Terms derived from proper nouns

In common terms that include a proper name (eg the name of an inventor or place of origin), the proper name takes a capital and the other words do not. The same rule applies to names of plants and animals:

Achilles tendon     Markov chain     Higgs boson particles     Venus flytrap

Leadbeater’s possum     Tasmanian blue gum     Venezuelan parakeet

However, capital letters are not used in general words and phrases derived from proper nouns once they have become common nouns through repeated use:

braille     leotards     sandwich     shrapnel     wellingtons    

Similarly, do not capitalise the names of units of measurement, even when named after someone. See Units of measurement for more information.

This also applies to compound terms where the descriptor is derived from a proper noun:

cheddar cheese     epsom salts     pasteur pipette  

Check your dictionary to determine whether such terms should use capital letters.

Reminder. Use only 1 dictionary while you work on a document – preferably a comprehensive, unabridged edition. Dictionaries may vary in the spelling and hyphenation of some words, even between editions. For example, the Australian Oxford English dictionary is not identical to the Macquarie dictionary, and the 6th edition of the Macquarie dictionary differs from Macquarie dictionary online.

The European Union provides protected designation of origin or protected geographical indication status to the names of some foods and wines (see Aims of EU quality schemes for more information). In these cases, the geographical name must retain the capital letter (eg Kalamata olive oil).

Do not use capitals in adjectival expressions referring to styles of type or numerals:

arabic numbers     roman type         

When these names refer to people or languages, use a capital letter:

the Romans

People in north Africa speak Arabic.

Use Latin names in formal writing.

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