Textkit Logo

Capitalization in Latin

Here you can discuss all things Latin. Use this board to ask questions about grammar, discuss learning strategies, get help with a difficult passage of Latin, and more.

Moderator: thesaurus

Capitalization in Latin

Postby ferrous » Sat Apr 09, 2011 7:51 pm

I was speaking with someone I knew earlier, and they mentioned that capitalization in Latin changes the meaning - that, for instance, "optima" with the first letter capitalized means "optimist" instead of what the Unicorn dictionary defines it as: the superlative form of "bonus, bona, bonum".

I ask you Textkitters for verification. There hasn't been any mention of it in Wheelock's so far, and it is a bit mind-boggling since I was taught that the Romans didn't have capitalization. Could it be a quirk of Ecclesiastical Latin or something uncommon?
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:14 pm

Re: Capitalization in Latin

Postby dlb » Sat Apr 09, 2011 9:39 pm

The only reference to capitalization that I found is from Bennetts, Section 1, in which he states,
"With the Romans, who regularly employed only capitals ..."

Also, from Omliglot (http://www.omniglot.com/writing/latin.htm)
"There were no lower case letters, ..."
"The lowercase letters developed from cursive versions of the uppercase letters. "

Hope this helps in some small way.
Deus me ducet, non ratio.
Observito Quam Educatio Melius Est.
Textkit Member
Posts: 148
Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 1:43 am
Location: Lilburn, Ga.

Re: Capitalization in Latin

Postby Scribo » Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:11 am

No but you should invite him to a Duella or a Proelia for that...
(Occasionally) Working on the following tutorials:

(P)Aristotle, Theophrastus and Peripatetic Greek
Intro Greek Poetry
Latin Historical Prose
User avatar
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
Posts: 840
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2008 2:28 pm
Location: Between Ilias and Odysseia (ok sometimes Athens).

Re: Capitalization in Latin

Postby calvinist » Mon Apr 11, 2011 12:53 am

Classical Latin did not have a lower-case/upper-case distinction. That (among other things) is a later orthographic invention. As far as I know, medieval Latin was written according to the punctuation/capitalization rules of the writer's native language. In fact, medieval Latin is many times grammatically influenced by the writer's native tongue in areas such as word order, semantic range of words, etc.
User avatar
Textkit Enthusiast
Posts: 473
Joined: Fri Apr 29, 2005 7:24 pm
Location: San Diego, CA

Re: Capitalization in Latin

Postby LaurentiusH » Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:39 am


ferrous wrote:I was speaking with someone I knew earlier, and they mentioned that capitalization in Latin changes the meaning

Maybe the person you were speaking with alluded to chronograms (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronogram), where capital letters are used both as a letter and a number?

Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Jul 29, 2010 8:52 am

Re: Capitalization in Latin

Postby Imber Ranae » Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:33 pm

Sounds like someone was telling you nonsense. I can't think of any situation in which Optima could mean "optimist".
Ex mala malo
bono malo uesci
quam ex bona malo
malo malo malo.
Imber Ranae
Textkit Member
Posts: 190
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 5:06 am

Re: Capitalization in Latin

Postby furrykef » Fri Apr 22, 2011 3:45 pm

"Optima" with a capital letter would likely be the name of a person (or divine being or something), who might be an optimist, but there's no convention I've heard of for capitalizing words to change their meaning. There are many different conventions for capitalization in modern Latin. One way to do it is to follow exactly the same rules as English. Likewise you could follow, say, the same rules as in Spanish, where names of people, cities, and countries are capitalized, but names of (say) languages or adjectival forms of place names (like "Italian" as opposed to "Italy") are not. Some Latin writers don't even capitalize the first word of a sentence, though some such writers still capitalize proper names.
Founder of Learning Languages Through Video Games.

Delirant isti romani!
User avatar
Textkit Enthusiast
Posts: 370
Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 7:18 am

Return to Learning Latin

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], ÓBuadhaigh and 133 guests