lowercase adj : relating to small (not capitalized) letters that were kept in the lower half of a compositor's type case; "lowercase letters; a and b and c etc" [ant: uppercase]
- Alternative spelling of lower case.
- Written in lower case.
Lower case or lowercase or minuscule letters are the smaller form of letters, as opposed to capital letters: for example, the letter "a" is lower case while the letter "A" is a capital.
Originally alphabets were written entirely in capital letters, spaced between well-defined upper and lower bounds. When written quickly with a pen, these tended to turn into rounder and much simpler forms, like uncials. It is from these that the first minuscule hands developed, the half-uncials and cursive minuscule, which no longer stay bound between a pair of lines.
These in turn formed the foundations for the Carolingian minuscule script, developed by Alcuin for use in the court of Charlemagne, which quickly spread across Europe. Here for the first time it became common to mix both upper and lower case letters in a single text.
The term "lower case" comes from manual typesetting. Since minuscules were more frequent in text than majuscules, typesetters placed them in the lower and nearer type case, while the case with the majuscules (the "upper case") was above and behind, a longer reach.
The word minuscule is often spelled miniscule, by association with the unrelated word miniature and the prefix mini. This has traditionally been regarded as a spelling mistake (since minuscule is derived from the word minus), but is now so common that some dictionaries tend to accept it as a spelling variation. However, miniscule is still less likely to be used for lower-case letters.
HistoryTraditionally, "more important" letters—those beginning sentences or nouns—were made larger; then they were written in a different script, although there was no fixed capitalization system until the early eighteenth century (and even then all nouns were capitalized, a system still followed in German but not in English).
Similar developments have taken place in other alphabets. The lower-case script for the Greek alphabet has its origins in the seventh century and acquired its quadrilinear form in the eighth century. Over time, uncial letter forms were increasingly mixed into the script. The earliest dated Greek lower-case text is the Uspenski Gospels (MS 461) in the year 835. The modern practice of capitalizing every sentence seems to be imported (and is commonly not used when printing Ancient Greek materials even today).
The Samaritan alphabet also had lower-case letters, making it relatively unusual among abjads such as Hebrew, Syriac and Arabic, which tend to be written without case.
UsageIn scripts with a case distinction, the lower case is generally used in most texts, and for most of any given text, with the upper case reserved for emphasis and special contexts.
- Lower Case Definition by The Linux Information Project; also includes information on lower case as it relates to computers.
lowercase in Tosk Albanian: Minuskel
lowercase in Belarusian: Мінускул
lowercase in Catalan: Minúscula
lowercase in Czech: Minuskule
lowercase in Danish: Minuskel
lowercase in German: Minuskel
lowercase in Spanish: Minúscula
lowercase in Esperanto: Minusklo
lowercase in French: Bas-de-casse
lowercase in Galician: Minúscula
lowercase in Italian: Minuscolo
lowercase in Dutch: Onderkast
lowercase in Japanese: 小文字
lowercase in Norwegian: Minuskel
lowercase in Norwegian Nynorsk: Minuskel
lowercase in Polish: Minuskuła
lowercase in Portuguese: Minúscula
lowercase in Russian: Минускул
lowercase in Finnish: Pienaakkonen
lowercase in Swedish: Gemen
lowercase in Ukrainian: Мінускул
lowercase in Chinese: 小寫字母