What should we promote as the "generic" term for Markdown/CommonMark-like markup languages?

I suspect this might have already been brought up somewhere, but I can’t find any threads that seem to be related, so I’m posting a new topic.

Is there a good term to use that means “simple markup language for formatting text, a la Markdown”? I.e., a term that encompasses all similar markup languages? For example, if we had a term (let’s say it’s “SML” for “simple markup language”), we could say “Markdown is one of the earliest SMLs; CommonMark is a standardized and extensible SML based on Markdown.”

The word “markdown” (without the uppercase “M”) seems like it could be used in such a way; the relationship to the generic term “markup” is intuitive and self-descriptive, and I suspect there are people who already use the term in this way. Gruber, however, has made it clear that he thinks of “Markdown” as something that, in some sense, belongs to him. But he also seems to be okay with the existence of “flavors” of Markdown (such as Github-flavored Markdown) that don’t actually fit his original spec, which would seem to imply that markdown is a more “generic” term than it would seem at first.

One other drawback of the term “markdown” is that googling it leads to…well, Markdown, rather than an explanation of SMLs (let alone CommonMark). This is, of course, a fairly biased reason not to use the term, though.

In any case, I don’t think there’s necessarily a “right” answer to this question; I do, however, think that such a term would be a useful piece of vocab, and I think that as a community working together to create a spec for a SML that (IMO) has a good chance of becoming one of the most widely-used SMLs (if not the most widely-used), we have a prime opportunity to choose a particular term to use and promote.

I can’t think of any good alternatives to “markdown,” so I’ll just spitball some bad ones to get the ball rolling:

  • textmark (note that “TextMarks” is an unrelated SMS product, though…)
  • marktext (because it’s “markup” text that looks like text)
  • textup (same idea)
  • SML (pronounced “simul”) (yes, it’s terrible and I hate it)
  • BML (pronounced “bimul”; the B is for “basic”)
  • simplemark (sounds too much like yet another M******…)
  • cleantext (because the text looks “clean” regardless of whether it’s rendered or in text-only form; also sounds a bit like “cleartext,” which is possibly a good thing because that is, in some ways, an analogous concept)
  • easytext, easymark… these all sound too much like brand-names to me…

This term would be helpful for writing a philosophy statement.

Some more suggestions:

  • quickmark
  • genmark (for “generic markup (or down)”)
  • GML (for “generic markup language”)

“Lightweight Markup Language”


Could be “LiteMarkup” as shorthand for “Lightweight Markup Language”

Seconded. It already has a Wikipedia entry, so why make up new terminology.


Yes, lightweight markup language.

That is the term used in The text/markdown Media Type Internet-Draft as well.

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there already is a generic term – “light-markup”.

(some, like wikipedia, use “lightweight”, but that
implies that it’s deficient, incomplete, or lacking,
which is true of some variants, but not others.)

another generic, coined by one of the pioneers,
dean allen, who did textile, is “humane markup”.

textile was the light-markup in “movable type”,
the early blogging system that john gruber used,
so gruber actually “borrowed” the idea from allen,
a little nugget that he’s only rarely acknowledged.

to gruber’s credit, however, he gave his version
a new name, and thus deserves full kudos for the
popularity that markdown has received ever since.

restructured-text is also another light-markup, and
another one that was conceived before markdown.
it’s been used as the official format for python docs
since its beginning, and has served the purpose well,
which indicates that it doesn’t have the deficiencies
and fragmentation which markdown has suffered, so
one wonders why it hasn’t gotten too much attention.

there is also asciidoc, which is far more widely used
than people might suppose, given its fairly low profile;
although it is rather heavy for a “light” markup, it is
also impressively complete, and has working versions
of cross-platform converters to several output formats.



I like Lightweight Markup Language or LML (lem-el)

Disagree that lightweight in any way implies deficient or incomplete.

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Disagree that lightweight in any way
implies deficient or incomplete.

disagree all you like. :+)

but if the lightweight boxing champ
fought the heavyweight champion,
i don’t know which one would win,
but i know which one i’d bet on…

“light”, on the other hand, is often
juxtaposed favorably with “heavy”,
especially given the context of tech,
where this year’s iphone is almost
always more light (and less heavy)
than last year’s, thanks very much.


I would interpret “markdown” (little m) as being applicable as a generic category for all the various flavors of… markdown (not sure how to avoid the circular reference).

Whereas light-markup is a somewhat broader category.

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