We all know proper nouns refer to a specific person, place, organization, ect. Are names that do not refer to specific entities still considered proper nouns such as Samantha in the example below? If not, is there a term for nouns that are normally proper but are not when used in a general sense?

Samantha is a feminine given name. (Source)

  • If Samantha is a name, than "Samantha" is a name of a name, and hence still a proper noun. Dec 7, 2013 at 22:08
  • @Tim - As per your first reply, wouldn't 'name of a name' repeat indefinitely then?
    – John
    Dec 7, 2013 at 22:29
  • @TimLymington I think the question is not so much about the reference-referent distinction, as about the fact that "Samantha" does not refer to any particular person.
    – augurar
    Dec 7, 2013 at 23:01
  • 2
    Why does this matter? What is your purpose?
    – tchrist
    Dec 7, 2013 at 23:30
  • A more pertinent question, in my view, is why, if it were not the first word in the sentence, would it be given a capital letter? If it is not a proper noun surely one would write 'Do you like the name samantha?' The fact that we wouldn't write that seems to me to confirm that it is a proper noun.
    – WS2
    Dec 8, 2013 at 0:20

2 Answers 2


Samantha is a feminine given name.

Samantha is a proper noun whether it represents a real person or not. It is somebody's proper name, their first name.

One does not write, "There is a plethora of jennifers in school. Jennifer is a Proper noun.

The name of the room one sleeps in is a bedroom. It is not a proper noun. A city is not a proper noun, but how many Bethlehems are there? (a significant number.)

I don't think there is a way to get around a proper noun.


If I understand your question correctly, you are asking about whether generic names like "Samantha" can be considered proper nouns, given that they lack specificity.

I think the distinction between proper and common nouns is more about whether the noun in question is a name or not. So although "China" can refer to either a town in Maine, or a country in Asia, it is still considered a proper noun. The same goes for "Samantha" – though it lacks specificity, it is still a name and hence a proper noun.

  • OP is asking if you should treat "Samantha" is a proper noun when discussing the name itself, such as "there are lots of towns named China".
    – DougM
    Dec 7, 2013 at 23:23
  • @DougM You are mistaken. The question asks: "Are names that do not refer to specific entities still considered proper nouns?"
    – augurar
    Dec 8, 2013 at 0:08
  • @DougM Even when using 'China' to refer to tableware I would tend to give it a capital letter. I was once taught (albeit a long time ago) that anything derived from a name should begin with a capital, hence 'George is a Christian', 'My favourite festival is Christmas', 'I love Shakespearean tragedy', etc.
    – WS2
    Dec 8, 2013 at 0:25

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