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.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm seeing that I get a red squiggle under the words asian and european. When I right-click either, it wants to capitalize the word. I wouldn't think a general type of thing gets capitalized, such as "evergreen tree", a type of tree, versus "Blue Spruce", a specific type. I would think I need to capitalize "Chinese" or "German" or "American", but not the broader types of "Asian" or "European".

share|improve this question
They are all Earthlings to me...and I capitalize that. But then, I am from Neptune. – JeffSahol Sep 13 '11 at 21:04
No matter how "clever" the grammar checking software in your word processor is, you should never use its 'squigglies' as an authority on how to use the language. – Dominic Cronin Nov 5 '12 at 22:12
@DominicCronin - Very true, that is why I came here :) – Justin808 Nov 6 '12 at 1:39
up vote 6 down vote accepted

All proper nouns need to be capitalized. I believe you are puzzled over whether "Asian" is a proper noun or not. I don't see why not. We need to define what a proper noun is:

A proper noun or proper name is a noun representing a unique entity (such as London, Jupiter, John Hunter, or Toyota), as distinguished from a common noun, which represents a class of entities (or nonunique instance[s] of that class)—for example, city, planet, person or corporation).

Now, I believe you think that "Asian" is too broad a noun to be called a proper noun, because it seems to represent a class of entities, that is, a group of various people, such as Spanish, French, etc.

Does that mean, however, that we shouldn't capitalize "Europe", but should just write it as "europe"? Of course not. "Europe" still refers to a specific place, a continent, and "Europeans" refer to a specific people, the people that come from Europe. And there's only one group of people that comes from Europe, the Europeans.

share|improve this answer
Asia is a proper noun; Asian is a proper adjective. – TRiG Oct 1 '12 at 22:14

Europe and Asia are the proper names of continents. It doesn't matter how general the term is, they are all humans but that isn't the name of the species so isn't capitalised. Homo-Sapiens is the species proper name so is capitalised.

share|improve this answer
The same as tree -> evergreens -> Blue Spruce I would have thought it would be humans -> asians -> Chinese or humans -> euopean -> Germans. Generally set -> sub-set -> specific type. I could see globe -> continents -> Asian. – Justin808 Sep 13 '11 at 20:53
It's Homo sapiens: genus is capitalised; species is not. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binomial_nomenclature – CesarGon Sep 13 '11 at 22:21
@CesarGon - opps, not quite sapiens enough ! – mgb Sep 13 '11 at 22:23
@Martin Beckett: :-) – CesarGon Sep 13 '11 at 22:28

Your Answer


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.