A letter or group of letters of the size and form generally used to begin sentences and proper nouns. Also known as “capital letters”.

Definition: The capital letters of the alphabet are uppercase glyphs. Uppercase letters are normally used at the beginning of sentences and as the first letter of proper names.

The term uppercase is derived from the days of metal type where the lesser used capital letters were kept in the harder to reach upper case while the more frequently used letters were kept nearer at hand, in the lower case.

Uppercase letters are created on the standard keyboard by holding down the “shift” key while typing a letter or by pressing the “Caps” key then typing (to make all letters uppercase).

Also Known As: capitals, capital letters, caps, big letters

Capital letters or majuscules (pronounced /məˈdʒʌskjuːlz/, /ˈmædʒəskjuːlz/) are the larger of two type faces in a script. In the Roman alphabet they are A, B, C, D, etc. They are also called capitals (caps) or upper case (uppercase). The latter name comes from the antique age of setting type for printing presses, when printers kept the type for these letters in the upper drawers of a desk or in the upper type case, while keeping the type for the more frequently-used smaller letters in the lower type case. This practice could date back to Johannes Gutenberg, but nobody really knows.

Capital and minuscule letters are differentiated in the Roman, Greek, Cyrillic, Armenian, and Coptic alphabets. Many other writing systems (such as those used in the Georgian language, Glagolitic, Arabic, Hebrew, and Devanagari) make no distinction between capital and lowercase letters – a system called unicase. Indeed, even European languages, except for Ancient Greek did not make this distinction before about the year 1300. Both “majuscule” and “minuscule” letters existed, but the printing press had not been invented, yet, and a given handwritten document could use either one size/style or the other. However, before about 1700 literacy was very low in Europe and the Americas, hence even handwriting was not used or understood by more than about one percent of people. Therefore, there was not any motivation to use both upper case and lower case letters in the same document: all documents were for the use of a few scholars, anyway.

From the compositor’s practice of keeping capital letters in the upper of a pair of type cases.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published