What would be the German words for uppercase (or all-caps; all letters uppercase) vs. capitalise (first letter uppercase)?

I know of Großschrift and have a feeling it fits best for uppercase – but what about capitalise? Potentially groß geschrieben?

It may well be they're synonymous, but I am unsure.

(The context is, in fact, typography, namely a WYSIWYG editor’s font-style dialog.)


4 Answers 4


If you refer to a word starting in upper case, like in

Substantive werden im Deutschen großgeschrieben

"großschreiben" or "groß schreiben" normally refers to the initial letter of a word only.

All uppercase is less commonly used and thus expressed by a printers' technical term as

SUBSTANTIVE kann man auch in enter image description here schreiben

Here Kapitälchen refers to a typesetting term that denotes writing a normal size capital followed by slightly undersized uppercase letters - It is also commonly used for "all CAPS", which is thus slightly off meaning.

Another technical term would be

Dieses Wort ist in VERSALIEN geschrieben

Printers and typesetters also use the term Versalsatz for all-uppercase.

(Edit: Had to change the small caps edit of SUBSTANTIVE to a picture - There was nothing wrong with it, but apparently that doesn't render properly on the mobile app)

Edit II: After you have narrowed down your question to labels in a typesetting dialog, I would recommend you use


for capitalising words (although I guess typical German writers wouldn't find that function very useful) and


for all-uppercase.

  • 2
    +1 for Kapitälchen and Versalien
    – tohuwawohu
    Jun 10, 2016 at 9:30
  • How does this answer the question: The difference of uppercase and capitalize?
    – Thomas
    Jun 10, 2016 at 11:45
  • 2
    @Thomas Not at all, because that wasn't the question.
    – tofro
    Jun 10, 2016 at 12:06
  • @Thomas It does by saying that capitalising is großschreiben or groß schreiben while uppercase is Versalien. Where is your problem?
    – Jan
    Jun 10, 2016 at 13:35
  • The Kapitälchen example is rather misleading, given that what is shown is only the "off meaning" interpretation (which, by the way, I have never encountered - are you sure you are not mixing this up with small caps, the English term for Kapitälchen? After all, the diminutive in Kapitälchen is there for the very reason of expressing that it's small capital letters.) Jun 10, 2016 at 19:51

There are different terms for Uppercase (or: All caps) writing: Wikipedia has “Majuskelschrift, Versalschrift oder Kapitalschrift”. I’m not sure if Großschrift is synonymous to those terms; personally, I wouldn’t expect all-caps text but text with bigger font size. Anyway, here’s a Google NGram chart of those four terms (I’m quite surprised at the result — I didn’t expect the Kapitalschrift would outweight Versalschrift):

nGram of the different terms

Another option would be to use a substantival phrase like Schreibung in Großbuchstaben. The plural form Großbuchstaben indicates that it isn’t just capitalization (with a single uppercase letter).


For a WYSIWYG editor font-style dialog, using "GROßBUCHSTABEN" for "uppercase" would be an option. This isn't as precise as Versalien, Versalschrift, or Majuskelschrift, but i expect that most users will understand which feature is toggled by that dialog entry. But it may look a little bit "aggressive", since all-caps may be understood as sign for shouting. I would expect "Großbuchstaben" to work, too.

For capitalize, things are even more difficult, since there's no single word that fits exactly and is commonly used by the average user. You may use something like "Erster Buchstabe Groß" or "Ersten Buchstaben Großschreiben. Orthographically, this is wrong, since "groß" is written lower-case when in the middle of a sentence. But this hopefully makes people understand the effect of capitalization. If you want to stick to rules of orthography, you may use the correct version "erster Buchstabe groß" or "ersten Buchstaben großschreiben".

  • Agree that Großschrift is ambiguous (font size vs. upper/lower case), also "Kapitalschrift" (By Karl Marx?) made me wonder.
    – tofro
    Jun 10, 2016 at 9:48
  • @tofro Although I am not a German professional :-), but I know another language with the same feature. By analogy, I think in the German case there is a difference between "Großschrift" und "groß Schrift". The second means big fonts, the first the alternative character set. The same distinction goes for "Kapitalschrift" and "kapital Schrift". Although it is visible only in written communication. In the daily verbal practice "Großschrift" is nearly always used in the first sense, and "kapital Schrift" is nearly nonsense.
    – peterh
    Jun 10, 2016 at 13:41
  • @tofro If I had to say "groß Schrift" on German, I would say "größere Buchstaben" oder "höhere Fonts".
    – peterh
    Jun 10, 2016 at 13:46

Capitalization is frequently used for emphasis, but English and German differ in which words are accepted to be marked this way, because it’s a stronger register in German orthography, where it is applied to the heads of nominal groups (in addition to proper nouns and sentence-initial words as in English). It’s hardly used for purely stylistic purposes in German therefore, whereas it’s quite common in English headlines and titles.

In English as in German, all-uppercase strings of letters are either acronyms – abbreviation dots were more common for those in earlier times in both languages – or stylistically marked. It can become ambiguous if these uses are mixed, i.e. when an acronym occurs in a phrase set in uppercase, hence it’s still customary to write U.S. (but UK, UN and USA) in English so it cannot be confused with us.

There are other reasons for sure, but this may provide a hint why terminology, both vulgar and technical (by typesetters and typographers), differ between German and English, i.e. why there is no clear distinction between capitalization and uppercasing in German.

Personally, I would use and understand the terms as shown in the following list, but I cannot claim that it was based upon actual research. Please note the use of prepositions in and mit which can be decisive.

  • arm

    • klein[geschrieben]
    • in/mit Kleinbuchstaben
    • in ?Kleinschrift
  • Arm

    • [am Anfang] groß[geschrieben]
    • mit [einem] Großbuchstabe[n] [am Anfang]
    • mit Majuskel
    • Initialmajuskel
  • ARM

    • durchgängig groß[geschrieben]
    • in ?Großschrift
    • [ganz/durchgängig/vollständig] in Großbuchstaben
    • nur mit Großbuchstaben
    • versal; Versalsatz
    • in Versalien [gesetzt]
    • in/mit Majuskeln [gesetzt]
    • in/mit Blockschrift/Blockbuchstaben
      (but also used to distinguish from connected cursive script)
  • ᴀʀᴍ

    • in Kapitälchen [gesetzt]
  • Aʀᴍ

    • mit Kapitälchen [gesetzt]

Capitalize (first letter uppercase):

groß schreiben / Großschreibung


Versalien / Majuskeln / Blockschrift / Großbuchstaben

... but "Blockschrift" is mainly used for handwriting

"Großschrift" is generally used to mean large letters, like in books that are intended for elderly readers with bad eyesight. These would normally have upper- and lowercase letters like normal text.

Since the German words for this are not 100% clearly defined, you may want to add example text or write the commands to reflect their effect, as in VERSALIEN.


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