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When used as an adjective, can the word 'Antarctic' be spelled without a capital letter? I'm confused because 'Arctic' is always lower-cased when we use that as an adjective (e.g.: 'arctic fox', not 'Arctic fox').

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It should be capitalized. –  American Luke Aug 16 '12 at 19:02
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Um, sure it can be Arctic fox: “The Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) makes its home in small burrows in frost-free ground, often in low mounds, or in rock piles. Because the Arctic fox is a scavenger it can usually find food to eat.” Indeed, it’s quite common that way. –  tchrist Aug 16 '12 at 20:16
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closed as general reference by MετάEd, kiamlaluno, FumbleFingers, tchrist, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Aug 31 '12 at 14:04

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2 Answers

American English:

You should probably capitalize it, unless you don't.

According to Merriam Webster, whether you should capitalize "Antarctic" depends on context and individual style:

ant-arc-tic adj, often capitalized

of or relating to the south pole or to the region near it

So make a decision and stick with it, at least within the same document. However, there's a "geographical name" version of the word that is capitalized:

Ant-arc-tic Geographical name

Region including Antarctica, Antarctic peninsula, and the surrounding ocean.

The word "Arctic" has similar "rules".

British English:

Cambridge seems to indicate that the adjectival form of the word is always capitalized.


In general, you'd be safest capitalizing the word, but there are some specialized cases when you'd be okay not doing so. Personally, I'd capitalize it in all cases, to simplify the issue and to be more obviously consistent.

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It seems that Arctic foxes are quite common compared with arctic foxes:

enter image description here

Similarly here for Arctic expeditions versus arctic expeditions:

enter image description here

And even moreso for Antarctic expeditions versus antarctic expeditions:

enter image description here

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