British mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan has De in his name. But the French physicist Louis de Broglie has de in his name.

Why so? Something to do with being French or British?

  • The question of what is a foreign language got closed as opinion - based so it is probably best to avoid the term on this site if we can't agree what it means. But clearly names of Welsh and Scots Gaelic origin (for example) have the same issues as names from other languages. – David Robinson Jun 2 '19 at 14:56

This is a matter of style. In general, we capitalise the particles de, du, von, van, etc, if the owner of the name does so. The style guide of the (British) University of Sussex says:

Observe that certain surnames of foreign origin contain little words that are often not capitalized, such as de, du, da, von and van. Thus we write Leonardo da Vinci, Ludwig van Beethoven, General von Moltke and Simone de Beauvoir. On the other hand, we write Daphne Du Maurier and Dick Van Dyke, because those are the forms preferred by the owners of the names. When in doubt, check the spelling in a good reference book.

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  • There's often a correlation (which can't be trusted) between upper case and the adoption of a name into English, in which "de" etc. are meaningless as words. Counterexample: John le Carré – Chris H Jun 2 '19 at 13:32
  • and Major-General Sir Henry Joseph d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, 2nd Baronet. – Michael Harvey Jun 2 '19 at 13:51
  • Pronunciation can be a minefield, if you haven't heard a person say their name and you speak the origin country's language. I had to call someone called Le Vaillant and they told me (I asked) to say "le valiant'. Also the actor John Le Mesurier's surname was pronounced 'le measurer'. I think this happens with (very) old Norman French names that came over in 1066 or not long after. – Michael Harvey Jun 2 '19 at 14:47

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