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.

  • 2
    I would try [ be my valentine/Valentine ].
    – MetaEd
    Oct 12, 2013 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.
    – Golden Cuy
    Oct 12, 2013 at 13:44
  • @Andrew Grimm These results [various Google NGrams] seem to show that many gallants/gallantesses are fickle. At least when choosing whether or not to capitalise generic(?) personal names. Jun 25, 2019 at 10:58
  • "…my Valentine…" should always be capitalized because it's a direct comparison of whomever to the iconic Valentine of history, legend and myth. That's exactly like "… my Cleopatra" or "… my Lancelot". Feb 24, 2021 at 1:00

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".]

  • 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'. Oct 12, 2013 at 15:59
  • Metaphor/metonymy uses capitals. Genericisation doesn't, rather by definition!
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 12, 2013 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 ). Oct 12, 2013 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'.

  • Just returning to this thread. Do you Hoover the carpet (I'm asking about usage, not domesticity)? Eat Sandwiches? They're the names of people. Genericisation is an accepted process; the question is not so easily answered. It becomes 'Has lower-cased hoover / sandwich / valentine / maverick / google / wellington / joule / watt / jonah ... become acceptable/mandatory?' Jun 25, 2019 at 10:45

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