If I state a proper noun such as Tahoe Lake, and then later in sentence refer to the lake, do I capitalize lake when it refers back to the proper name Tahoe Lake?

  • 5
    I've always heard "Lake Tahoe", if you're referring to the lake between California and Nevada.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 28, 2019 at 0:20
  • 1
    The name is Lake Tahoe in that particular case. And yes, Lake is part of the name and is therefore capitalized. Prefixed Lake is very common, though it also occurs as a suffix, like Soap Lake in WA state, USA. Mar 28, 2019 at 0:26
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    @JohnL - I think the OP is asking something deeper than if the word Lake should be capitalized in Lake Tahoe. It seems to be referring to a sentence like, "After we arrive at Lake Tahoe, we plan to boat across the lake." (to BarbC: It would help if you provided a specific example sentence.)
    – J.R.
    Mar 28, 2019 at 0:35
  • In cases of coreference, that's the writer's choice. Do they want to make it seem a Place like The Great Lakes, or just a place somewhere like a lake somewhere? Mar 28, 2019 at 0:38

2 Answers 2


From the web site tahoe.com:

Lake Tahoe, the clear, cobalt blue lake tucked into the snowy Sierra Nevada mountain range, welcomes athletes, adventurers and casual travelers to its easygoing and pine-scented atmosphere. A long sought-after vacation destination, Lake Tahoe keeps everyone’s interests piqued and their vacations active throughout the year. Lake Tahoe is the nation’s second deepest lake, and the area previously served as a transcontinental route for first the railroad and later highways.

From the web site Lake Tahoe Travel Guide:

... While the stunning blue lake alone is worth a trip, the surrounding area, also known as Lake Tahoe, boasts miles of hiking trails, dozens of picture-perfect vistas and some of the best skiing in North America.


It should be "lake" with small l. When "lake" refers back to "Lake Tahoe", it is not referring to part of the name "Lake Tahoe", but rather to the referent of "Lake Tahoe", which is a lake.

Suppose that Lake Tahoe was actually the name of a small pond -- then the name "Lake Tahoe" wouldn't be totally appropriate, but maybe it was originally named when it was big, then for some reason, most of it dried up. Then you wouldn't think of referring to it as a lake, because it isn't one. You would refer to it as a pond.

So the capitalization of a definite reference depends on what the thing is, not what it's called.

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