lower-case letters

Save This Word!

“Small letters”; letters of the alphabet that are not capital letters or upper-case letters.

Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


What are lowercase letters?

Lowercase letters are the shorter, smaller versions of letters (like w), as opposed to the bigger, taller versions (like W), which are called uppercase letters or capital letters.

The adjective lowercase can also be used as a noun meaning the same thing as lowercase letter, though this is much less commonly used. The adjective uppercase can also be used as a noun in this way. As an adjective, uppercase means the same thing as capital, and uppercase letters can also be called capitals.

Some lowercase letters are just shorter, smaller versions of their uppercase counterparts (like lowercase w and uppercase W or lowercase c and uppercase C), but in many cases the two versions of the letter take different forms altogether, such as lowercase a and uppercase A or lowercase b and uppercase B.

To capitalize a word is to make its first letter a capital or uppercase letter. The word uppercase can be used as a verb to mean the same thing. The word lowercase can be used as a verb meaning to make a letter lowercase. For example, to lowercase the word Polish (which is here spelled with an uppercase p), you would write it with a lowercase P, as polish.

In English, uppercase letters are used at the beginning of words for a few different reasons. It is considered a standard rule of English to use an uppercase letter to start 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. Using an uppercase or lowercase letter at the start of a word can change the way the reader interprets its meaning, 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 use an uppercase letter for the first letter of the first word in a sentence. Sometimes, we use an uppercase letter for the first letter of each word in a title, as in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. This is sometimes called title case.

Some acronyms and abbreviations are written using all uppercase letters, such as NASA and U.S. A word written entirely in uppercase letters (like WHAT) is said to be written in caps or all caps.

Using lowercase letters in any of these cases typically indicates that the communication is casual or informal, such as in text messages or online posts.

Example: A lot of people exclusively use lowercase letters in text messages unless they want to emphasize something.

Where does lowercase letter come from?

The term lowercase letter has been used since at least the 1680s. The words uppercase and lowercase come from printing. The process of physically printing things with printing presses involved trays, called cases, that were divided into compartments for holding different kinds of type (blocks with letters on them). The upper case held capital letters and the lower case held what came to be known as lowercase letters.

It can be confusing to know whether to use uppercase or lowercase letters in certain situations, but a capitalization guide can help.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to lowercase letter?

  • lower-case letter (alternate hyphenated spelling)
  • lower case letter (alternate two-word spelling)

What are some synonyms for lowercase letter?

  • lowercase (when lowercase is used as a noun)

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

What are some words that often get used in discussing lowercase letter?

How are lowercase letters used in real life?

In most contexts, the majority of letters in a text are lowercase letters. Uppercase letters are used in the beginning of names and other proper nouns, at the beginning of sentences, at the beginning of words in titles, and in some abbreviations. Informal communication like text messages and online posts are sometimes written entirely in lowercase letters.

Try using lowercase letters!

Which of the following letters is a lowercase letter?

A. e
B. h
C. r
D. all of the above

How to use lower-case letters in a sentence