Lower case

Lower case

Lower case (also "lower-case" or "lowercase"), minuscule, or small letters are the smaller form of letters, as opposed to upper case or capital letters, as used in European alphabets (Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, and Armenian). For example, the letter "a" is lower case while the letter "A" is upper case.

Originally alphabets were written entirely in capital letters, spaced between well-defined upper and lower boundsFact|date=December 2007. When written quickly with a pen, these tended to turn into rounder and much simpler forms, like uncialsFact|date=December 2007. It is from these that the first minuscule hands developed, the half-uncials and cursive minuscule, which no longer stay bound between a pair of lines.

These in turn formed the foundations for the Carolingian minuscule script, developed by Alcuin for use in the court of Charlemagne, which quickly spread across Europe. Here for the first time it became common to mix both upper and lower case letters in a single text.

The term "lower case" comes from manual typesetting. Since minuscules were more frequent in text than majuscules, typesetters placed them in the lower and nearer "type case", while the case with the majuscules (the "upper case") was above and behind, a longer reach.

The word "minuscule" is often spelled "miniscule", by association with the unrelated word "miniature" and the prefix "mini-". This has traditionally been regarded as a spelling mistake (since "minuscule" is derived from the word "minus" [Charlton T. Lewis, [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0060%3Aentry%3D%239936 minusculus] ] ), but is now so common that some dictionaries tend to accept it as a nonstandard spelling variation.Fact|date=March 2008 However, "miniscule" is still less likely to be used for lower-case letters.


Traditionally, "more important" letters—those beginning sentences or nouns—were made larger; then they were written in a different script, although there was no fixed capitalization system until the early eighteenth century (and even then all nouns were capitalized, a system still followed in German but not in English).

Similar developments have taken place in other alphabets. The lower-case script for the Greek alphabet has its origins in the seventh century and acquired its quadrilinear form in the eighth century. Over time, uncial letter forms were increasingly mixed into the script. The earliest dated Greek lower-case text is the Uspenski Gospels (MS 461) in the year 835. The modern practice of capitalizing every sentence seems to be imported (and is commonly not used when printing Ancient Greek materials even today).

The Samaritan alphabet also had lower-case letters, making it relatively unusual among abjads such as Hebrew, Syriac and Arabic, which tend to be written without case.


In scripts with a case distinction, the lower case is generally used in most texts, and for most of any given text, with the upper case reserved for emphasis and special contexts.


See also

* Letter case
* Roman cursive

External links

* [http://www.linfo.org/lower_case.html Lower Case Definition] by The Linux Information Project; also includes information on lower case as it relates to computers.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • lower case — Case Case (k[=a]s), n. [OF. casse, F. caisse (cf. It. cassa), fr. L. capsa chest, box, case, fr. capere to take, hold. See {Capacious}, and cf. 4th {Chase}, {Cash}, {Enchase}, 3d {Sash}.] [1913 Webster] 1. A box, sheath, or covering; as, a case… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • lower case — n [U] letters in their small forms, such as a, b, c etc ≠ ↑upper case →↑capital >lower case adj ▪ lower case letters …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • lower case — noun uncount the ordinary small form in which letters are written or printed. Big letters like those at the beginning of a sentence or name are called upper case or capital letters: an example written entirely in lower case lower case letters …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Lower CASE — Lower CASE,   CASE …   Universal-Lexikon

  • lower case — ► NOUN ▪ small or non capital letters …   English terms dictionary

  • lower case — noun : the lower one of a pair of type cases containing small letters and usually also figures, punctuation marks, spaces, quads compare upper case * * * /loh euhr/, Print. See under case2 (def. 8). [1675 85] * * * lo …   Useful english dictionary

  • lower case — also lower case N UNCOUNT: oft N n Lower case letters are small letters, not capital letters. It was printed in lower case... We did the logo in lower case letters instead of capitals. Ant: upper case …   English dictionary

  • Lower-case — lowercase low er*case , Lower case Low er case , a. (Print.) Pertaining to, or kept in, the lower case; used to denote the small letters, in distinction from capitals and small capitals; as, lowercase letters a and b and c etc.. Contrasted with… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • lower-case — /ˈloʊə keɪs / (say lohuh kays) adjective 1. (of a letter) small; minuscule (opposed to capital). 2. Printing relating to or belonging in the lower case. See case2 (def. 10). –verb (t) (lower cased, lower casing) 3. to print or write with a lower… …  

  • lower case — noun (U) letters in their small forms, such as a, b, c etc compare capital 1 (3), opposite upper case lower case adjective: lower case letters …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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