Capital letter


Capital letter

__NOTOC__Capital letters or majuscules [IPA pronunciation: /məˈdʒʌskyuls, ˈmædʒəˌskyuls/] , in the Roman alphabet "A", "B", "C", "D", etc., may also be called capitals, or caps. Upper case, upper-case, or uppercase is also often used in this context as synonym of capital. Manual typesetters kept them in the upper drawers of a desk or in the upper type case, while keeping the more frequently used minuscule letters in the lower type case. This practice might date back to Johannes Gutenberg.

Capital and small letters are differentiated in the Roman, Greek, Cyrillic and Armenian alphabets. Most writing systems (such as those used in Arabic, and Devanagari) make no distinction between capital and lowercase letters (and, of course, logographic writing systems such as Chinese have no "letters" at all). Indeed, even European languages did not make this distinction before about 1300; both majuscule and minuscule letters existed, but a given text would use either one or the other.

History

Historically, the majuscule glyphs preceded the minuscules, which evolved from the majuscules for use in cursive writing. In Western European writing they can be divided into five eras:
*Greek majuscule (9th – 3rd century B.C.) in contrast to the Greek uncial script (3rd century B.C. – 12 century A.D.) and the later Greek minuscule
*Roman majuscule (7th century B.C. – 4th century A.D.) in contrast to the Roman uncial (4th – 8th century B.C.), Roman Half Uncial, and minuscule
*Carolingian majuscule (4th – 8th century A.D.) in contrast to the Carolingian minuscule (around 780 – 12th century)
*Gothic majuscule (13th and 14th century), in contrast to the early Gothic (end of 11th to 13th century), Gothic (14th century), and late Gothic (16th century) minuscules.

Usage

In alphabets with a case distinction, capitals are used for:
# Capitalization,
# Acronyms,
# Supposed better legibility, for example on signs and in labeling (but "see" Ascender), and
# Emphasis (in some languages).

Capital letters were sometimes used for typographical emphasis in text made on a typewriter. However, long spans of Latin-alphabet text in all upper-case are harder to read because of the absence of the ascenders and descenders found in lower-case letters, which can aid recognition. With the advent of modern computer editing technology and the Internet, emphasis is usually indicated by use of a single word Capital, italic, or bold font, similar to what has long been common practice in print. In typesetting, when an acronym or initialism requires a string of upper-case letters, it is frequently set in small capitals, to avoid overemphasizing the word in mostly lower-case running text. In electronic communications, it is often considered very poor "netiquette" to type in all capitals, because it can be harder to read and because it is seen as tantamount to shouting. Indeed, this is the oft-used name for the practice.

Capitalization is the writing of a word with its first letter in uppercase and the remaining letters in lowercase. Capitalization rules vary by language and are often quite complex, but in most modern languages that have capitalization, the first word of every sentence is capitalized, as are all proper nouns. Some languages, such as German, capitalize the first letter of all nouns; this was previously common in English as well. (See the article on capitalization for a detailed list of norms).

Other meanings

For paleographers, a Majuscule script is any script in which the letters have very few or very short ascenders and descenders, or none at all (for example, the majuscule scripts used in the Codex Vaticanus, or the Book of Kells).

ee also

* All caps
* CamelCase
* Shift key
* Letter case
* Roman square capitals
* Small caps

External links

* [http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~wie/Vaticanus/index.html Codex Vaticanus B/03] Detailed description of Codex Vaticanus with many images.
* [http://hubel.sfasu.edu/courseinfo/SL03/email_study.htm All-caps is harder to read]
*" [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/20374 Capitals] , a Primer of Information About Capitalization With Some Practical Typographic Hints as to The Use Of Capitals" by Frederick W. Hamilton, 1918, from Project Gutenberg


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Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Capital letter — Capital Cap i*tal, a. [F. capital, L. capitalis capital (in senses 1 & 2), fr. caput head. See {Chief}, and cf. {Capital}, n.] 1. Of or pertaining to the head. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] Needs must the Serpent now his capital bruise Expect with mortal …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • capital letter — n. the form of an alphabetical letter used to begin a sentence or proper name [A, B, C, etc. are capital letters] …   English World dictionary

  • capital letter — late 14c.; see CAPITAL (Cf. capital). So called because it is at the head of a sentence or word …   Etymology dictionary

  • capital letter — see CAPITAL1 2 …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • capital letter — noun one of the large alphabetic characters used as the first letter in writing or printing proper names and sometimes for emphasis printers once kept the type for capitals and for small letters in separate cases; capitals were kept in the upper… …   Useful english dictionary

  • capital letter — Capital, large letter …   New dictionary of synonyms

  • capital letter — capital letters N COUNT Capital letters are the same as capitals …   English dictionary

  • capital letter — noun Letters A, B, C, ... (as opposed to a, b, c, ...) Syn: big letter, capital, upper case letter, uppercase letter Ant: lower case letter, lowercase letter, small letter …   Wiktionary

  • capital letter — a letter of the alphabet that usually differs from its corresponding lowercase letter in form and height, as A, B, Q, and R as distinguished from a, b, q, and r: used as the initial letter of a proper name, the first word of a sentence, etc. Also …   Universalium

  • capital letter —    In typography, uppercase letters (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, etc.) In c. 114 CE, an inscription was chiseled into the base of a column in Trajan s Forum, Rome. That inscription had most of the capital letters known today. Until the sixth century …   Glossary of Art Terms


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