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Waleed made his pilgrimage to Mecca.

This is a given. But I would write:

Bombay is India’s entertainment mecca

Is this correct, or is Mecca capitalized in its figurative use, as well?

1
  • 4
    I'm certain I once saw Jerusalem described as "a Mecca for Jews". This is wrong on so many levels.
    – TRiG
    Jul 7, 2011 at 16:51

5 Answers 5

7

According to the Associated Press stylebook:

mecca. Lowercase in the metaphorical sense; capitalize (Mecca) the city in Saudi Arabia."

This would seem to be a common sense application of standard English capitalization rules (off the top of my head):

  1. Capitalize proper nouns: towns, people's names, cities in Saudi Arabia, etc.
  2. Do not capitalize other nouns. In this case, 'mecca' is a noun meaning 'a bustling, lively center of something' (apologies for my definition, made up on the fly)
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  • 1
    Like other words generated by capitalised eponyms -and aren't all eponyms capitalised?- I agree it should be lower case. Meaning I'd Boycott the alternative usage.
    – fortunate1
    Feb 11, 2011 at 16:05
  • 1
    @fortunate1: Or possibly Bowdlerize it to avoid the eponym.
    – PSU
    Feb 11, 2011 at 18:37
  • 3
    The point of both Mecca and mecca is that it's the object of a pilgrimage. It doesn't matter how busy a place is, it's a mecca if and only if people from other places travel to visit there for that reason. Nov 11, 2012 at 19:11
  • It should be noted that this answer begins with 'According to the Associated Press stylebook'; the answer does not purport to be the definite answer that everybody must follow. Those who come here seeking the answer should read through everything that appears on this page, which will tell them that there is no consensus on the matter.
    – jsw29
    Mar 1 at 21:55
4

It should be capitalised.

Even when used as common nouns, proper nouns should retain their initial upper case.

For instance:

He lost his dreams of an Eldorado/El Dorado.

Just "eldorado" would really look weird.
Or:

He played the part of a Maecenas.

Only when the origin as a proper noun is forgotten is it common to find an initial lower case.

Passengers are lining up on the tarmac (Tarmac correct of course).

So

Bombay is India’s entertainment Mecca

3

The NOAD uses Mecca in both the cases.

Holland is a Mecca for jazz enthusiasts.

In the Corpus of Contemporary American, you find sentences with Mecca (where the word is used figuratively), and sentences with mecca.

The experience alarmed the city fathers of Appenzell, pop. 5,600, who worried that the town might become a Mecca for the unclad.

The United States has not begun to realize its potential as either an educational or a tourist Mecca.

Miami Beach has always been an international Mecca whose residents are as diverse as the tourists.

Frank Gehry's museum at Bilbao draws millions of people and has changed this industrial Spanish city into a mecca for tourism.

Writing groups are a mecca for aspiring authors and those who want to meet people with similar thought processes.

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  • Thanks, but what if it is combined with another word? entertainment Mecca looks strange Feb 11, 2011 at 14:33
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Just to post it since the other answers didn't:

Is this correct, or is Mecca capitalized in its figurative use, as well?

It depends.

People are haphazard in application or defer making their own judgments to a style guide, but theoretically it should be capitalized iff it's the specific city in Arabia... or the specific city being used as a metaphor. In other words, capitalizing "entertainment Mecca" should literally intend that the reader think of the location as equivalent to the site of the Muslim hajj whereas "entertainment mecca" is just a broad gesture towards a somewhat popular locale for some people.

Confusion about which one applies (or if a blanket rule should override it one way or the other) is why you'll always have a mix of caps and nons.

-2

Capitals in both cases, same as in Wendy house, brand names like Elastoplast etc

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  • 1
    Mecca isn't a brand name, although it's common to write genericized brand names in lower case, like heroin, linoleum or hovercraft.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 26 at 14:56

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