A complete guide to Capitalization Rules in Spanish
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In contrast to English where you tend to capitalize many words, capitalization in Spanish follows a much tighter set of rules. We see a lower use of capital letters in Spanish as a result.
In today’s post we’ll explore the key capitalization rules in Spanish. In particular, we’ll compare several sets of words that are capitalized in English but not in Spanish. As always, we’ll include many practical examples to adequately demonstrate the concept for each scenario.
Now let’s get started!
Words capitalized in Spanish
Before diving into capitalization, let’s cover some important details regarding terminology. Uppercase letters are called mayúsculas in Spanish, while lowercase letters are called minúsculas.
In the following section, we’ll cover the general capitalization rules in Spanish: el uso de las mayúsculas.
First letter of a sentence
Just like in English, the first letter of every sentence in Spanish should be capitalized. This applies to both the opening sentence of a paragraph and any sentence following punctuation marks like periods, exclamation points, and question marks.
- El cielo es muy bonito. Me gusta sentarme en el césped con mis amigos a ver las estrellas de noche. – The sky is very beautiful. I like to sit on the grass with my friends and watch the stars at night.
- ¿Le preguntaste a Priscilla cuándo es su cumpleaños? Estoy casi segura de que es mañana. – Did you ask Priscilla when her birthday is? I‘m pretty sure it’s tomorrow.
- ¡Ya te dije que hoy no quiero salir! Estoy cansada y me duelen los pies. – I already told you I don’t want to go out today! I‘m tired and my feet hurt.
For an in-depth look at sentences, check out our big post looking at the main forms of Spanish sentence structure.
Proper nouns, which refer to specific people, places, or things, are always capitalized in Spanish. So are countries capitalized in Spanish? Yes! This rule includes names of individuals, cities, countries, mountains, rivers, etc.
- Mi nombre es Andrea Gómez, es un placer conocerlo. – My name is Andrea Gomez, it is a pleasure to meet you.
- La montaña más alta de Ecuador es el Chimborazo. – The highest mountain in Ecuador is Chimborazo.
- ¿Cuál río es el más largo? ¿El Nilo o el Amazonas? – Which river is the longest, the Nile or the Amazon?
National and religious holidays should always be capitalized according to the rules of capitalization in Spanish.
- Me gusta celebrar Navidad en familia. – I like to celebrate Christmas with my family.
- El Día del Árbol es el 21 de marzo. – Arbor Day is March 21st.
- Mis hijos siempre me llevan a almorzar el Día de la Madre. – My children always take me out to lunch on Mother’s Day.
For more of these special days, see our post on holidays in Spanish.
Titles of multimedia works
In the Spanish language, capitalization rules for creative works, such as books, films, sculptures, songs, radio programs, and television programs, are lighter than what is often seen in English media. Specifically, only the initial word of the title warrants capitalization (unless there is a proper noun in the title) while all other elements within the title remain in lowercase. Moreover, they should be written in italics.
- A mi hija le encanta ver El rey león. – My daughter loves to watch The Lion King.
- Mi abuelo ve Quién quiere ser millonario todas las tardes. – My grandfather watches Who Wants to be a Millionaire every afternoon.
- Su libro favorito es Cien años de soledad. – His favorite book is One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Abbreviated titles and honorifics
Abbreviations of titles and honorifics, such as Sr., Sra., Srta., Dr., Ud., Uds., are always capitalized in Spanish. However, when written out in full they remain in lowercase.
- La Sra. López es mi profesora. – Mrs. López is my teacher.
- Yo creo que el Dr. Rodríguez es el indicado para hacer esta operación. – I believe that Dr. Rodriguez is the right man to perform this operation.
- ¿Qué necesita, Srta. Paola? – What do you need, Ms. Paola?
- Felicidades, Ud. ha sido seleccionado como ganador de la lotería. – Congratulations, you have been selected as the winner of the lottery.
Check out our post on titles in Spanish for a full overview of every honorific.
Institutions and acronyms
According to capitalization rules in Spanish, the names of institutions such as schools, universities, departments, and government agencies should be capitalized. Moreover, their acronyms should also be capitalized.
- La Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) queda en Caracas. – The Central University of Venezuela (UCV) is located in Caracas.
