Is it lowercase, lower-case, or lower case?

  • It is lower case unless it's a modifier. – Irene Feb 27 '12 at 20:11
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    @Irene do you mean as in lowercase letters, for example? Please explain what you mean by a modifier. – Xonatron Feb 27 '12 at 20:12
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    You write: The name must be written in lower case. But: You must write your name in lower-case letters. – Irene Feb 27 '12 at 20:23

Warren Chappell, Robert Bringhurst, and the printed Unicode Standard all use lowercase exclusively.

The only exception is when sorts are kept in two cases, and one puts some of those in the lower one and others in the upper.

  • Can you give an example of the exception? – Xonatron Feb 27 '12 at 20:34
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    @MatthewDoucette The exception is when is talking about the physical cases used by hand compositors working with real metal type. The lower case is the case that holds the lowercase letters. For your purposes, there are no exceptions. Note that Unicode recognizes three cases: lowercase, uppercase, and titlecase, plus an internal one used by programs called foldcase. – tchrist Feb 27 '12 at 20:37
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    I believe tchrist refers to the origin of 'upper case' and 'lower case', which is simply that typesetters kept the shouty glyphs in a higher drawer than those better-behaved. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_case#Terminology – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Feb 27 '12 at 20:38

Both lower case and lowercase can be seen in common usage, but it seems that lowercase became more popular after 1980s. You may want to check the following ngrams.

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The same case is valid for uppercase.

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    Wow, this is very informative. The only unknown is if the usage of one or the other depends on context, as @Irene potentially suggested matters in the comment of the question. – Xonatron Feb 27 '12 at 20:21
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    @MatthewDoucette: If by "informative" you mean "misleading" then I agree with you. Did you wonder why "lower-case" flatlines, even though you know you've seen it in print more than, say, zero times? Because hyphenated words have to be separated into trigrams for NGram Viewer to correctly parse them. Here is a link to a corrected graph. Big difference, huh? – Robusto Feb 27 '12 at 20:37
  • @Robusto, wow, I even went and tested to be sure lower-case resulted properly, and made the same mistake. What a horrible defect in Ngram Viewer, surely it has misled countless others. – Xonatron Feb 27 '12 at 20:40
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    I don't disagree with your general point, but you have to admit that if you did show faulty data (and before I called you out on it, you did), even if the error is not deliberate, your methods may be viewed with suspicion. What else isn't being shown? See my discussion of this whole NGram issue on meta. I have quite a burr under my saddle about this at the moment. – Robusto Feb 27 '12 at 20:53
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    @Robusto: I appreciate your correction and thanks for sharing the true method for ngrams. Shame on ngram developers. – Mehper C. Palavuzlar Feb 27 '12 at 21:23

Lowercase initially came from "lower case", referring to literally the lower case of the cabinet where this typeset was kept by convention. It has gone through the typical contraction from "lower case" to "lowercase" via the hyphenated form. The use of the word (lowercase) has seen a spike in usage during the last decade or so, as everyone needs to know (now) that passwords are case sensitive and that using uppercase is shouting. Back in the days of the Guttenberg press, a lot of print was all uppercase. Fashions change, as do fontfaces.


All are okay--I've seen English teachers use all three, so it must be fine. I think it just depends, maybe, on where you live. In the United States and other countries, people use lowercase more often, but in other countries they might use lower case or lower-case most often. I'm pretty sure that it doesn't matter. All ways of writing it are okay. Since lowercase is used more often in the United States, it may be helpful to use lowercase, but if you live in someplace where most people use lower case or lower-case, you should probably use the way that people spell it where you live. Nobody will mind, most likely, and people will understand it all three ways, but if you spell it in a way that most people from where you live don't spell it, they may use it as bad grammar and it may not bode you well if you are doing something formal. Just try to spell it the way that most people from where you live spell it.

  • Welcome to ELU! Do you have any research to back up your answer? – Nicole May 9 '15 at 22:01

According to oxforddictionaries.com, "lower case" is used in British English, and "lowercase" is used in American English.

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