Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet...

If you’re a designer, this phrase is everywhere. Known as “filler text” or “Greek copy”, people use it to simulate the appearance of whatever text will ultimately be used in a design. This way, a designer doesn’t have to wait for the text to be written to format it, and they and the client aren’t distracted from the graphical or interactive elements of the design by reading the copy. Because nobody would mistake it for their native language, Lorem Ipsum is also less likely than other filler text to be mistaken for final copy and published by accident.

Its use is somewhat controversial but widespread. You can use a generator to get paragraphs of this stuff, or simply copy a paragraph from somebody else’s web page, and loop it:

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. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

The thing is, one of the great things about Lorem Ipsum is that it really looks like real language. The words are a reasonable length, individual characters are used with about the right frequency. That actually isn’t a very easy thing to just pull out of thin air. And creating a standardized, professionally accepted written gibberish is even harder, which is why Lorem Ipsum is such a godsend for designers. Yes, you can hand your client a design for their very serious website with Hipster Ipsum as filler text, but they might not be too happy about it.

What is this incantation we wrap every prototype we make in, before filling it with the text we hope will make it great? It turns out that Lorem Ipsum is such a good tool in these ways because its half invented and half discovered. It does actually mean something. Here’s how it got from the pen of a Roman philosopher to your browser window, and how a medieval typesetter might have scrambled it on the way.

All Latin to Me


Lorem Ipsum on a wine bottle.


The Roman empire had the technology of written language, and a lot of their records, written in Latin, survive today. Unfortunately those records are shrouded in many dense layers of propaganda: they’ve been selectively preserved and presented by academics over the millennia, to support whatever political, religious, or philosophical cause; and of course, many of them were spun to the political needs of the Romans who wrote them in the first place. As a consequence, most ancient history should should be taken with several grains of salt.

In any case, the official history is as follows: In the first Century BC, there was a man named Marcus Tullius Cicero. He was a lawyer, statesman, and philosopher, and he was very good at oratory. In fact he might have been the best orator who has ever lived, and the most influential. Julius Caesar himself hailed him as a cultural titan: “It is more important to have greatly extended the frontiers of the Roman spirit than the frontiers of the Roman empire."

Among his works was the De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (“On the Extremes of Good and Evil”), which includes an excerpt believed to be the source for Lorem Ipsum. He wrote it in 45 BC:

Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem.

Which translates to:

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.

Many more words and fragments of the longer multi-paragraph form of Lorem Ipsum can also be found in this passage of De Finibus. The passage, in its entirety, relates to hedonism, and how sometimes we do unpleasant things to reach pleasurable goals, and sometimes indulgence in pleasure can incur painful consequences. The passage concludes, “The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.”

Cicero also was a supporter of the Republic, and opposed Julius Caesar and the subsequent empire. Cicero’s politics and influence eventually earned him the title of “enemy of the state,” and bought him a beheading. After cutting of his head, his executioners cut his eloquent hands off too, and it is said his tongue was also cut out and stabbed several times with a hairpin.