2022, Volume 19, Issue 2

Back to the Table of Contents

Elena V. Arutyunova
Elena V. Beshenkova
Olga E. Ivanova

V. V. Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the RAS
Moscow, Russia

Uppercase and Lowercase Letters in Proper Names, Pseudonyms, Nicknames: Academic Rules of Russian Spelling

Voprosy onomastiki, 2022, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp. 208–229 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2022.19.2.024

Received on 25 December 2021

Abstract: The article proposes a detailed rule for the use of uppercase and lowercase letters in proper names, pseudonyms, and nicknames. It follows the systemic principle of personal names’ spelling under which a capital letter is used to mark the individualizing components of an anthroponymic pattern. The latter may also include various components written with lowercase letters such as function words (including untranslatable foreign prepositions, conjunctions, articles; common words indicating degree of kinship, gender, age) and definitions denoting social status, serving to impart courtesy, etc. The rule does not change the existing written norms while introducing the new ones to cover the structural types of names, nicknames, and pseudonyms that previously were not regulated at all or regulated only partially and inconsistently. The main rule is supplemented by a sub-rule exception on the spelling of names that are prepositional-case combinations or verb combinations, and a note introducing the correlation between capitalization in compound names and the writer’s understanding of the proper name’s delimitation (chicken Ryaba, Kurochka Ryaba). It also includes a paragraph applying to the following difficult cases: 1) ambiguous functional and semantic interpretation of words that make up the anthroponymic formula, 2) proper names used as appellatives (Mantoux test — to do a mantoux), 3) changing a surname spelling to single out a particular member of the family (for Romance and other European languages) (van Gogh — Van Gogh) or a general change in the spelling tradition (van de Velde — Vandevelde, la Grange — Lagrange), 4) rendering modern and historical names from Arabic and related languages, namely structural elements (the article al and its variants), kinship terms (ibn, bin, zade, ogly ‘son’, bint, kyzy, kyz ‘daughter’, but Abu ‘father’, Umm ‘mother’), terms of social status (aga, bey, murza, pasha), 5) rendering Chinese names.

Keywords: Russian language, spelling rules, codification, capital letter, anthroponyms, anthroponymy, proper names.


The authors express their gratitude to the staff of the scientific publishing house “Big Russian Encyclopedia,” as well as to the specialists in Oriental languages and onomastics (A. Abyanov, G. Aganina, A. Baiyr-ool, A. Bakhmatova, N. Bubnova, K. Pimenov, M. Rukodelnikov, N. Suvandia) for their valuable assistance in collecting material, consultations, and discussion of the problems of Russian translation of foreign names.


Arutyunova, E. V. (2021). Russkaia orfografiia arabskikh lichnykh imen. Materialy k pravilu [Russian Spelling of Arabic Personal Names. Materials to the Rule]. In V. N. Seledtsova, & N. V. Bubnova (Eds.), Russkii iazyk v sovremennom mire: sb. st. po itogam nauch.-prakt. konf. (17–18 maia 2018 g.) [Russian Language in the Modern World — 2018: Proceedings of the Research Conference] (pp. 5–12). Smolensk: VA VPVO VS RF.

Arutyunova, E. V., Beshenkova, E. V., & Ivanova, O. E. (2020). Propisnye i strochnye bukvy v geograficheskikh i administrativno-territorial’nykh nazvaniiakh: akademicheskie pravila russkoi orfografii [Uppercase and Lowercase Letters in Geographical and Administrative Territorial Names: Academic Rules of Russian Spelling]. Voprosy onomastiki, 17(2), 256–277. https://doi.org/10.15826/vopr_onom.2020.17.2.027

Arutyunova, E. V., Beshenkova, E. V., & Ivanova, O. E. (2021). Propisnye i strochnye bukvy v sobstvennykh imenakh, prozvishchakh, psevdonimakh, klichkakh: proekt akademicheskikh pravil [Uppercase and Lowercase Letters in Proper Names, Nicknames, Pseudonyms: a Draft of Academic Rules]. Trudy Instituta russkogo iazyka im. V. V. Vinogradova, 3, 25–53.

Beshenkova, E. V., & Ivanova, O. E. (2016). Teoriia i praktika normirovaniia russkogo pis’ma [Theory and Practice of Normalizing Russian Writing]. Moscow: LEKSRUS.

Gilyarevsky, R. S., & Starostin, B. A. (1985). Inostrannye imena i nazvaniia v russkom tekste: spravochnik [Foreign Names and Titles in the Russian text: A Reference Book] (3rd ed.). Moscow: Vysshaia shkola.

Kalakutskaya, L. P. (1974). Orfografiia familii [Spelling of Surnames]. In L. P. Kalakutskaya (Ed.), Nereshennye voprosy russkogo pravopisaniia [Unresolved Problems of Russian Spelling] (pp. 68–93). Moscow: Nauka.

Kontsevich, L. R. (2002). Kitaiskie imena sobstvennye i terminy v russkom tekste: posobie po transkriptsii [Chinese Proper Names and Terms in the Russian Text: A Transcription Guide]. Moscow: Muravei.

Koroleva, I. A. (2000). Stanovlenie russkoi antroponimicheskoi sistemy [The Development of Russian Anthroponymic System] (Habilitation thesis). Moscow State Pedagogical University, Moscow.

Kryukov, M. V. (Ed.). (1986). Sistemy lichnykh imen u narodov mira [Systems of Proper Names of the Peoples of the World]. Moscow: Nauka.

Nikolenkova, N. V., & Din, Ts. (2020). Pravopisanie imen sobstvennykh v tekstakh kontsa XIX veka kak etap osvoeniia kitaiskikh zaimstvovanii [Spelling of Proper Names in the Texts of the Late 19th Century as a Stage in the Adaptation of Chinese Borrowings]. Mir nauki, kul’tury, obrazovaniia, 1(80), 345–347.

Selishchev, A. M. (2003). Trudy po russkomu iazyku [Works on the Russian Language] (Vol. 1). Moscow: Iazyki slavianskoi kul’tury.

Staltmane, V. E. (1965). Razdel’noe, slitnoe i defisnoe napisanie sobstvennykh nazvanii [Separate, Merged, and Hyphenated Spelling of Proper Names]. In A. A. Reformatsky (Ed.), Orfografiia sobstvennykh imen [Spelling of Personal Names] (pp. 25–43). Moscow: Nauka.

Superanskaya, A. V. (1965). Propisnaia i strochnaia bukva v imenakh sobstvennykh raznykh kategorii [Uppercase and Lowercase Letter in Proper Names of Different Categories]. In A. A. Reformatsky (Ed.), Orfografiia sobstvennykh imen [Spelling of Personal Names] (pp. 44–80). Moscow: Nauka.

Superanskaya, A. V. (1973). Obshchaia teoriia imeni sobstvennogo [General Theory of the Proper Name]. Moscow: Nauka.

Uspenskij, F. B. (2004). Slovar’ N. M. Tupikova i printsipy imianarecheniia v Drevnei Rusi [Nikolai Tupikov’s Dictionary and the Principles of Naming in Ancient Russia]. In N. M. Tupikov, Slovar’ drevnerusskikh lichnykh sobstvennykh imen [Dictionary of the Old Russian Personal Names] (pp. 881–891). Moscow: Russkii put’.

Zaliznyak, A. A. Grammaticheskii slovar’ russkogo iazyka. Slovoizmenenie [Grammatical Dictionary of the Russian Language. Inflection] (6th ed.). Moscow: AST-PRESS ShKOLA.