- La Organización de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) tiene muchos programas educativos. – The United Nations (UN) has many educational programs.
- EE.UU. es un país muy grande. – The U.S. is a very large country.
Words not capitalized in Spanish
As you’ve probably grasped from the previous section, there are certain instances where capitalization is the norm in English but not in Spanish. In this section we’ll cover each of them specifically, and provide plenty of examples.
Days and months
Are days of the week capitalized in Spanish? Or are months in Spanish capitalized? The answer is no for both, in contrast to English.
- ¿Tienes planes para el sábado? – Do you have plans for Saturday?
- Mi cumpleaños es en agosto. – My birthday is in August.
- Me dieron cita con el doctor para el lunes. – I got a doctor’s appointment for Monday.
See our post on days, months, and seasons in Spanish for more on these.
Languages and nationalities
Do you capitalize languages in Spanish? What about nationalities? No. Unless they come at the beginning of the sentence or are part of a proper noun according to the rules we saw in the first section, languages and nationalities are normally written in lowercase.
- Eva, la chica nueva de mi clase, es cubana. – Eva, the new girl in my class, is Cuban.
- Andrés habla inglés, francés y español. – Andres speaks English, French and Spanish.
- La comida peruana es mi favorita. – Peruvian food is my favorite.
Check our post on nationalities in Spanish for a fun list, including slang!
Just like languages and nationalities, religions should be in lowercase according to the rules of capitalization in Spanish.
- Mi primo Luis es católico. – My cousin Luis is Catholic.
- Los judíos no comen cerdo. – Jews don’t eat pork.
- Los templos hindúes son impresionantes. – Hindu temples are impressive.
Titles and honorifics
As we saw above, titles and honorifics are only capitalized in Spanish when they are abbreviated. When they are written out, titles and honorifics should be written in lowercase.
- ¡Hola, señora Marta! ¿Cómo ha estado? – Hello, Mrs. Marta! How have you been?
- Señor López, por favor venga a mi oficina. – Mister Lopez, please come to my office.
- Voy a llamar al doctor Juan para que me revise el brazo. – I’m going to call Doctor Juan to check my arm.
Ordinal numbers after a noble’s name
When talking about noble or religious characters whose title includes an ordinal number, these are written in lowercase in Spanish.
Keep in mind that in Spanish it is more common to use Roman numerals, which are capitalized by definition.
- Luis catorce fue rey de Francia. – Luis XIV fue rey de Francia. – Louis the Fourteenth was King of France.
- El papa Juan Pablo segundo visitó muchos países. – El papa Juan Pablo II visitó muchos países. – Pope John Paul the Second visited many countries. – Pope John Paul II visited many countries.
The generic words in geographical names
An interesting quirk in Spanish capitalization rules regarding proper nouns concerns the names of geographical features. In fact, even for specific mountains or rivers, for example, the words of their geographical elements that precede their names are not considered part of the name, so they aren’t capitalized.
- El océano Pacífico es el más profundo. – The Pacific Ocean is the deepest ocean.
- Me han dicho que el cabo San Román es muy bonito. – I’ve been told that Cape San Roman is very beautiful.
- La montaña más alta del mundo es el monte Everest. – The highest mountain in the world is Mount Everest.
Conclusion: Spanish capitalization rules
Congratulations! We’ve come to the end of our guide to capitalization in Spanish. Let’s do a quick review to sum up what we saw.
We began by defining some terminology, learning that in Spanish, capital or uppercase letters are called mayúsculas, while lowercase letters are called minúsculas. Then we covered the general rules regarding capitalization in Spanish, most of which are similar to English.
In the latter half of the post we went into cases where we do not capitalize words in Spanish, in contrast to the norms in English. These instances where you generally capitalize words in English where we don’t do so in Spanish include days of the week, months, languages, nationalities, and more. We gave plenty of examples for each one to make sure each category is clear.
Mastering capitalization in Spanish is a fundamental aspect of written language proficiency. Consistent use of capital letters will not only reflect the writer’s language competence but also contribute to effective communication and convey the intended message accurately. Come back to this guide if you ever need help with your writing, and stay tuned for our next post!