Should, "romaji", a loanword from Japanese, be capitalized because it is ultimately related to "Rome", which is a proper noun?

I came across Should capitalization be preserved in loanwords? , but "romaji" is usually not written in romaji in Japanese. For example, it's written ローマ字 in the Japanese edition of Wikipedia. How heterological!

  • Can you please change the accepted answer? – Boris Jun 19 '19 at 1:28

"Romaji" in Japanese is not derived from Rome, the city (per se).

It IS derived from "romanization," that is the use of the "roman" alphabet to describe Japanese sounds. But "romanization" is in the lower case, and therefore, so should "romaji."

  • Even roman referring to roman type, is not capitalized. And certainaly romanji is further from Rome than that! – GEdgar Sep 7 '11 at 15:18
  • @GEdgar: It's "romaji". :) – Alenanno Sep 7 '11 at 15:37
  • @GEdgar That is a quite special case. Roman is normally capitalised. According to wikipedia: "The name "roman" is customarily applied uncapitalized distinguishing early Italian typefaces of the Renaissance period and most subsequent seriffed types based on them, from Roman letters dating from classical antiquity." – z7sg Ѫ Sep 7 '11 at 16:09
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    This answer is wrong. Please don't invent etymology. It's derived from Rōma ("Rome") + ji ("character"). It's not derived from the English words Roman or romanization. – snailplane Jan 11 '14 at 15:25

In English the convention is to capitalise proper nouns. If romaji were a proper noun I would certainly capitalise it, however, in this case it is only related to a proper noun. Here there is a grey area where some words are inconsistently capitalised, for example, anglophone. It seems in this particular case convention is not to capitalise, as seen with the similar word kanji.


Kanjidict gives the translation as lowercase romaji:

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For the benefit of those who don't know what this word means, it is a foreign word rendered in Japanese using Roman letters.

  • Does it have to be a foreign word? – Henry Sep 7 '11 at 16:52
  • @Henry: No. As you can see above, it can be a transliteration of a Japanese word. – Robusto Sep 7 '11 at 17:42

The word romaji is a noun, and it is not directly derived from a proper noun. So, it is not typically capitalized (as attested, for example, in the Oxford English Dictionary). It is different from, e.g., the adjective Roman (related to the modern city of Rome, or to the ancient Rome).

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