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I have never come across any verb that takes its first letter in capital. It generally happens in nouns. I have read many books and in our schools also, the rules of making letter capitals is quite clear and understood. I have never come across any book that defines capitalization of a verb. Nevertheless, here is the verb that is in capital!

Christianize (v) - two meanings there.

I completely understand the meaning but why the verb has taken a capital letter? Is this the special and only case?

Is there any rule for a verb to have its first letter capital?

Additional but useful note: When Google has become immensely popular and the verb has formed from its noun, mind it, we changed 'G' to a small letter. You don't Google something, you google it.

  • 1
    I believe that words derived from proper nouns retain their capitalization. I usually see this with adjectives, not verbs (like Victorian, Shakespearean, Euclidean, Rubenesque, Christmastime, Marxist and Romantic languages), but I didn't think part-of-speech affected the rule. Still, I'm at a loss to think of another verb! I tried Anglicanize (not in most dictionaries) and vulcanize (takes lower-case), before finally settling on Hebraize, which isn't a great example, I'm afraid. Maybe not so many proper nouns become verbs? – J.R. Apr 7 '14 at 19:36
  • @J.R. What about italicize, bohemian, quixotic, china, guinea pig, utopia? – Helix Quar Apr 8 '14 at 2:58
  • @helix none of them take the capital letter as first. – Maulik V Apr 8 '14 at 4:30
  • @helix - Good examples. As can be expected, English is inconsistent at best. :^) – J.R. Apr 8 '14 at 9:44
8

You may think that if the root word Christian is capitalized then Christianize must be capitalized too. However, capitalization is a matter of usage and it tends to change over time.


Style guides have disagreeing opinions.

From the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual 3.33 Religious Terms:

Words denoting the Deity except who, whose, and whom; names for the Bible and other sacred writings and their parts; names of confessions of faith and of religious bodies and their adherents ... are all capitalized.

Christian; also Christendom; Christianity; Christianize

On the other hand:

From the Chicago Manual of Style

But do not capitalize verbs derived from proper names:

to boycott, to fletcherize, to christianize, to pasteurize.


The question is: who's winning?

Google NGram Viewer which shows the capitalized version has consistently been more common since about 1840

  • I would argue that capitalization is just matter of style. Only a few centuries ago, some people capitalized almost all nouns. The word Christanize is no exception. - I had no problem if Christianize as a noun is capitalized. My question is capitalization of the verb Christianize. – Maulik V Apr 8 '14 at 11:28
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    @MaulikV I think I may have misrepresented my point— editing to clarify. – Helix Quar Apr 8 '14 at 16:03
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    @MaulikV I'm a little confused because as far as I know, Christianize is always a verb, isn't it? (Although, admittedly, I'm not very familiar with the word.) – Damkerng T. Apr 8 '14 at 16:33
  • @DamkerngT. It is always a verb but the question is why a verb takes its first letter capital. Have you ever come across a verb that way? – Maulik V Apr 8 '14 at 16:36
  • 4
    English, in general, doesn't capitalize verbs, but words related to diety (which would include Christ) provide exceptions to capitalization rules. From Wikipedia: "Many European languages traditionally capitalize nouns and pronouns used to refer to God, including references to Jesus Christ (reverential capitals): hallowed be Thy name, look what He has done. Some English authors capitalize any word referring to God: the Lamb, the Almighty; some capitalize 'Thy Name'. These practices have become less common in the 20th and 21st centuries." This is just a verb stuck in a gray area. – J.R. Apr 8 '14 at 17:59
5

This is not the "special and only case". Oxford and Merriam-Webster both list Africanize/Africanise but not africanize/africanise. I'm sure there are many more such cases; this just happens to be the first one that I thought of.

3

Pre-1923 usage is mixed on whether to capitalize or not. Googlewhacking Gutenberg https://www.google.com/#q=christianize+site:gutenberg.org shows a definite mix of upper and lower case forms of the verb. I have not tried to further break down results by date of original publication, so it may have faded in or out of use.

WRT your G/google example I would note that you can "google" something using Bing (though few do) but you cannot Christianize people by preaching out of (say) a Torah or Koran. In that sense it is specific to Christ and his (His?) religion.

  • I first noticed examples of the generalization of the verb google more than ten years ago, but my current sense is that, for many (most?) speakers, it still refers to searching specifically with Google. – snailcar Apr 8 '14 at 2:57
  • @snailplane Certainly, if you say google it it'll mean searching on Google only. Or else, to stay clear, I prefer search on the Internet. But there too, 'G' becomes 'g'! – Maulik V Apr 8 '14 at 4:32

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