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When used to describe the day, the word is capitalized: "What are you doing on Valentine's Day?".

But what about when describing a person, as in meaning two in Wiktionary:

She was my Valentine.

Should it be capitalized, or not?

I tried using Google NGrams, but couldn't come up with a good non-noisy query.

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1  
I would try [ be my valentine/Valentine ]. –  MετάEd Oct 12 '13 at 13:00
    
@MετάEd good suggestion. NGrams suggests they're neck and neck, but when I look at individual results, a lot of them seem to have "Be My Valentine" in the title of the book. –  Andrew Grimm Oct 12 '13 at 13:44

2 Answers 2

The Catholic Encyclopedia has a bit of history and gives some insight into capitalisation:

The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine's Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. Thus in Chaucer's Parliament of Foules we read:

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.

For this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers' tokens. [...]

In the Paston Letters, Dame Elizabeth Brews writes thus about a match she hopes to make for her daughter (we modernize the spelling), addressing the favoured suitor:

And, cousin mine, upon Monday is Saint Valentine's Day and every bird chooses himself a mate, and if it like you to come on Thursday night, and make provision that you may abide till then, I trust to God that ye shall speak to my husband and I shall pray that we may bring the matter to a conclusion.

Shortly after the young lady herself wrote a letter to the same man addressing it "Unto my rightwell beloved Valentine, John Paston Esquire". The custom of choosing and sending valentines has of late years fallen into comparative desuetude.

The token of love (a card, gift) is a valentine. It's a common noun and doesn't merit a capital letter. Calling someone beloved a Valentine is an example of metonymy — giving them the name of a saint as a metaphor. Being a name, it is a proper noun and does deserve a capital letter.

[In this case, it's rather an extended metaphor. Using "The White House" as a metonym for the President's administration is simple. Here, Valentine refers to the saint and his day, and using that date as significant in getting a mate. But you're still recalling a person or renaming your lover, "Be my Valentine".]

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It's a difficult one. The similar metonym 'He was her Santa Claus' would surely never be written with lower case letters. But genericisation does commonly occur: 'He hoovered up the cat-hairs'. –  Edwin Ashworth Oct 12 '13 at 15:59
    
Metaphor/metonymy uses capitals. Genericisation doesn't, rather by definition! –  Andrew Leach Oct 12 '13 at 17:07
    
Yes, but what I'm saying is that the distinction between 'a name, [being] a proper noun and [deserving] a capital letter' and a genericised and hence common noun is sometimes fuzzy and perhaps always arbitrary. I'm pretty sure I've seen 'He's my valentine' and I'm certain I've seen 'He's a jonah' ( WordNet3.0 ). –  Edwin Ashworth Oct 12 '13 at 19:49

Surely it should always be capitalised as it is the name of a person. That is the convention. We even capitalise words which are derived from the name of someone e.g. Christmas, Christian name. One would write - 'please add your Christian name and surname'.

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