CSS font-variant-alternates

The font-variant-alternates property allows you to control the selection of alternate glyphs for a given character within a font.

The font-variant-alternates property is one of the properties introduced in CSS3 for enabling various font related features that can improve the appearance of the text on the page. The font-variant-alternates property deals specifically with selecting alternate glyphs.

For any given character, fonts can provide a variety of alternate glyphs in addition to the default glyph for that character. The font-variant-alternates property allows you to select which specific glyph you require for a given situation.


The syntax of the font-variant-alternates property is:

These values are explained in more detail below.

Possible Values

Most of the possible values are font-specific. Therefore, the @font-feature-values rule can be used to define values for a specific font family or set of families that associate a font-specific numeric feature-index with a custom feature-value-name.

Specifies that none of the features below are enabled.

Enables display of stylistic alternates (font specific, OpenType feature: salt feature-index).


Enables display of historical forms (OpenType feature: hist).

styleset(feature-value-name #)

Enables display with stylistic sets (font specific, OpenType feature: ssfeature-index). For example, ss01, ss02, ss03, etc

character-variant(feature-value-name #)

Enables display of specific character variants (font specific, OpenType feature: cvfeature-index). For example, cv01, cv02, cv03, etc


Enables display of swash glyphs (font specific, OpenType feature: swsh feature-index, cswh feature-index).


Enables replacement of default glyphs with ornaments, if provided in the font (font specific, OpenType feature: ornm feature-index).


Enables display of alternate annotation forms (font specific, OpenType feature: nalt feature-index).

In addition, all CSS properties also accept the following CSS-wide keyword values as the sole component of their property value:

Represents the value specified as the property's initial value.
Represents the computed value of the property on the element's parent.
This value acts as either inherit or initial, depending on whether the property is inherited or not. In other words, it sets all properties to their parent value if they are inheritable or to their initial value if not inheritable.

General Information

Initial Value
Applies To
All elements

Example Code

Official Specifications

Vendor Prefixes

For maximum browser compatibility many web developers add browser-specific properties by using extensions such as -webkit- for Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera (newer versions), -ms- for Internet Explorer, -moz- for Firefox, -o- for older versions of Opera etc. As with any CSS property, if a browser doesn't support a proprietary extension, it will simply ignore it.

This practice is not recommended by the W3C, however in many cases, the only way you can test a property is to include the CSS extension that is compatible with your browser.

The major browser manufacturers generally strive to adhere to the W3C specifications, and when they support a non-prefixed property, they typically remove the prefixed version. Also, W3C advises vendors to remove their prefixes for properties that reach Candidate Recommendation status.

Many developers use Autoprefixer, which is a postprocessor for CSS. Autoprefixer automatically adds vendor prefixes to your CSS so that you don't need to. It also removes old, unnecessary prefixes from your CSS.

You can also use Autoprefixer with preprocessors such as Less and Sass.