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capitalization: words derived from proper nouns

The general guidelines below will help you to decide whether to capitalize a word derived from a proper noun. However, check proper noun derivatives carefully. Usage in this regard is not standardized.


As a general rule, capitalize a name used adjectivally or an adjective derived from a proper noun:

  • Digby chicken
  • Canadian whisky
  • Franciscan friar
  • Newtonian physics

Proper adjectives are associated with the person or place from whose name they are derived. When this association is remote, the adjective becomes common and in most cases no longer takes a capital, as illustrated below:

  • bohemian lifestyle
  • chinaware
  • french fry
  • manila envelope
  • platonic relationship


Verbs derived from proper nouns are also capitalized unless their association with the proper noun is remote:

  • Germanize
  • Russify


  • italicize
  • vulcanize

Exception: Note that the verb anglicize is now usually spelled with a lower case a.