Cursive is a style of handwriting in which all the letters in a word are connected, making a word one single (complicated) stroke. In the United States, cursive is usually taught in second or third grade (around ages seven to nine). In British English, the phrase "Joined-up writing" is far more commonly used, while the term "running writing" is often used in Australia.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, before the development of the typewriter, professional correspondence was written in cursive. This was called a "fair hand", meaning it looked good, and clerks were trained to imitate the exact handwriting of the firm. They were paid by the length of writing on the page, so they preferred variant spellings that had more letters in them. This percolated into the official spelling of French.
Most of the minuscule letters of cursive correspond quite directly to those seen on the printed or typewritten page, although neither cursive nor block letters commonly use the "hook a" or make their "g" with an ear and a backwards loop at the bottom. The "f" is written using two loops instead of a crossbar. The French and their imitators like to leave the "p" open at the bottom, like an "n". The letter "r", however, derives from the medieval "half r", and the "z" has a tail, also from medieval writing.
Cursive differs from the even more artistic Copperplate handwriting, which was used for captions of engravings in the eighteenth century, in that Copperplate writes the ascenders and descenders of minuscule letters with thick, solid lines, while cursive employs loops of thin lines. This would have saved ink in the clerk's office. The other letter forms have generally remained the same, though the minuscule letter "w" in the eighteenth century looked like what we now use for an "n" that was linked onto a "v". And of course the "long s" has disappeared.
Cursive is considered distinct from the so-called "printing" or "block letter" style of handwriting, in which the letters of a word are unconnected, and from "print-writing", which is a cross between cursive and printing, with some unconnected letters and some connected.
See also Roman cursive.
"Cursive" is also the name of a musical band; see Cursive (band).