I am looking for a different word to refer to 'lowercase' or 'small' letters, but I am unable to find any such word.

  • "Large letter �"; this is used by the Unicode standard for non-latin glyphs, and designates the other type "Small letter �"
  • "Upper case letter �", which refers to the way pieces of movable type were stored in printshops, along with the designation "Lower case letter �" for others.
  • "Capital letter �", similar to how you have a "capital city" or "capital ship"; this does not appear to have any sort of reasonable matching designation for small letters, though.
  • "Initial letter �", which refers to the fact that the large letters are used at the beginning of sentences, proper nouns, and for the initial letters of the words in an abbreviation. This too does not appear to have a comparable way to designate small letters.

A possibility is that one could refer to a lowercase letter as "Common letter �", which is neatly opposite both the "Capital" and "Initial" designations, however I have not seen this used anywhere, and I wouldn't want to make up my own word if it would confuse a reader.

Does anyone know of a designation that is more directly complimentary to "capital" or "initial"?

  • 6
    You left out majuscule and minuscule. Jan 2, 2014 at 0:01
  • 2
    The fact that both big letter and large letter are quite a bit less common than small letter makes me think that small letter has generally been used as the opposite of capital letter. See Ngram. (Little letter is also common, but it usually seems to mean short missive.) Jan 2, 2014 at 0:18
  • Why break from industry norm/standard? Would we have to no longer dial a cell phone, watch a film, read news from the press, etc, etc? Jan 2, 2014 at 0:56
  • 2
    You already have somewhere around three and a half sets of synonym pairs for this (which is rather more than you'd get for most things)—what makes you think there are even more? And why would you need or even want any more? Jan 2, 2014 at 1:41
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I just edited my question; what I am looking for is a name for lowercase letters that is more directly complementary to "capital" or "initial". Jan 2, 2014 at 16:10

5 Answers 5


We also refer to them as minuscules, though this is less common. Calling a letter small, lower-case or lowercase is clear and concise, and you should go by those.


Personally, I don't know that I've heard majuscules or minuscules ever used within my hearing discussing matters of typography or written language.

I tend to think lowercase is by far the most prominent word to describe those characters, however, if referring to a single letter, it may also be considered uncapitalized.


Yes, “minuscule” and “majuscule” sum it up nicely.


Educated under the British system over 40 years ago, I was taught that the small letters were referred to as common letters, while the large letters were referred to as capital letters. Common letters does not seem to be a designation used in the USA.


The opposite of an UPPERCASE letter is quite simply a LOWERCASE letter. You should discard the other terms you are attempting to brand letters with.

Uppercase and lowercase are the correct typographic terms here; there is no need for confusing matters. In Bringhurst’s Elements of Typographic Style, he consistently uses the standard abbreviations uc and lc for these.

Not all letters have case, but if they do, properties like uppercase and lowercase are mutually exclusive; although a letter can be neither, it cannot be both.

An “initial capital” version of a cased letter is called its titlecase in Unicode, which you can for the most part ignore the existence of. In Unicode, every cased letter is exactly one of uppercase, lowercase, or very rarely titlecase, and there are mapping operations to convert between those.

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