[ kap-i-tl-uh-zey-shuhn ]
/ ˌkæp ɪ tl əˈzeɪ ʃən /
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Definition of capitalization

the act or process of capitalizing.
the authorized or outstanding stocks and bonds of a corporation.
  1. the total investment of the owner or owners in a business enterprise.
  2. the total corporate liability.
  3. the total arrived at after addition of liabilities.
conversion into stocks or bonds.
the act of computing the present value of future periodical payments.


Capitalization Is Complicated: Can You Answer These Questions Correctly?

With so many rules, capitalization is perfect for a game show. Will you learn something new or take the prize?

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Origin of capitalization

First recorded in 1855–60; capitalize + -ation
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does capitalization mean?

Capitalization is the process of capitalizing words—making their first letter a capital letter (an uppercase letter). It can also refer to the state of being capitalized.

For example, to capitalize the word polish (which is here spelled with a lowercase p), you would write it as Polish.

A word whose first letter is a capital can be described as capitalized.

Capitalization is used in English for a few different reasons. It is considered a standard rule of English to capitalize proper nouns (which are nouns that refer to specific people, places, or things—meaning one’s that have specific names), such as Jess, Mexico, and Nintendo. Capitalization can change the way the reader interprets the meaning of a word, as in the case of polish (a verb meaning to make something shinier) and Polish (an adjective describing someone from Poland) or apple (the fruit) and Apple (the company).

We also capitalize the first word in a sentence. Sometimes, we capitalize the first letter of each word in a title, as in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. 

Example: Please check your paper for proper punctuation and capitalization.  

Capitalization and capitalize also have several more general meanings. In the context of finance, they are used in more specific and technical ways. A company’s capitalization (or market capitalization) is an estimate of how much it’s worth based on the value of stock.

Example: The company has the largest market capitalization in the industry.

Where does capitalization come from?

The first records of the word capitalization come from the 1850s. It’s a noun form of the verb capitalize, which comes from the Latin capitālis, meaning “concerning the head,” or “chief,” from caput, “head.” The word capital in the sense of money comes from the Medieval Latin capitāle, meaning “wealth.” The suffix -ize in capitalize is used to form verbs and means “to make” or “to convert into.” The suffix -ation is used to form nouns.

It can be confusing to know whether or not to capitalize certain words in certain situations, but a capitalization guide can help.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to capitalization?

What are some words that share a root or word element with capitalization


What are some words that often get used in discussing capitalization?

How is capitalization used in real life?

The word capitalization can be used in many different contexts. Capitalization is an important part of spelling and grammar.


Try using capitalization!

In which of the following cases is capitalization usually used?

A. proper nouns
B. the first word in a sentence
C. the first word in a title
D. all of the above


What does capitalization mean?

Capitalization is the act of using capital letters.

A capital letter (A, B, C, etc.) is a letter of the alphabet that is bigger than the lower case version (e.g., c, o, s) and sometimes styled differently as well (e.g., a, b, q). In English, we use capital letters for several reasons.

The most common reasons we use capitalization in English are to begin a sentence and to indicate a proper noun.

We capitalize the first letter of the first word of a sentence to show that this is the beginning of the sentence, as in Who took my wallet?

This includes complete sentences that are used in quotations, as in Mom said, “We are going to the mall.”

We also use capitalization for proper nouns, that is a particular person, place, or thing, like James, New York, or the Library of Congress.

Sometimes, though, companies name themselves or their products without any capitalization or with capitalization in the middle of the word (sometimes called camel case), as in adidas, eBay, and WikiAnswers.

The pronoun I is always capitalized, no matter where it is used in a sentence, as in He went to the park, but I stayed home.

Why is capitalization important?

The first records of the word capitalization come from around 1855. It comes from the verb capitalize, meaning “to use capital letters.”

While some rules of capitalization are pretty simple to remember, others, like those for proper nouns, are trickier.

Sometimes, common nouns become proper nouns when they are used as titles or used to address specific people or things, as in I like listening to my grandpa’s stories because Grandpa tells the best stories.

Days of the week, months, and holidays are capitalized but seasons are not, as in I really hate winter, but I love Christmas.

Nationalities, languages, time periods, and events are proper nouns and should be capitalized, as in My wife, who is Croatian, learned about World War I in history class.

There are many schools of thought (referred to as style guides) on which words to capitalize in a title of a composition, such as a book, chapter in a book, movie, or song. Most style guides suggest capitalizing by part of speech. Nouns, verbs, and adjectives are almost always capitalized, while other words are not, as in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. When writing for school or work, it’s best to ask what capitalization style you should follow for titles.

Did you know ... ?

English is not the only language that uses capitalization, but the rules are often different in other languages. In German, for example, all nouns are capitalized, not just proper nouns.

What are real-life examples of capitalization?

This handy Thesaurus.com article explains some of the most common instances where we use capitalization.

We use capitalization in every English sentence. Sometimes, even longtime speakers get tripped up by the rules of capitalization.

What other words are related to capitalization?

Quiz yourself!

Does the following sentence correctly use capitalization?

Tom likes to quote William shakespeare.

How to use capitalization in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for capitalization



/ (ˌkæpɪtəlaɪˈzeɪʃən) /

  1. the act of capitalizing
  2. the sum so derived
accounting the par value of the total share capital issued by a company, including the loan capital and sometimes reserves
the act of estimating the present value of future payments, earnings, etc
the act of writing or printing in capital letters
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012