A capitonym is a word whose meaning changes based on whether or not it is capitalized. Capitonyms are a variation on multiple meaning words, or homonyms. They have the same spelling, but different meanings. Capitonyms can be nouns, verbs, or adjectives.
Examples of pairs of capitonyms are:
- Turkey (the country) and turkey (the bird)
- China (the country) and china (as in porcelain)
Most often, capitonym pairs feature one word as a common noun and the other as a proper noun. Verbs can also be capitonyms. For instance:
- March (the month) and march (to walk)
Sometimes a capitonym doesn’t change just in meaning, but also in pronunciation. For example:
- Mobile (the city in Alabama) is pronounced differently, with emphasis on the first syllable, than a mobile phone, with emphasis on the second syllable.
Common Core State Standards Related to Capitonyms
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade-level reading and content.
Use sentence-level context as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
Use context (e.g., definitions, examples, cause/effect relationships and comparisons in text, or restatements in text) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
Use context (e.g., cause/effect relationships and comparisons in text) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
Identify new meanings for familiar words and apply them accurately (e.g., knowing duck is a bird and learning the verb to duck).
3rd – 5th Grade Capitonyms: patriots, Phoenix, phoenix, turkey, Titanic, mercury, titanic, Mercury, Patriots, Turkey
6th – 8th Grade Capitonyms: jodhpur, mercury, Orient, Mobile, pentagon, Mercury, orient, Pentagon, Jodhpur, mobile
9th – 12th Grade Capitonyms: Manila, Platonic, Jodhpur, gasconade, jodhpur, Saskatoon, platonic, Gasconade, manila, saskatoon
Capitonym lessons are a great way to show students how much capitalization matters, and matching or fill-in-the-blank games are a fun way to reinforce the lesson.
Try MatchIt Sentences with the Grade 3 Capitonyms list.