Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Does the adjective Machiavellian always have a capital letter? For example:

The Machiavellian Iago manipulates Othello into believing his wife, Desdemona, had an affair.

Not sure if this is anything to go by but, Microsoft Word corrects the word to have a capital. I am not sure if this is also the case when it is an adjective.

share|improve this question
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

First, apart from very rare exceptions, you should capitalize all words derived from a person’s name (see here and there, on this very site). It doesn't matter whether it's a noun, an adjective, a verb, anything. Just put a damn capital!

Now, for your specific case, two additional points in support of capitalization:

  1. the New Oxford American Dictionary lists all derivatives with a capital: Machiavel, Machiavellian, Machiavellianism.

  2. of the Corpus of Contemporary American English’s most recent 100 recorded uses of Machiavellian, only 3 use the lowercase.

share|improve this answer
    
Including Sandwich, Macintosh, Wellingtons, Diesel ? –  mgb May 30 '11 at 22:14
1  
quixotic, poinsettia, curium, sideburns, cardigan, chauvinist, dahlia, doily, guy, galvanization, guppy, jeremiad, philippic, leotard, bloomers, lynch, boycott, mausoleum, shrapnel, nicotine. At some point, the eponym is forgotten and the capital with it. –  Malvolio May 31 '11 at 1:28
add comment

It's not wrong to capitalise Macchiavellian, because it is taken from a proper noun. However, it is such a common word that it is probably not necessary to capitalise it any more.

share|improve this answer
1  
In this case I think it would be confusing to capitalise . If you weren't familiar with the play you would think that "Machiavellian Iago" was the full name. –  mgb May 30 '11 at 18:36
add comment

If it's being used an adjective then I would have said no.

According to the dictionary, if it refers sepcificaly to something named directly for a person eg. "Parkinson's disease", "Newton's law" then it is capitalised but for a more general description eg. 'diesel' it isn't.

share|improve this answer
    
Not sure if this is anything to go by but, Microsoft Word corrects the word to have a capital. Not sure if this is also the case when it is an adjective. –  Proffesor In English May 30 '11 at 18:17
    
According to which dictionary? NOAD and others report it with a capital. Also, being used as an adjective is not really important in deciding whether to capitalize. –  F'x May 30 '11 at 18:53
    
Merriam webster site - but can't link directly. Arguement is that something named after X is capital, but something have X characteristic isn't –  mgb May 30 '11 at 19:20
    
You could say that the characteristic term itself is named after Machiavelli. It's the same as using other proper nouns as adjectives, such as French style, American values, or Shakespearean tragedy. –  Eri May 30 '11 at 20:44
    
@Eri - funnily enough that's one of their other examples. A Shakespearean tragedy - referring directly to a play of Shakespeare's is capital. But 'shakespearean' to generally mean a grand theatre actor isn't. g –  mgb May 30 '11 at 22:09
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.