When referring to a general mother, I'd always just use lowercase.

Our mums went shopping together. Your mum bought a new suitcase.

However, when addressing my specific mum, I couldn't decide whether or not to capitalize the M.

You'll have to adopt that dog Mam; we want to see it.
When are you coming to England mam?

  • Your last two examples look like mam = contracted form of Madam (usually written as capitalised Ma'am because it's a form of address), which isn't the same usage as mam = mom = mum = diminutive of Mummy = Mother. – FumbleFingers Feb 12 '15 at 19:15
  • Not sure if I've misread your comment now, however the mam in my example is my mother, not a stranger – James Webster Feb 12 '15 at 19:19
  • oic. I didn't read very carefully. The final question just looked like something an "England-based" servant might say on the phone to the lady of the house on an extended stay Stateside. Anyway, I think bib has nailed the key factors (indifferently observed) governing capitalistion. – FumbleFingers Feb 12 '15 at 19:23
  • @FumbleFingers Have you never been as far as the West Midlands? In 1962 I lived in digs with a family who had migrated from Nuneaton to Great Yarmouth. The kids all said 'mam'. And their friends at school looked askance when they said 'me mam packed me a snap box'. It is true that the Queen likes to be called Ma'am rhyming with 'ham' and definitely definitely NOT with 'farm'. But that has nothing to do with the West Midlands. I'm trying to remember if George Elliot uses 'mam'. – WS2 Feb 12 '15 at 20:32
  • @ws2 Billy Elliot does =p – James Webster Feb 12 '15 at 20:40

From the book 'Painless Grammar' by Rebecca, PhD

Capitalize 'mom' and 'dad' when you are calling your parent's name but not when you refer to 'my mom' and 'my dad'.


Hi Mom! Welcome home, Dad


My father and my mother are busy. Could your mom or dad drive us to the movie?


Mother and its alternatives are capitalized when they are used as a form of direct address or a title (effectively in lieu of the person's name).

Mom, can I take the car?

'Night, Mother.

Cuppa tea, Mam?


I asked my mother if I could take the car. She said "no".

Your mum is a looker!

Reference to one's mother without a determiner (such as my) more often is treated like a title and gets capitalized

I asked Mother if I could take the car.

While some might use the lower case for this last example, this ngram shows such usage as much less common (thanks to FumbleFingers for this point).

  • I settled on capitalising with the same rationale. I just wasn't certain. :) – James Webster Feb 12 '15 at 16:34
  • I disagree. In the vast majority of cases, I asked mother if uses the capitalised form, as I would expect. You don't normally capitalise in constructions like your mother/mum, but when it refers to a specific individual with no such "determiner", it's capitalised the same as when it's used in direct address. – FumbleFingers Feb 12 '15 at 17:32
  • @FumbleFingers This ngram your position. I will edit accordingly. – bib Feb 12 '15 at 17:35
  • @bib: No! This ngram my position. That ngram yours (I just happened to include your original if! :) But downvote reversed – FumbleFingers Feb 12 '15 at 17:41
  • @FumbleFingers Just looking for the broader set of examples (and I clumsily omitted supports in my comment). – bib Feb 12 '15 at 17:53

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