AskDefine | Define majuscule

Dictionary Definition

majuscule adj
1 of or relating to a style of writing characterized by somewhat rounded capital letters; 4th to 8th centuries [ant: minuscule]
2 uppercase; "capital A"; "great A"; "many medieval manuscripts are in majuscule script" [syn: capital, great] n : 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 half of the type case and so became known as upper-case letters" [syn: capital, capital letter, upper case, upper-case letter] [ant: small letter]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A capital letter, especially one used in ancient manuscripts.

Derived terms



  1. capital (uppercase letter)

Extensive Definition

Capital letters or majuscules (in the Roman alphabet: A, B, C, D, …) are also simply called capitals, caps or upper case; manual typesetters kept them in the upper drawers of a desk or the upper type case, keeping the more frequently used minuscule letters on the lower shelf or lower type case. This practice may date back to Johann Gutenberg.
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.


Historically, majuscules are 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 latter 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.


In alphabets with a case distinction, capitals are used for:
  1. Capitalization,
  2. Acronyms,
  3. Supposed better legibility, for example on signs and in labeling (but see Ascender), and
  4. Emphasis (in some languages).
Capital letters were sometimes used for typographical emphasis in text made on a typewriter. However, long spans of 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. 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 upper-case and the remaining letters in lower-case. 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).

External links

majuscule in Tosk Albanian: Majuskel
majuscule in Belarusian: Маюскул
majuscule in Catalan: Majúscula
majuscule in Czech: Majuskule
majuscule in Danish: Majuskel
majuscule in German: Majuskel
majuscule in Spanish: Mayúscula
majuscule in Esperanto: Majusklo
majuscule in Finnish: Suuraakkonen
majuscule in French: Capitale et majuscule
majuscule in Galician: Maiúscula
majuscule in Croatian: Verzal
majuscule in Italian: Maiuscolo
majuscule in Dutch: Kapitaal (hoofdletter)
majuscule in Japanese: 大文字
majuscule in Norwegian: Majuskel
majuscule in Norwegian Nynorsk: Majuskel
majuscule in Polish: Majuskuła
majuscule in Portuguese: Caixa alta
majuscule in Russian: Маюскул
majuscule in Swedish: Majuskel
majuscule in Thai: อักษรตัวใหญ่
majuscule in Ukrainian: Маюскул
majuscule in Chinese: 大寫字母
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