • STEEF – (Stenographie Besonders Fein) – Stenographic extra extra fine
  • STEF – (Stenographie Sehr Fein) – Stenographic extra fine
  • HEF – (Harte Sehr Fein) – Hard extra fine
  • HF – (Harte Fein) – Hard fine
  • HM – (Harte Mittel) – Hard medium
  • HB – (Harte Breit) – Hard bold
  • ML – (Mittel Lettering) – Medium lettering
  • BL – (Breit Lettering) – Bold lettering
  • BBL – (Sehr Breit Lettering) – Broad broad lettering or Double broad lettering
  • 1.0mm – 1.omm Calligraphy nib
  • 1.5mm – 1.5mm Calligraphy nib
  • 1.75mm – 1.75mm Calligraphy nib
  • 2.0mm – 2.0mm Calligraphy nib
  • IM – (Italic Mittel) – Italic medium
  • IB – (Italic Breit) – Italic bold
  • SM – (Scheiben Mittel) – Disk top medium (a very scarce “disk-top” series of nibs found on early Pelikan’s, usually the script nibs.  Characterized by an angled nib that is flat on the end.  Known to write smoothly and lay down a significant amount of ink.  Used for lettering and producing round end lines)
  • SB – (Scheiben Breit) – Disk top broad
  • SBB – (Scheiben Sehr Breit) – Disk top broad broad or Disk top double broad
  • PF – (Pfannenfeder) – Pan spring nib (a different type of tipping available on the Pelikano and 120 in the 1950’s designed for the use by young school children.  Produces a somewhat fatter line and responds to the application of variable degrees of pressure.  Not to be confused with the Swiss customs stamped PF nibs)
  • Music Nib – A flexible nib with two slits designed for recording musical notation
  • S – (Special) – A custom ground nib from the “Make a Wish Nib” program introduced 2/2014

*Nib sizes in green text are part of Pelikan’s current offerings

Pelikan Nib Size Chart 1

Early chart of available Pelikan nib sizes


Pelikan Nib Size Chart 2

Later chart of available Pelikan nib sizes (1950’s or 60’s)


Pelikan Nib Size Chart 3

Modern listing of available Pelikan nib sizes


16 responses

  1. Pingback: How-To: Safely Remove & Replace a Pelikan Nib « The Pelikan's Perch

  2. It is really interesting to see that these B and BB are — as opposed to what they are now mostly — not only producing fatter lines than the EF to M nibs but are in fact stubbish.

    I have an old KaWeCo V16 with a 14k gold B nib that resembles the B on the first picure you provide, writing beautifully. I normally do not lament about things then and now but this kind of B is adding something to handwriting that a modern B or BB from many brands including Pelikan does not, as you can see above.

    Thank you for providing this list and the additional information!


    • You’re welcome. There is a great difference between the nib sizes of yesterday and those of today. My money will always be on the older nibs for the character that seemed inherent in each one. While today’s nibs get the job done, yesterday’s nibs did it with more flourish and joy.


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  4. Would you happen to know the effect of having a “ball tip” on the lines? Am trying to figure out based on the chart — comparing F vs. KF — however the handwriting looks very different altogether to my untrained eyes.


    • Hello. The Kugel nibs have ball tipping. It simply makes the tipping a bit more rounded and blobby so that it is more forgiving of the angle that you chose to write with. The line width isn’t horribly different between kugel and non-kugel versions. I think the line just loses a little character compared with standard sizes of that same era.


  5. Pingback: Nib Customization: A Guide to Common Nib Grinds « The Pelikan's Perch

  6. Pingback: Pelikan 101: An Infographic & Understanding The Basics « The Pelikan's Perch

    • “+” symbols have been seen on some of Pelikan’s older nibs. Not super commonly encountered. The meaning is not entirely clear but this is usually seen on pens for export so it might just be a customs stamp of sorts. Don’t know that there is anything definite out there on the topic.


  7. I’m starting to think if I get anymore Pelikan pens (or pens over $200), maybe the vintage Pelikan route is the way to go. I have one, plus soon to be 4 newer Pelikans.

    I think I’ve spent enough on pens, but we all know how that goes. I do want another Edison pen.


    • Once you’ve had a taste of vintage Pelikan, it’s hard to stop at just one. It was really the golden age of Pelikan’s fountain pen production. The nibs alone are worth the price of admission.


  8. Very cool post! Forgive a newbie question, but what does a “BL” lettering nib do differently from a standard “B” nib? I can’t find any writing examples online anywhere… Thanks for educating me if you know!


    • You won’t find much on these. From what I’ve read, the lettering nibs are part of a calligraphy series and are not designed for standard writing. They have a stronger flow and are great for very slow lettering. They can be trickier to use due to a relatively small sweet spot.


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