Say we pick a city, NotLondon. Now assign a nickname, "NotLondon, the city of tears", tears being a metaphor for rain. Should these be capitalized? Should the word 'the' be capitalized? I think it counts as a proper noun, in which case the answer would be yes.

New York: the Big Apple seems obvious to me (although it seems 'the' is not part of the nick name as it is not capitalized), but when using words to describe a city rather than naming it (the city of tears), I'm not so sure. The description is its nickname.

English is not my native tongue, so please be explicit with grammar references.


1 Answer 1


A word or group of words {such as “Noah Webster,” “Kentucky,” or “U.S. Congress”} that is the name of a particular person, place, or thing and that usually begins with a capital letter

is a proper noun. --Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

That would include nicknames.

Articles preceding such are not capitalized unless they begin a sentence, following the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition:

the Eternal City
the Windy City

If an expression is used merely to describe a city, they would not generally be capitalized in prose or under "sentence style".

  • Your examples helped illustrate it quite well. My initial conclusion is correct then; NotLondon, the City of Tears, by virtue of being a proper noun despite being its description as well depending on the use in a sentence. Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 12:05
  • 1
    If it's a description, no. It gets tricky if you think of it as a nickname. Even if it's not recognized as one by others, I think it gets capitalized. If I ddcided to call you Vegetable Head, then that's my name for you, and it's a proper noun. Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 13:28

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